How to Become a Botanist


Botanists are the scientists who study the plant life and greenery that is so important to the natural world. If you have a talent for biology, or ecology and have always been fascinated by plants then perhaps a career as a botanist is the right choice for you.

What do botanists do?

Botanists perform many of the same tasks as biologists. In fact, they are occasionally referred to as plant biologists. However, it is a very specialist form of biology. A botanist needs to be extremely interested not only in plant life of all kinds but also how plants can be used for other purposes such as improving drugs.

Botanists can specialise in a number of different areas such as:

  • Studying different groups of plants
  • The physiology and anatomy of plants
  • Plant Genetics (The genetic makeup of plants)
  • Ecology
  • Biochemistry
  • Marine botany (Studying water plants)
  • Taxonomy(identifying and classifying new plants)
  • Molecular biology of plants
  • Paleobotany (Studying of fossilised plant remains)
  • Taxonomy(identifying and classifying new plants)

Typical daily activities could include:

  • The identification, classification, recording and monitoring of new and different plant species
  • Conducting ecological surveys and environmental impact assessments
  • Conducting scientific expeditions to find new plant species
  • Studying the effects of the modern world such as pollution and resource gathering on plant life
  • Studying plants to identify the chemical compounds which can be use in pharmaceuticals, food, clothes, technology and even construction.
  • Studying the effects of the modern world such as pollution and resource gathering on plant life
  • Conducting research or teaching at universities
  • Managing plant collections
  • Writing research papers for academic journals, books
  • Giving presentations at academic conferences


Botany is not known as a particularly well paid job, but it is not badly paid and if you’re really interested and passionate about your work then the lack of a massive pay check will not be a problem for you.

There may be some opportunities to work in high paying jobs overseas, but these jobs will be highly competitive.

Entry Level

£22,000 (approx.)

Research Positions

£30,000 (approx.)

Senior University Lecturers

£55,000 (approx.)

Skills required

  • Natural ability in maths and science subjects especially biology and chemistry
  • To be a logical and methodical thinker
  • Great communication and teamwork skills
  • Excellent problem solving skills
  • A keen attention to detail
  • Leadership skills
  • Research Skills
  • A keen interest in plant life

Qualifications and entry requirements

  • Usually the minimum requirement is at least an undergraduate degree in a relevant field such as botany, plant biology, plant science, environmental science or ecology.
  • For certain jobs such as teaching, research or the more senior roles it may be a requirement to get an MSc or PhD. The Society of biology provides good information on what course to choose.
  • Competition for first jobs can be extremely strong so it would be advisable to do some volunteer work before applying for your first job. This will boost your chances of securing a position considerably.

Career prospects and development

Continual professional development is essential in this field. It is important to stay up to date with the most recent trends as in any other scientific career. Gaining a PhD is highly recommended for all botanists at some stage during their careers and it is a great way to increase your employability. If you choose to join the society of biology you can benefit from their continual professional development scheme. It is also possible to increase your biological recording skills by studying at either the Botanical Society of the British Isles or the Field Studies Council.

Career prospects for botanists in the UK are relatively good. While it is not a hot job with recruiters constantly searching for applicants, it is also an extremely specialised area. The UK job market for this sector is expected to grow from roughly 1440000 jobs in 2014 to 1562000 in 2020. There are also opportunities to work offshore or abroad for multinational companies which may provide a large pay check and very interesting work. However, these jobs are quite scarce and highly competitive.

This job is not for everyone. You really need to have a fascination with plant life in order to succeed in this career. But if you truly love studying plants and science in general then this may well be the career choice for you.