Career Development

Botanist Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Botanists study plants and other plant-like organisms, like algae and fungi. They use their knowledge to help solve problems related to agriculture, medicine, conservation, or environmental issues.

Botanists study plants and other plant-like organisms, like algae and fungi. They use their knowledge to help solve problems related to agriculture, medicine, conservation, or environmental issues.

They may study the structure of plants or how they grow. They may collect samples of plants to analyze how certain environmental factors affect them. Botanists can also develop new types of plants through breeding or genetic engineering.

Botanists can choose from several different career paths based on their interests and skill sets. This includes taxonomy, conservation, biotechnology, agricultural science, ethnobotany, ecology, paleobotany, physiology, and molecular biology.  

Botanist Job Duties

The following are typical job duties for botanists:

  • Identifying and classifying plants by their physical characteristics, such as leaf shape or stem structure
  • Observing plant growth and developing theories about the effects of light, temperature, humidity, and seasonal changes on plant development
  • Developing new methods to cultivate plants in different environments, using computer modeling methods to test results
  • Carrying out experiments to measure plant responses to man-made environmental changes such as temperature fluctuations or exposure to chemical pollutants
  • Collecting and storing plant specimens in herbariums or databases
  • Conducting lab research on topics including genetics, evolution, physiology, or plant ecology
  • Presenting findings at scientific conferences and publishing results in peer-reviewed journals

Botanist Salary & Outlook

The median salary for botanists is $65,649. The top earners make over $98,000 per year. Those earning higher wages are employed by scientific research and development services companies.

The employment of botanists is projected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the growing need for researchers who can study plants and their effects on the environment. As the population grows, so will the demand for food production. Botanists will be needed to figure out how to produce more food with fewer resources.

Botanist Job Requirements

A botanist is an expert in the study of plants. The following qualifications are required for botanists:

Education: A botanist should earn a bachelor’s degree in life sciences with a focus on botany.  Courses will include topics like plant systematics, evolution, plant genetics, ecology and plant taxonomy. Many employers prefer candidates to hold a master’s or doctorate degree.

Training: Most of a botanist’s training happens on the job with co-workers and mentors. They learn about their specific job duties through hands-on experience. This experience also teaches them how to work as a team member, communicating effectively with other professionals. Botanists may also pursue an internship or volunteer at a park or farm to receive training.

Certifications: Although not required, botanists may pursue certifications that demonstrate their knowledge of the field. Some examples of certifications that are available include Plant Health Care Technician and ISA Certified Arborist.

Botanist Skills

A botanist must have the following skills:

Scientific knowledge: Botanists must have extensive scientific knowledge of plant anatomy, physiology, and other disciplines.

Ability to work independently: A botanist may spend much of his or her time in the field working alone, so independent work skills are essential.

Ability to work with others: Although a botanist may spend most of his or her time working alone, he or she must be able to work well with colleagues in laboratories and offices.

Detail oriented: Botanists must be detail oriented in order to identify specimens accurately.

Observation skills: A botanist must be able to observe living plants closely in order to make accurate identifications.

Computer skills: Many botanists use computers in their work, especially when creating graphs and charts or when entering data into databases. You may also use computer programs for creating illustrations or visualizing data in three dimensions.

Botanist Work Environment

Some botanists work in labs or offices, but many spend much of their time outdoors. Botanists who study wild plants — known as field botanists — may spend days at a time collecting samples and hiking through trails to find specimens. Those who study agricultural crops often visit farms, where they walk through fields and conduct tests on the soil and plant life. Botanists who develop medicines, pesticides, and food supplements sometimes must isolate certain organisms to test them in laboratories.

Botanists typically work full time during regular business hours, but some work evenings and weekends if they’re conducting research that requires lab work.

Botanist Career Path

Getting Started

New botanists begin their careers as lab assistants, doing grunt work and learning the tricks of the trade. They may get experience in the field by assisting on field trips or on surveys. Botanists spend most of their time in laboratories or in the field studying plants and animals and must learn how to preserve specimens and conduct experiments.

Five Years Out

After five years, botanists have begun to publish articles on their own and supervise more junior botanists. Botanists usually become known for their specialties: fungi, lichens, mosses, etc. They may take on roles such as identifying plants for farmers or working in conservation groups. Most scientists at this level supervise research assistants and students, and many do some teaching at a local college or university. As scientists continue to develop their expertise they may be asked to speak at conferences and give presentations on new discoveries. They are usually able to make time for writing scientific papers and book chapters. Salaries increase significantly after five years; the work becomes more satisfying, but not necessarily easier.

Ten Years Out

By ten years out, botanists have moved into managerial positions with larger institutions (e.g., museums, universities). The amount of time spent supervising others increases dramatically; these people now spend most of their time directing others rather than doing fieldwork themselves. However, many still find time for research and publishing. Their salaries increase substantially at this point, as does their satisfaction level with their jobs. Some botanists choose to return to school at this point for advanced degrees or specialized training in areas such as taxonomy or conservation biology.

Botanist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how botanists work. Botanists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Plant Science

Plant science is a rapidly growing field, largely due to increased awareness of the impacts that plant-based products can have on human health.

New studies suggest that plants may hold the key to curing a variety of ailments, from cancer to depression, prompting an increase in public interest in plant-based treatments.

In addition, companies are becoming increasingly interested in developing new plant-based products and methods for cultivating them, which will require botanists to develop new ways of producing crops and finding new uses for them. 

Increasing Importance of Plant-Based Foods

Although it has been difficult to track plant-based food sales in the past, a recent study from SPINS, a leading data provider for the natural products industry, found that plant-based foods increased by 22% in sales volume from 2015 to 2016.

As plant-based diets become more popular among consumers, botanists will be needed to ensure that fruits and vegetables are safe for consumption and properly labeled for sale. This can be particularly challenging given that plants and their derivatives contain an enormous number of active ingredients that can interact with one another and produce unpredictable effects when combined.

Increased Importance of Urban Green Spaces

Today, urban environments are increasingly important as we face an ever-growing population and greater stress on our natural resources.

With the increasing importance of urban green spaces, many companies and communities are turning to botanists to help design greener cities.

Botanists will play a crucial role in shaping the future of urban areas by helping create sustainable urban designs that can be used in major cities around the world.

How to Become a Botanist

1. Planning Your Career

A career as a botanist is a great choice for those who enjoy being outdoors and interacting with plants. Botanists conduct research on plant life, typically in the field, so you’ll need to be physically fit and able to work long hours.

The job of a botanist includes many different responsibilities; one major part of the job is identifying and classifying plants and animals according to their biological structure. This is an incredibly intricate process, but those who enjoy math and science will find it very rewarding. 

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for botanists emphasize their expertise in plant science, research skills, and ability to communicate effectively. You should start off by listing your education and any professional organizations that you are a part of. This will help illustrate the depth of your knowledge and experience.

To showcase your expertise, you can mention internships or fieldwork that you have done as well as courses that you have taken. In order to demonstrate your ability to work independently, you can include mentions of projects you were responsible for, as well as times when you provided leadership and mentoring to other people.

Additionally, if you have any publications or presentations on plants that you’ve created, be sure to include these in your resume.

3. Applying for Jobs

Botanists have a number of options when it comes to looking for a job. It’s a good idea to do some research on botanical gardens and parks in your area to see if they have any openings, or you can also search online for positions in places that interest you. It also helps to be an active participant in the plant science community. Search for jobs at conferences and meetups, ask other people who are working as botanists how they found their jobs, and share your experiences with others. Also, keep your eye on the Botanical Society of America’s career page for more information on job openings.

4. Ace the Interview

The botanist interview process typically includes a phone call followed by an in-person interview. Prepare for botanist interviews by researching the company, the job responsibilities, and the industry in which you are interviewing.

Think of specific questions that will be asked of you, based on the nature of the position you’re interviewing for. For example, if you’re applying for a position with a local museum to curate their collection of plants, it would be worthwhile to research what species of plant they currently have on display. You should also prepare answers to general questions about your experience working in the field of botany.

Since botany is such a specialized field, this type of interview can be challenging for applicants who don’t specialize in botanical research or collections management. Be sure to do your homework before attending any kind of botanist interview to make sure that you’re well versed in everything from plant biology to gardening to horticulture.

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