How to become an Botanist. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about Botanist careers.
What does a Botanist do?
Botanists (sometimes known as plant biologists) study all forms of plant life both in the natural environment and in laboratories. They have many different job roles, as their work can be used in environmental conservation, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, medicine, biotechnology and food science.
As a botanist, you could specialise in, for example:
- the study of specific plant groups
- plant anatomy and physiology
- molecular biology
- marine botany
- taxonomy (the identification and classification of plants).
As a botanist, your work would vary depending on the particular job, but could include:
- identifying, classifying, recording and monitoring plant species
- searching for new species
- studying the effects of pollution on plant life
- studying the effects of developments such as new buildings on plant life
- identifying and purifying chemicals produced by plants for use in products such as drugs, food, fabrics, solvents and building materials
- presenting research results in journals, books and at academic conferences
- training and supervising junior staff and volunteers
- teaching in a university.
Your working hours will vary according to the project – some processes may involve continuous monitoring, which will mean working unsocial hours.
Field work can involve extensive travel, often overseas, so you may have to spend lengthy periods away from home.
How much does a Botanist earn?
- Starting salaries in this area may be around £24,000 a year.
- Botanists in research posts earn up to £29,500.
- Senior lecturers at universities may earn around £58,000.
Salaries for people working in private industry will vary considerably.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
For most jobs you will need a degree. Relevant subjects include:
- plant biology
- plant science
- environmental science
Entry requirements can vary, so you should check with individual course providers. You can search for courses on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.
- Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
For some jobs, for example in teaching or research, you will also need a postgraduate qualification (either an MSc or PhD).
Visit the Society of Biology website for advice on choosing courses and information on biology-related careers.
- Society of Biology
You can find links to university bioscience departments, and other useful resources on the Biology4all website.
Competition for jobs can be strong, especially in fieldwork and conservation, so it will be useful to gain experience by volunteering with relevant organisations before applying for your first job. As a volunteer, you may be trained in areas such as conservation techniques and plant identification (check the Volunteering England website for ideas).
- Volunteering England
Training and Development
It may help your career to continue your training by working towards a PhD (this will be essential if you want a career in research). Achieving a PhD will involve:
- working on a research project alongside senior research colleagues
- developing the skills and determination needed for carrying out research
- producing a thesis based on your findings
- being interviewed at length about your work.
You can train in biological recording skills through the Botanical Society of the British Isles, and the Field Studies Council.
- Botanical Society of the British Isles
- Field Studies Council
You could also join the Society of Biology. As a member, you would have access to their continuing professional development (CPD) scheme.
- Society of Biology
Skills and Knowledge
- an interest in nature and the environment
- a thorough knowledge of science, particularly biology and chemistry
- accuracy and attention to detail
- a methodical approach
- research skills
- the ability to analyse, interpret and report on data
- practical skills
- problem solving ability
- patience, perseverance and good concentration.
You could find work as a botanist in areas such as:
- government research institutes
- conservation organisations
- agriculture and horticulture
- botanical gardens and collections
- the food industry.
There may be opportunities to work overseas in conservation, fieldwork, or for a multinational company.
With experience in industry, you could progress to more senior positions. In field research and conservation you will usually need to take on more organisational, planning, management or advisory responsibilities in order to progress.
You may also be able to become self-employed and find work as a freelance consultant.