Career Profile: Plant Scientists
Imagine a world without plants. Much of our food and many medicines would be gone because they depend on healthy plants. If you want a very useful career that helps people eat well and stay healthy, the job of plant scientist could be right for you.
Out in the forest or a grassy field, plants grow without any help from people. Many other plants, however, can benefit from scientific help. In much of Canada, for example, plants would have a much shorter growing season without help from scientists. Researchers have been able to develop plants that can survive Canada’s cold winters and grow in all kinds of soil.
Plants intended for food are an important part of the work of plant scientists, but medicinal plants are also essential. Many of the basic painkillers and other medications that people use come from plants. Keeping these plants healthy and exploring the possibility of other medicinal plants is very important for disease control and prevention. Plant scientists conduct research into grains and other agricultural plants, as well as trees, shrubs, and additional plants.
Plant scientists can work in many different settings. They might work in nurseries and laboratories or out in the wild to find the information they need. Other places to find work include governments, environmental consulting companies, chemical or pharmaceutical companies, resource or utilities companies, hospitals, universities, and other organizations. Depending on where they work and their level of experience, people in this field can earn between $50,000 and $126,000 per year.
Educational requirements for this job can vary. Some employers hire people with lower levels of education, but many want all of their plant scientists to have at least a Master’s degree before beginning the work. In Canada, eight universities offer degrees in plant science, including McGill University in Quebec and Brock University in Ontario. For most people, this will take at least six years, with four years for an undergraduate degree and another two for a Master’s.
High school courses in the sciences, especially biology or environmental studies, can help prepare people for the work as a plant scientist. Learning how to collect samples and to examine them under a microscope is helpful for the kind of work that plant scientists do. Courses in English can help people learn how to gather information and write reports, and mathematics can be useful for making calculations.
Like in other occupations, accuracy is very important for plant scientists. They should be able to conduct experiments carefully to be able to get the best results possible while also learning from their mistakes. Persistence is important for plant scientists. Also, the ability to think things through as clearly as possible is important for helping people in this field choose the best ideas to follow and this avoid wasting too much time and effort.
Communication is another very important skill for plant scientists, as it is for many other careers. The ability to communicate well with other scientists, supervisors, and the public can be very helpful and often necessary for avoiding misunderstandings. Imagination to see new possibilities is also a benefit. If you have some of these qualities and you enjoy finding information that could help people, the job of plant scientist could be right for you.
Career Discovery Tool. “Plant Scientist.” https://careerdiscovery.sciencebuddies.org/science-engineering-careers/life-sciences/plant-scientist.
College Learners. “Masters in Plant Science in Canada.” https://collegelearners.org/masters-in-plant-science-in-canada/.
Glassdoor. “Plant Scientist Salary in Canada.” https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/plant-scientist-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.htm.
Job Bank. “Plant Scientist in Canada.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/occupation/2723/ca.
University of Manitoba. “Plant Scientist.” https://www.umanitoba.ca/career-services/career-planning/explore-occupations/plant-scientist.
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