A botanist is a scientist who studies plants. The study of plants encompasses their evolution, classification, anatomy, physiology, development, genetics, diversity, ecology, and economic uses. Professional botanists typically specialize in one of these areas, or more likely in a smaller subspecialty, such as the evolution of the angiosperms (flowering plants), the biochemistry of photosynthesis, or the cultivation of roses for the wholesale market. Botanists may be employed by universities as professors or researchers; by the government to (for instance) conduct field studies of plant diversity in a national park or to compare crop planting systems; by agricultural industries to perform research on crops or to breed new types of plant varieties; or by pharmaceutical companies to discover new sources of plant-based drugs in the tropical rain forest, or to develop them in the lab from plant sources.

Botanists may work in laboratories or greenhouses performing experiments, or they may work outside in fields, forests, or other plant habitats. For many botanists, the opportunity to work with plants in their natural settings is a principal attraction of the discipline, along with an intellectual curiosity about how plants work, or a desire to improve their usefulness to humans. A career in botany requires at least a bachelor's degree from a four-year college. This would enable someone to begin work as a research assistant, for instance. Most professional botanists entering the field today earn a Ph.D., which gives them the qualifications and credentials to conduct research or manage a plant breeding program, for example. To pursue botany as a major in college, high school students should take courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math, and would benefit from getting hands-on experience with plants, either by gardening, farming, working in a nursery or greenhouse, or simply exploring the natural world around them.

SEE ALSO Angiosperms ; Agronomist ; Anatomy of Plants ; Conifers ; Evolution of Plants ; Photosynthesis ; Plant

Richard Robinson


Careers in Botany from the Botanical Society of America.

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