Careers in Botany

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Botanists work in any field that requires a comprehensive understanding of plants, fungi and spores. There are areas where plant diseases, plant uses, plants as they relate to society, the atmosphere, the environment and each other need to be studied, classified and where much needs to be known.

Botanists help to find the nutritional, medicinal, poisonous and textile uses of plants. Some study ways in which plant material can be used to make useful things for humans while others study ways in which plants provide habitat for all wild living things. Some study plant communities in the way that sociologists and anthropologists study human communities.

Forensic botanists are instrumental in examining the plant material that is on and in bodies to tell what may have contributed to death or to tell where a dead person has been laying or a live person has been present. Government botanists help to keep the forests healthy, medicines working, crops productive and resilient to disease, drought and pests, and they work to monitor the health of the planet.

Education for botanists begins with a college prep track in high school that includes math, languages, chemistry, physics and biology as well as a well rounded course load in social studies and humanities, since botanists must relate to many types of people in different places.

College coursework includes more of the same courses as the high school track, with heavy concentration of biology and the core and specialized courses in botany as required by the school for a degree.

In addition, participation in science fairs, internships, relevant volunteering or work experience and mentor ship by a botanist is highly recommended.

The majority of botanists work in colleges and universities as teachers, researchers and fellows. The next largest group of botanists work for the government in a long list of agencies, including:

The Department Of Agriculture and its medical plant resources laboratory

The Germplasm Resources Laboratory

Plant Inspection Services

The National Arboretum

The Environmental Protection Agency

The US Forest Service

The Bureau of Land Management

The US Geological Survey, NASA, The Smithsonian and the State Department.

Each state, plus many parishes and counties have some form of counterpart to many of the US government agencies where botanists may have a role.

The third most populated area for botanists is in industry:

Oil industries

Drug companies

Food and food growing companies, including seed and agricultural support industries

Fermentation industries, fruit growers and food producers

Biotechnology and biological supply firms and agencies

Environmental firms, clubs, organizations and agencies

Salaries: As with any professional field, there are salaries that increase with time and experience, the number of people on staff, whether jobs are fellowships with a limited duration, are in education and so on. Private industry may pay more than government service, but with varying benefits and job security. Starting botanists might make about 33,000 US, while a 30 year botanist might make over 100,000 US, with a range of salaries in between for educators, supervisors and managers. A more detailed discussion is at

In fact, it is highly recommended that the reader visit, which has some testimonials by "happy botanists" and other information that should be helpful when considering an education and career in this enjoyable and rapidly growing field!, "Careers", "Education"

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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