Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
If you like working with plants,
Maybe botany is for you!
While botany may sound like one of those science courses in high school or college you avoided signing up for, the field is actually one of the fastest-growing areas in agriculture. Although many people associate the field of botany with “plants” only, in fact it is much more. Botany is the study of a wide range of organisms, including algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants, according to the Botanical Society of America. The field of botany is so broad it covers more than a dozen plant science-related careers in the agricultural field.
“Some botanists study the interaction of plants and other organisms and the environment,” says Dara Boardman, a botany and plant science graduate research assistant at the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. “There are others who search for new species of plant life or experiment with how plants grow in specific conditions. There is also a growing trend in the study of the plant genetics and the evolution of plants.”
With the growing demand for educated and experienced graduates in these fields, botany job growth is on the rise. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists botany and related fields of study as one of the most in demand for jobs in general agriculture and the natural resources and environmental sciences fields.
Some of the most common careers and degree fields in botany include both hands-on careers, theoretical and experimental positions, and applied science work. For those students who learn by doing, the fields of plant pathology, natural resource management, horticulture, forestry, food science and technology, biotechnology, plant breeding and agronomy are available. Fields of study that dive into the theory and experimentation of specialized areas of botany include everything from ecology, the study of the relationship between plants and the environment, to ethnobotany, the study of plants used by indigenous people. For those who hope to work in the laboratory uncovering the mysteries of botany, there are research areas such as lichenology, mycology, and many others.
To get a jump-start on preparing for a future career in botany, there are numerous internships and job-shadowing opportunities in the field for high school and post-secondary students. Be sure to check out the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for internships and job-shadowing opportunities in a field office near you.
If you want to get started today in discovering the world of botany, you can sign up be a member of the NRCS Earth Team Volunteers Program. The Earth Team Volunteers Program pairs students with conservation professionals in all fields in order to help protect and conserve the earth’s natural resources. Through this program, students can fulfill community service requirements, earn academic credit, have resume-building experiences or simply volunteer and help the environment. Learn more at nrcs.usda.gov.