Botany involves the study of different plant species, from their makeup and breeding to their relationship to the environment. Because plants, in essence, support all existence of life, botany attracts people who are not only interested in plant themselves, but also ecology, genetics, environmental concerns like air and water pollution, and food and crop production. It can suit both people who love being in a laboratory conducting research as well as those who enjoy exploring the outdoors. Above all, those who want to study science and math may be drawn to the field.
A degree in botany will teach you all aspects of plant life, including their identification and classification, structure and function, diseases, and their interaction with their environment. Through that, you may develop research skills, learn how to conduct a scientific experiment and use tools like microscopes, and above all, gain a further appreciation for the natural environment.
Classes and Assignments of a Botany Major
Most botany programs are associated with biology departments and have a strong biology core. Depending on the exact program, you may expect foundational science courses in biology and physics, as well basic botany-related classes like genetics, ecology, plant biology, field botany, plant taxonomy, plant anatomy, plant mineral nutrition, plant physiology, or specific plant species like fungi or algae. Some programs may have a concentration within botany, like agronomy, horticulture, or plant pathology. Advanced degree programs may require a foreign language component as well.
A degree in botany would involve a mix of classroom-based learning, field work, and laboratory work. In addition to in-class instruction, internships are stressed so that students can apply their studies to real-world situations. Government agencies, private companies, freshwater and marine biological stations, and college and university research laboratories are areas where students may find opportunities for internship experiences. Given the hands-on nature of the subject matter, there are limited options for full online degrees in botany, though some high-quality programs do exist.
Degree Levels for a Botany Major
- Associate. There are limited opportunities at the associate degree level to study botany. Online associate botany degrees, which you can then put toward a four-year degree in botany, may be the best course of action if you are unable to find a program that suits your needs. Associate degree earners may be able to find work as a research technician in the botany field and receive additional training on the job.
- Bachelor’s. At the bachelor’s degree level, you’ll find opportunities to earn a Bachelor of Science in Botany, or, barring that, a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in botany, depending on the school. Either way, you’ll be able to gain a foundation in such areas as genetics, molecular biology, ecology, and evolution, which you can put towards advanced study at the graduate level, or an entry-level position in such areas as research, government, or education. Some programs may offer related concentrations or certificates in geographic information systems and environmental studies that might be advantageous, based on your goals.
- Master’s. Online masters botany degrees allow for further specialization in areas like plant physiology, taxonomy, ecology, developmental genetics, and cellular biology. Graduates may go on to research positions, work in education or government agencies, or to online PhD botany degrees. A self paced online masters degree may appeal to working professionals who are continuing their education.
- Doctoral. A doctorate in botany would appeal to master’s degree holders looking to further their education and specialization in an area like plant biology, plant genetics, or plant ecology, to advance their careers, or those who desire to teach at the university or college level. A Ph.D. would require research, advanced course work, teaching, and a dissertation in an area of specialization.
A Future as a Botany Major
Depending on your education level, a degree in botany may train you to work as an ecologist, studying the relationships of plants and their environment; a taxonomist, discovering new plant species; a molecular biologist, genetically engineering different plant species, such as crops; or a horticulturist, cultivating different plant species. Other trained botanists find jobs working in education or for government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency; museums; botanical gardens; state parks departments; nature conservatories; or private organizations, like pharmaceutical or food companies. Work could take you anywhere in the world to many different types of ecosystems, from rainforests to forest areas recovering after a fire.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand should continue for scientists specializing in botany, though given the small size of the discipline, opportunities will be limited. Wages will vary depending on experience, education level, and location, with the annual salary for botanists ranging from $30,104 to $94,228, according to PayScale.com. Botanists working in the federal government in particular earned an average annual salary of $72,792 as of March 2009, according to the BLS.
Students with a degree in Botany are considered well prepared for
becoming Soil and plant scientists.