How to Become a Botanist

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Botany is a section of biology that studies plant life and development. It is very important because all food people and animals eat comes from plants in some way, shape, or form. Botanists are biological scientists that study a variety of plants from giant trees to saltwater algae.

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What does a botanist do?

Botanists examine many different species of plants, algae, and fungi and their environments. They study the structure and how they grow, make food, and reproduce. They also study plant diseases and examine how environmental conditions affect plant species. Many botanists study the features shared by more than one species of plants. Most conduct a great deal of research using scientific tools and a variety of methods. Botanists often specialize in one type or group of plants or one method to studying plants. The type of plants they study, such as marine botanists that study ocean plants and agronomists that study agricultural crops, often categorize them. Some research and develop plants that can be used for medication, food, fiber, fuel, and other consumer products. Others are involved in discovering new treatments for illnesses and diseases.

What kind of training does a botanist need?

Botanists usually need a doctorate degree in botany, biology, or other related field. A master degree is sufficient for some positions, but most employers prefer doctorate degrees. Coursework usually includes courses in English, biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and a variety of botany courses. Students also complete a great deal of research at the doctoral level. Many aspiring botanists complete internships while attending school to gain practical experience. Botanists must stay up to date on the current advancements in plant science and they often complete continuing education courses and attend conferences and workshops throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a botanist?

Employment for all biological scientists (including botanists) is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Job growth will be driven by bio-technical research and development.

Job prospects are expected to be good with competition for research positions. Some job openings will occur from the need to replace botanists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do botanists make?

As of October 2009, the middle 50% of botanists earn annual salaries between $48,722 and $72,803. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $85,383 (2).

A career as a botanist is an excellent choice for individuals that have a strong interest in examining a variety of plants. Botanists must have thorough knowledge of plants and enjoy conducting many different studies and experiments to understand the millions of species of plants. For botanists that carry out field research, they must have good physical stamina and be able to work in less desirable conditions. They must be able to effectively work independently as well as part of a team.

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