Career Profile: Botanist
Botanists are critical to environmental conservation, as their research helps to determine how different plants can and will react to climate change. The job of many botanists is to supply the research for protecting native species from invasive species. Meanwhile, agricultural botanists offer extremely important research in food concerns medicines, timber supply and fibers. In short, the field is wide-spread and crucial; that means that the job market is large and high-paying.
Botanists must first have a Bachelor’s degree in science—they take courses in biology, chemistry, genetics, taxonomy, plant anatomy and physics. Those with Master’s degrees can pursue higher paying opportunities, and most botanists indeed have this credential. Botanists do not have neccessary apprenticeships, although they will often work as assistants to full-fledged botanists. Volunteer work and university work-learn positions are key to compete in the field. Like any science degree, the more experience, the more valuable you are to potential employers.
Botanists with a bachelor’s degree and those starting out can make about $32,000 per year, whereas those with a graduate degree or many years of experience can make between $55,00 and 68,00 per year. Salaries tend to be pretty high, and work can happen almost anywhere because anywhere you go there is an environment to study. This is extremely attractive to those who want an easily transferable job, and one that will provide for a family and a comfortable lifestyle. Above average growth is expected in the field of botany—the need for plant biologists is expected to increase by around 20% until the year 2022. Because there are so many jobs, competition isn’t terribly high. But even though that is the case, talented and well-educated botanists are the ones that are able to innovate within the field. While botany has so many pros, a large con is that research positions nearly always require a PhD, and therefore being successful as a botanist requires a great deal of education, and thus, a great deal of money. But it pays off and then some. Pressures are high, but the rewards are great.
Room to grow
Plant biologists’ careers are always evolving. Opportunities to change niche specialties happen often. A botanist’s currency is plants—everything plants. They study their physiological processes—like molecular-level photosynthesis—the evolutionary history and relationships of plants, and plants’ relationships with their environments. Botanists study plants’ responses to stresses from disease, pests and climate change and variations. Botany is a very active field, and one that becomes all the more important with the current growing concern of climate change. Improving ecosystems is at the core of botany, and it can be therefore be an extremely rewarding yet demanding field. Many botanists work to develop safe ways to control weeds and diseases, and experimentation is a large part of that. Many botanists choose to focus on plants’ molecular level—researching uses for medicines, raw materials, fabrics and biofuels. What all of this means is that those in botany never have to be bored. They can constantly change specialties, and take on jobs that spread across a wide landscape of research and practical application.