How to Get Involved in Botany

by | Botany

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In this article from HerbSpeak, you’ll learn how to become a botanist in a traditional route – as well as several ways to get involved with botany or botanical studies without having to obtain a degree first.

No matter what you want to pursue in botany, some relevant experience will help you get the jobs or volunteer opportunities you want.

This relevant experience could be anything from helping out in the school’s greenhouse, time spent working at a nursery, or a documented understanding of botany, biology, and chemistry through certifications and coursework taken online.

There is always a path forward – you just might have to think outside the box to get there.

How to Become a Botanist Traditionally

To become a botanist traditionally, you will have to pursue higher education to obtain a degree. A bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum, though more advanced jobs will require a master’s or doctoral degree.

While you may not need a degree strictly in botany or botanical sciences, you will at least need a degree in plant science, biology, or another field closely related to the job you wish to apply for.

For example, if you are working at a nursery developing new plants, you might find that a botany degree will suffice, but additional work with – or a degree specializing in – horticulture will give you a better chance at being selected for the position.

The traditional botanist path is something that not many people choose to pursue because of the perceived lack of options, but the work done in these fields are critical to understanding the natural world around us, furthering our collective knowledge of the ecosystem and plant function.

What Type of Education Do You Need to Be a Botanist?

Most entry-level botany jobs will require that you have a bachelor’s degree at least, or a master’s degree in botany depending on the work and responsibilities you are taking on. (1) Positions that require advanced research typically require a doctorate degree.

Qualifying for a job as a botanist requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in botany. Some botanists choose to earn advanced degrees to teach at colleges and universities or to qualify for managerial positions at businesses and research laboratories.

Kristine Tucker

Because botany is a type of science, it does require certain skills to excel in the field. Typically, a botanist will need strong analytical, mathematical, and critical thinking skills above all else. Soft skills, like self-direction, team effort, and communication is critical, though there are few jobs that do not require those skills.

If you have a master’s degree, you may be inclined to consider a Ph.D. as well. This will help you move up in the field, earning pay raises and acquire new responsibilities. Ph.D. graduates can lead government research projects, teach at university level, and make your mark on the botanical world.

Should you choose to pursue a Ph.D., it is best to know what specific field of study you want to go into before entering the program, as that will best tailor your education towards your desired career path.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Botanist?

To earn a bachelor’s degree in botany or plant sciences, you will find that it takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree.

If you wish to pursue a master’s degree, you will need to study for another one or two years, and an additional two or three years after that for a doctoral degree.

Without traditional schooling, there is no timeline for how long it takes you to be considered a botanist. For many, this is the more difficult path of the two, and requires developing plenty of personal connections and taking proactive action.

Some job, funding, and research opportunities will always be barred without the traditional schooling degree, but with a creative and passionate disposition, it is possible to still become known as a knowledgeable individual.

While many job opportunities require a degree to screen applicants, many businesses – particularly smaller businesses – prefer knowledgeable and intelligent individuals above all else, degree or not.

How Hard Is It to Become a Botanist?

Each path has its challenges, whether you are choosing to become a botanist traditionally or through an alternative path. No matter which path you choose, it is important to understand going in that it will be difficult, just like any other career path that requires experience and analytical thought.

While this is true, it doesn’t make botany any less fascinating. Students who learn in the university or in the field will find themselves surrounded by the natural world, exploring the ins and outs of how it works, all in preparation to help further collective research, develop new techniques, and make a mark on the world.

The key skills required in becoming a good botanist is research, critical and analytical thought, as well as mathematical understanding. These skills may be difficult for some to acquire, but if it is a career path you believe in, the hard work will be well worth it!

Do Botanists Make Good Money?

Botanists make an average salary that changes depending on the responsibilities of the job, the location, and how advanced your knowledge of botany is.

The median salary for a botanist is $60,600 each year, based on data from salary.com.

A baseline salary for a botanist who is working in a low-cost region at minimum qualifications can expect to make around $46,000 each year, while botanists with a higher level of education living in a higher-cost region will be able to make around $100,800 each year.

Typically, these career paths involve a lot of research and field science, though other relevant career paths such as those in horticulture or agricultural science can expect to make a similar salary along the same payscale.

Are Botanists in Demand?

Botany is a great career path for those looking to make a tangible impact on the future of our planet, working with plant life, researching new developments, and protecting the natural world.

However, a botanist might not be the first thing you think of when someone asks what the most in-demand career is in the 21st century.

Still, botanists are in increasing demand.

There is, according to industry research, more demand than there is supply. This demand for qualified and knowledgeable botanists is only expected to grow, especially in agricultural and ecological fields.

The demand is not only tied to the growth of industry, but also to changing temperatures and climate zones. With enough botanists heading research on the changing climate, we may be able to adapt as the planet grows warmer and our crops change locations.

Volunteer and Intern Opportunities

No matter where you live, there’s a good chance that volunteer and intern opportunities exist near you. (2) Most major cities have college programs, studies, and conservation efforts that always need volunteers and extra hands to help them maintain the environment or discover new things about the natural world.

Volunteers are essential to the […] educational mission of fostering knowledge and appreciation of life science and the natural world.

Harvard Arnold Aboretum

For example, even if you do not have a college or high school degree yet, many greenhouses and conservatories can still use a helping hand.

Some organizations have internal testing to ensure that you have enough knowledge to pass their base criteria, which is helpful for those who are self-studied or who have not followed a traditional course of study.

Other opportunities can be found in volunteer work for those who are willing to spend their time to gain the field experience of working with an organization. Volunteer opportunities may be available through private businesses, farms, greenhouses, nurseries, conservatories, as well as conservation and management companies.

Thinking creatively and reaching out to relevant organizations in the area will help you narrow down your search and find something that is right for your experience.

Botany Careers and Opportunities

There are so many botany careers and opportunities available. Though those opportunities may be more limited without a degree, many are still in need of volunteers or assistance, allowing you to gain field experience and provide valuable services near the subject of your passion.

With a degree:

  • Biotechnologist
  • Field Botanist
  • Plant Geneticist
  • Naturalist
  • Horticulturalist
  • Forestry Consultant
  • Conservationist

Without a degree:

  • Florist
  • Naturalist (In some applications)
  • Plant Advocate
  • Botanical Center or Nursery Assistant
  • Plant Grower
  • Volunteer Work with Botanical Gardens, Greenhouse, or Herbarium
  • Gardener

By no means is this list exhaustive, nor should it be taken as such. Different jobs will require different levels of education, and the traditional degree route is certainly a way to prove that you have an adequate knowledge for the responsibilities you are given.

There are many degree options that are relevant even as sub-careers or subsects of each career or opportunity path. This is simply an example list of several ways you could get involved with botany. Not every business or organization is going to have the same standards, either. For example, some gardeners or nursery assistants may be required to hold a degree.

Often, when speaking in generic terms such as “with or without a degree,” this is typically referring to a degree in botany, environmental science, or a field of study relevant in some way to Earth sciences. Not many schools offer a strict “botany” degree, so employers look for the most relevant degree possible for screening.

Want to add to this list? Add a comment below!

Branches of Botany

There are so many branches of botany, also known as “plant sciences” that it can make your head spin just thinking about the possibilities. There’s a real potential for analysis paralysis when you’re thinking about a potential career path or volunteer opportunity.

The best advice I could give is to think about what you are most passionate about and see where that fits with what is available where you intend to volunteer or work.

These branches of botany may also be broken down into three subcategories:

Branches of Botany by Biology Focus

This subcategory relates to botany on a biological scale and what areas of study are commonly linked to botanical sciences. This branch includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Plant Anatomy
  • Plant Genetics
  • Plant Taxonomy
  • Phytocytology
  • Ecology (not limited to plants)
  • Paleobotany

Branches of Botany by Plant Type

This subcategory relates to how plants are classified in modern taxonomy and often specialize in a particular type of organism. This branch includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Bryology
  • Lichenology (traditionally included in botany)
  • Mycology (traditionally included in botany)
  • Phycology (traditionally included in botany)
  • Pteridology

Branches of Botany by Applied Sciences

This subcategory relates to how plants are used in modern society and how they affect humans. This branch includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Forestry
  • Horticulture
  • Plant Breeding
  • Ethnobotany
  • Plant Pathology
  • Food Science
  • Agronomy
References
  1. Kristine Tucker, What are the qualifications to be a botanist, https://work.chron.com/qualifications-botanist-6535.html
  2. Harvard Arboretum, Volunteer Opportunities, https://arboretum.harvard.edu/about/volunteer-opportunities/

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About Destynnie K. Berard
I am a lifelong naturalist who believes a good sense of humor is essential to staying happy. ★ After traveling for years, I settled in New England, falling in love with the diverse landscape the Northeast has to offer, and began pursuing conservation in earnest. ★ My career background is in enterprise marketing and communications, which provides me with a unique perspective of ecological relationships.

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