A botanist studies plants. Botanists are sometimes called plant biologists, and they study all kinds of plant life, ranging from microscopic fungi to 350-foot tall redwoods. Most botanists are college-educated professionals, and many have earned graduate degrees. Many work in academia or are employed by government agencies, but some are employed in various capacities in the private sector. Like all professions, a career in botany has advantages and drawbacks.
An intellectually engaging job keeps you interested in coming back to work each day, and few activities are as intellectually satisfying as scientific research. It's a eureka moment if your hypothesis is proven; and even if it isn't, you still have the satisfaction of making an important contribution to scientific knowledge and the betterment of mankind.
Exposure to Nature
Most botanists spend a great deal of time in the outdoors. Many people became interested in botany as a result of spending a lot of time outdoors as a child; others discover their passion for plant science and mother nature in high school or college. If you enjoy the outdoors, having a job where you are paid to take nature walks is a major plus.
Opportunity to Travel
Some botanists have the opportunity to travel to exotic locales to undertake botany research, including projects such as cataloging new species or researching how native peoples use plants for food, medicine, clothing or other purposes. Even better, in most cases your travel expenses are paid for by research grants or by your employer.
Botanists, especially senior botanists in supervisory positions in academia, earn a comfortable living. According to the American Institute for Biological Science 2003 salary survey, the median salary for plant biologists without supervisory responsibilities was $48,000, and the median salary for those supervising 10 or more employees was $126,500. Most full-time botany positions also include employee benefits such as paid vacation and health insurance.
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.