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Botanist Plant biologist

Botanists study all forms of plant life.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £22,000 to £55,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree in a relevant subject, like:

  • botany
  • ecology
  • environmental science
  • plant biology
  • plant science

You’ll also need a postgraduate qualification, like an MSc or PhD, for teaching or research posts.

It may be helpful if you volunteer with a relevant organisation, like The Wiildlife Trusts or the Royal Horticultural Society before you apply for your first job.

The Royal Society of Biology has more information on biology related careers.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • a methodical approach
  • research skills
  • the ability to analyse, interpret and report on data
  • strong communication skills
  • practical skills
  • problem-solving ability

3. What you'll do

You could specialise in:

  • the study of specific plant groups
  • plant anatomy and physiology
  • biochemistry
  • molecular biology
  • genetics
  • ecology
  • marine botany
  • paleobotany - the study of fossilised plant remains
  • taxonomy - the identification and classification of plants

Your work will vary depending on your role, but could include:

  • identifying, classifying, recording and monitoring plant species and biodiversity
  • ecological consultancy work, including surveys and environmental impact assessments
  • managing a botanical collection
  • searching for new species
  • studying the effects of pollution on plant life
  • identifying and purifying chemicals produced by plants for use in products like 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 at a university

4. Salary

Starter: £22,000 to £28,500

Experienced: up to £30,000 (research post)

Highly Experienced: £55,000 (senior university lecturer)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working hours will vary according to the project. You may be involved in continuous monitoring of a plant species, so you’ll work unsocial hours.

Fieldwork can involve a lot of travel, often overseas, so you might spend long periods of time away from home.

6. Career path and progression

With experience in industry, you could move into a more senior position. In field research and conservation, you’ll usually need to take on organisational, management or advisory responsibilities in order to progress. 

You could move into plant science, investigating biodiversity, crop production and plant diseases.
 
You could also become a freelance consultant.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016