What Is a Botanist? - Job Description & Salary

Here, we discuss what types of careers exist in the field of botany, how much you can expect to earn, and what education and training steps need to be completed to pursue a career as a botanist. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Botany Career Information at a Glance

Botanist are quite simply scientists who study the plants that form crucial components of our natural habitats. Botanists may also be referred to as plant scientists or plant biologists, but regardless of their title, they are science professionals who seek to understand the plant kingdom in terms of its structure, physiology, genetics, evolutionary history or ecology. The key educational requirements and career information for prospective botanists are outlined in the table below.

Degree Required BS for botany lab assistants and technicians; MS for senior industry and government positions; PhD for professors
Field of Study Biology, botany, plant science
Training Required Postdoctoral training (2-3 years) required for independent research positions and tenure track professorships in academia
Key Skills Passion for science, analytical thinking skills, love of nature and natural history, inquisitive mind, dedication to the field
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 9% (for all plant and soil scientists)
Median Salary (2017)* $62,430 (for all plant and soil scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Types of Botany Careers Are There?

There are a wide range of careers available in the field of botany. Individuals who love the great outdoors can pursue careers in forestry, plant ecology or conservation. These careers may also provide many opportunities for foreign travel but will require a reasonable level of fitness.

Aspiring botanists who have more of an interest in plant development, genetics and biochemistry could pursue a lab-based role where they undertake experimental approaches to investigate the mechanisms that underpin plant structure and development.

Budding botanists who wish to have a mix of field work and lab work, or have a keen interest in food supply, could perhaps look to specialize in agriculture where they will be able to work on genetically improving crops in the lab or breeding crops for advantageous traits.

All of the above careers are available in academia, industry or government. However, those wishing to obtain a role that allows them to develop independent botanical research should generally seek professorships in academia.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Botanist?

Even for entry-level botany jobs, a bachelor's degree in botany or plant science is typically a minimum requirement. For more senior roles in industry and government, a master's degree is usually a minimum requirement. To have any chance of obtaining a teaching or research position in academia, a PhD in botany or plant science is required.

When considering an appropriate bachelor's degree program, botanist hopefuls should enroll in a program that features a core biology program and yet offers specialized botany classes.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Botanist?

The qualification period for becoming a botanist depends on which type of botany career is being sought. A research assistant or technician role can be obtained immediately after the completion of a 4-year bachelor's degree program. After a few years assistants and technicians can work towards more senior positions, such as lab manager.

For those wishing to eventually obtain senior roles, such as a program leader or director in industry or with a government agency, a 2-year master's degree in botany will be needed in addition to a bachelor's degree and a few years' experience in a junior role followed by a number of years (up to 10 potentially) gaining leadership experience.

Professor positions require around 5-6 years of PhD training plus 2-3 years of subsequent postdoctoral training to allow candidates to top up their knowledge and skills and add to their publication profile. Altogether, it could take around 11-13 years of education and training before an individual is ready to apply for professor positions.

What Type of People Are Suited to Being Botanists?

Botany can appeal to many types of people, but one thing an aspiring botanist should have is a passion for science. Those who have an adventurous side and a desire to shun the rat race can use botany as a route away from it. As discussed, many botany careers provide a changing outdoor work environment and an escape from an office-based existence. Those seeking a more structured work routine can seek a lab-based or office-based career as researchers or program leaders.

Whether botanists are overtly adventurous or yearn for a more structured professional life, they must have an analytical and inquisitive mindset to refine and interpret large swathes of data and identify trends and patterns. They must also have the discipline to follow experimental protocols and strong writing skills because botanical scientists, particularly those in academia, need to publish their work in order to progress in their careers.

What Salary Can a Botanist Expect to Earn?

The salary range for professional botanist positions is a wide one. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plant and soil scientists at the lower end of the range (10th percentile) earned around $38,090 or less as of May 2017. The median salary was $62,430. Professionals at the upper end of the pay scale (90th percentile) made upwards of $112,390.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools