Plant Biology

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Plant Biology – Major Subdisciplines

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioenergy
  • Biophysics
  • Cytology
  • Ecology
  • Ethnobotany

  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular
  • Biology
  • Morphology
  • Paleobotany

  • Palynology
  • Physiology
  • Phytochemistry
  • Systematics
  • Systems Ecology
  • Taxonomy


  • Colleges and universities
  • Agricultural experiment stations
  • Research organizations including non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • National laboratories
  • Museums, herbaria, botanical gardens, arboretums

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture branches:
    • National Germplasm Resources Laboratory
    • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
    • National Arboretum
    • Forest Service
    • Food and Drug Administration
  • Federal agencies:
    • Departments of Interior and State
    • Public Health Service
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    • Smithsonian Institution
    • National Park Service
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • Department of Energy

  • State environmental agencies
  • Environmental consulting companies
  • Industries:
    • Petrochemical
    • Chemical
    • Lumber and paper
    • Pharmaceutical
    • Seed and nursery
    • Produce
    • Biological supply
    • Bio-technology


  • Develop organizational and laboratory skills, attention to detail and determination for successful scientific inquiry.
  • Read plant biology journals and articles to stay abreast of current research in the field.
  • Seek undergraduate field and research experiences independently or alongside professors.
  • Apply for undergraduate research fellowships or other student research programs.
  • Learn federal and state government job application processes.
  • Join related professional associations.
  • Maintain a high grade point average and develop strong faculty references in preparation for graduate school.
  • Obtain a Ph.D. for teaching and advanced research positions.


Applied Plant Science

  • Agronomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Economic botany

  • Food science and technology
  • Forestry
  • Horticulture

  • Natural resource management
  • Plant breeding
  • Plant pathology


  • Colleges and universities
  • Agricultural experiment stations
  • Research organizations
  • Federal, state, and local government and regulatory agencies

  • Agriculture industries:
    • Lumber and paper
    • Seed and nursery
    • Fruit and vegetable growers
    • Fermentation
    • Food and feed
    • Biological supply

  • Industries:
    • Petrochemical
    • Pharmaceutical
    • Chemical
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Environmental consulting companies


  • Learn to set up, operate, maintain laboratory instruments and equipment, and monitor experiments.
  • Develop strong communication skills for sharing data with technical and non-technical audiences.
  • Seek undergraduate research opportunities independently or with professors.
  • Take courses related to your area of interest; consider a minor or double major.
  • Gain relevant experience through student organizations, volunteer positions, part-time work, or internships.
  • Obtain a Ph.D. for teaching, advanced research positions, and administration.
  • Learn federal, state, and local government job application processes.


Organismal Plant Biology – Specialties

  • Bryology
  • Lichenology
  • Pteridology

  • Mycology
  • Phycology/Marine botany

  • Dendrology
  • Agrostology


  • Colleges and universities
  • Agricultural experiment stations
  • Research organizations including NGOs

  • State and federal agencies:
    • Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Health

  • Museums, herbaria, botanical gardens, arboretums, aquaria
  • Environmental consulting companies


  • Become familiar with laboratory procedures and equipment.
  • Take courses in area(s) of specialization and/or consider an advanced degree.
  • Assist a professor with research or find a part-time job in a laboratory.
  • Seek related experience through part-time jobs, internships, or volunteering.
  • Obtain a Ph.D. for teaching and advanced research and management positions.



  • Teaching

  • Research

  • Administration


  • Public and private high schools
  • Colleges and universities

  • Museums, herbaria, botanical gardens, arboretums


  • Gain experience working with students through tutoring, part-time employment, or volunteering.
  • Learn to work well with all types of people.
  • Develop excellent interpersonal and public speaking skills.
  • Certification is required to teach in public schools and varies by state.
  • Master’s degrees may be sufficient for teaching at two-year institutions.
  • Ph.D. is needed for teaching opportunities at colleges and universities.


Plant Biology – Communication

  • Writing
  • Editing

  • Botanical illustration
  • Photography


  • Publishing companies including newspapers, magazines, books, and textbooks

  • Professional associations
  • Scientific and educational software companies

  • Non-profit organizations


  • Develop strong writing skills, knowledge of photography, and accompanying technology.
  • Pursue courses in photography; courses in illustration and printing may be helpful.
  • Take advanced courses in technical writing or journalism classes or consider a minor in either.
  • Join professional associations like the National Association of Science Writers.
  • Seek related volunteer or paid experiences with student/local publications, magazines, newspapers, or publishers to increase marketability.
  • Obtain an advanced degree in scientific journalism.


Plant Biology – Legal Applications

  • Lobbying
  • Regulatory affairs

  • Science policy
  • Patent law

  • Environmental law
  • Agricultural law
  • Biotechnological law


  • Environmental and biotechnology law firms

  • Government and regulatory agencies

  • Lobbying firms


  • Participate on a debate or forensic team.
  • Develop strong research and communication skills and attention to detail.
  • Take courses in and gain experience with mediation and conflict resolution.
  • Get involved with pre-law organizations.
  • Obtain part-time work in law firms and/or internships in federal or state government.
  • Plan to shadow attorneys to learn more about the field and various specialties.
  • Maintain an excellent grade point average and secure strong faculty recommendations to gain law school admittance.
  • Plan to take the LSAT. Earn a J.D. degree to practice law.



  • Marketing/Sales

  • Management

  • Consulting


  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Agricultural companies

  • Biotechnology firms
  • Scientific publishers

  • Biological supply houses


  • Develop excellent communication and interpersonal skills, along with a high energy level.
  • Obtain sales experience and/or a business minor for increased marketability.
  • Join related student associations and seek leadership positions.
  • Consider an MBA or Professional Science Master’s for advanced management and consulting opportunities.




  • Colleges and universities
  • Private research foundations
  • Independent laboratories including agricultural, pharmaceutical, research, testing, etc.

  • Federal laboratories and regulatory agencies: National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture

  • Bioinformatics companies
  • National Biological Information Infrastructure


  • Develop areas of specialization through coursework, minors, double-majors in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or machine learning.
  • Develop strong programming and database management skills; fluency in several programming languages is helpful.
  • Learn biological software systems.
  • Complete an internship in area of interest.
  • Seek master’s degree for increased advancement opportunities.

General Information

  • Bachelor’s degree qualifies one for work as a laboratory technician or technical assistant in education, industry, government, museums, parks, and gardens.
  • Master’s degree is needed for many technical positions in research and administration.
  • Ph.D. is required for most advanced research and administrative positions or college teaching.
  • Build good relationships with science professors and secure strong recommendations. Maintain a high GPA for graduate school admission.
  • Obtain part-time, summer, co-op, volunteer, or internship experience with government agencies, college/university labs, agricultural experiment stations, freshwater and marine biological stations, or private companies.
  • Complete one or more undergraduate research projects to explore specific areas of interest in plant biology.
  • Maintain physical stamina if planning to conduct research in an outdoor environment.
  • Join organizations concerned with environmental preservation, world food supply and other related areas. Read scientific journals related to plant biology.
  • Develop an excellent background in mathematics and strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • Select a broad range of courses in English, social sciences, arts, and humanities.
  • Become proficient with computers and software applications.