How To Become a Botanist in 7 Steps (With Key Skills to Have)
Updated June 30, 2023
A career in botany can increase your knowledge about the environment and the role of different plant species. Regardless of the type of botany you're interested in, there are many important steps to becoming a professional in this field. Understanding botany can help you effectively use plants to protect the environment or identify problem-solving uses for them, such as using them for medicine. In this article, we explain what a botanist is, discuss what they do, provide steps to help you become a botanist and give examples of important botanist skills and how to use them.
Botanists study plants on the microscopic and macroscopic levels including how they behave in different environments and in relation to other plants.
Entry-level botanists often have a bachelor's degree in biology or a similar field and many botanists earn advanced degrees such as a master's to advance their careers.
Botanists often have transferable skills such as research, communication and writing they can use in their roles throughout their careers.
What is a botanist?
A botanist is a scientist who studies plants on micro and macro levels. They examine all aspects of plants, such as how plants can help produce medicine, enhance crops in agricultural production, provide energy sources and cleanse contamination. They might also research the effects and relationships of plants within specific ecosystems to better understand how nature functions in those spaces.
Here are some examples of botany specialization areas you can work in:
Taxonomy: This is the study of finding new plant species and assigning them classifications.
Ecology: This is the study of plants in relation to their environment.
Biology: This is the study of interactions between plant cells in relation to daily functions and reproductive activities.
Paleobotany: This is the study of plant fossils that may be extinct to determine what time period they might be from.
Ethnobotany: This is the study of relationships between humans and plants.
Related: 13 Careers With Plants
What does a botanist do?
Botanists can perform a variety of duties depending on their area of specialization. Here are some common tasks botanists might complete:
Experimenting with plants to create medical solutions
Observing plant growth and functions
Examining previous plant and ecosystem conditions
Testing and analyzing plant properties
The job you have may influence your specific duties. For example, a botanist who specializes in taxonomy might test and analyze plant properties to determine how to classify them. Meanwhile, a botanist who specializes in ecology may test and analyze plant properties to compare the similarities and differences of plants in unique ecosystems.
How to become a botanist in 7 steps
If you're interested in becoming a botanist, here are seven steps you can follow to help you meet your goal:
1. Get a bachelor's degree
To work as a botanist, you usually need a bachelor's degree. If the college or university you attend offers a botany-specific major, you may choose that as your area of study. However, if your college or university doesn't offer a botany major, you might study topics like:
Throughout your studies, you can engage in learning labs to help you grow your knowledge and skills for conducting future experiments. If you're researching where to gain your bachelor's degree in botany or botany-related studies, you may consider which options offer immersive lab experiences.
2. Consider a master's degree
After you've earned a bachelor's, you may continue your education and gain a master's or doctorate in topics like plant genetics or molecular biology. Although you might not need a graduate degree for all botany jobs, some positions may require them such as biotechnologist or plant geneticist. In addition, if you're interested in teaching botany or botany-related topics at the collegiate level, you may need to have a doctorate in a related area of study or equivalent work experience.
3. Pursue an internship
Pursuing an internship where you can work with plants can be beneficial because you can gain real-world learning experiences in botany or biology positions. Typically, you can engage in these opportunities while working toward your degree, and some colleges and universities also require students to complete an internship for their degree.
Related: How To Get an Internship
4. Find a mentor
Finding a mentor can help you on your journey to becoming a botanist. Mentors can guide your professional development and share their professional knowledge and experiences. Their expertise may help you reach your own career goals and establish yourself in the field, especially if they share professional connections with you. Growing your professional connections can be especially important to gain potential career opportunities.
Related: 5 Steps To Find a Mentor
5. Develop your botanist skills
Throughout your educational studies and internships, you can develop professional skills. This can include both soft and hard skills related to botany. These skills can be useful because many botany roles require you to conduct research, analyze results, communicate with other scientists and record your findings. You may also focus on developing other relevant skills depending on your area of specialization.
6. Complete professional certifications
If you're interested in learning more about botany topics or staying updated with new practices, you can become a certified professional botanist or complete related certifications. Some examples of these certifications include:
Traditional healing using plants
Related certifications may also include topics like conservation management or research data analysis. Meanwhile, professional botanist certification focuses on certifying you in botany best practices. Usually, colleges, universities or learning companies offer these types of certifications.
7. Join botany or conservation organizations
If you're interested in expanding your professional botany network, you can join general or botany-specific conservation organizations. Some examples of organizations you might join are:
Botanical Society of America (BSA)
American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)
American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT)
Ecological Society of America (ESA)
Depending on your interests, you may choose to join other related organizations. To determine which organizations might work best for you, you can research the specific offerings each provides to its members.
Key botanist skills
Here are some examples of botanist skills and how you might use them:
Research skills are important for botanists because they often engage in plant research and you might need to conduct studies or experiments to examine different plant functions and qualities or identify unique classifications or species features. For example, you may conduct an experiment on plants to determine if their chemical properties can help cleanse a contaminated area.
Botanists can use analytical skills for a variety of duties. For example, if you're completing a research study, you might analyze results to determine the outcome of your experiment. You may also use your analytical skills to examine relationships between plants and humans, plant cell interactions or the reproductive activity of plants.
Critical thinking skills can help you make strategic and informed decisions while working as a professional botanist. For example, if you're doing taxonomy work, your critical thinking skills may help you determine what classifications to assign to new plant species. This might include considering the properties, functions and environment of the new species and how those components can help classify them. For paleobotany, you might use critical thinking skills to determine the time period of plant fossils.
Communication is another important skill because you might need to communicate with team members, managers or stakeholders. For example, if you're working as a botanist on a research team, you likely need to communicate clearly with your teammates. This can be especially important if your team includes individuals from diverse research backgrounds. These communications can include sharing research protocols, results from experiments or information about potentially useful plant properties.
You may also use writing skills for documenting your research and observations or developing comprehensive scientific reports. For example, throughout your work, you can document all of your findings and steps for future reference. If you're working as a botanist manager, you might write formal reports to update stakeholders at each research stage. This can be especially important if the project you're working on has outside funding.
Organizational skills are important for documenting and filing your scientific findings. If there isn't already an organizational system where you work, consider developing your own system for your research. This might mean taking notes as you go through each research step or recording your progress with videos or images.
Observational skills can help if you need to examine plant behaviors or properties over set periods of time. You may need to perform tasks like these if you're working as a biologist, ecologist or biomedical research scientist. Biologists and ecologists may observe plant functions, reproductions and the environment where plants live. Meanwhile, biomedical research scientists might use botany to determine whether a plant species can contribute to modern medicine.
Time management is another skill that might help when you need to work on multiple tasks daily or perform multiple research studies at the same time. Knowing how to manage your time effectively and efficiently may help you accomplish your tasks within deadlines. If you're interested in boosting your time management skills, you might create things like daily prioritization lists or to-do lists where you can track your completed work.
Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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