Plant Sciences

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Area

Bioenergy

  • Plant breeding
  • Crop science
  • Feedstocks

  • Production and processing
  • Regulation

  • Consulting
  • Biofuel transportation,distribution, sales

Employers

  • Biofuel companies
  • Colleges and universities
  • Research organizations
  • Feedstock supply companies

  • Federal laboratories and regulatory agencies: US Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency

Strategies

  • Seek experience in the bioenergy field through research with faculty, internships or part-time jobs.
  • Build close relationships with faculty who can provide strong recommendations for graduate school.
  • Maintain knowledge of current alternative energy and product industry trends and regulations.
  • Supplement program with courses such as finance, marketing, management, etc. to increase understanding of business theory.
  • Purse a master’s or Ph.D. for increased research opportunities.

Area

Biotechnology

  • Plant tissue culture
  • Plant breeding

  • Genetic engineering
  • Textiles (enzymes, novel fibers, medical)
  • Bioinformatics

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Research organizations
  • Agricultural and pharmaceutical companies

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

  • Plant propagation and production businesses
  • Biotechnology companies

Strategies

  • Gain practical laboratory, greenhouse or field experience in collaboration with professors and through internships.
  • Join horticultural, agronomy clubs or other student professional associations to network and cultivate related academic interests.
  • A master’s or doctoral degree may be necessary for advancement. Some federal and private agency and research positions require a graduate degree.
  • Maintain a strong grade point average to be competitive for graduate school admission.

Area

Horticulture Science and Production

  • Plant breeding
  • Vegetable, fruit, ornamental crop production

  • Greenhouse and nursery management

  • Sales and marketing

Employers

  • Nurseries, greenhouses, florists and other wholesale and retail companies
  • Plant propagation and production businesses

  • Agribusinesses
  • Harvesting companies
  • Agrichemical companies
  • Consulting firms

  • State and federal departments of agriculture
  • Extension offices
  • High schools, colleges and universities
  • Self-employment

Strategies

  • Seek work in areas such as crop production and greenhouse operations to build skills and experience.
  • Assist a professor with a research project.
  • Join horticultural, agronomy clubs or other student professional associations to network.
  • Seek additional training in business to advance into management positions.
  • Become a Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticulture Science.
  • A master’s or doctoral degree may be necessary for some positions in private companies and government organizations.
  • Maintain a strong grade point average to be competitive for graduate school admission.
  • Research extension and teacher education programs for working with youth.

Area

Landscape Design

  • Ecological/Environmental restoration
  • Residential/Commercial design

  • Landscape construction
  • Landscape maintenance/Management

  • Specialty installation (irrigation systems, ponds, rockscapes, lighting)
  • Sales and contracting

Employers

  • Landscape design companies
  • Garden centers
  • Parks, amusement parks and zoos
  • Golf courses

  • Sport fields
  • Cemeteries
  • Large hotels and resorts
  • Industrial sites

  • Colleges and universities
  • Local/city governments
  • State highway departments
  • Self-employment

Strategies

  • Seek practical experience through internships or summer and part-time jobs at garden centers or with landscape contractors to learn more about the industry
  • Develop computer aided design (CAD) and effective communication skills for conferring with clients.
  • Obtain a minor in business, agricultural economics or agricultural leadership if interested in management or self-employment.
  • Consider earning a landscape architect degree and obtain professional certification as a landscape architect. Requirements vary by state.
  • Participate in the annual Professional Landcare Network’s (PLANET) Student Career Days competition.

Area

Organic Production

  • Crop production
  • Greenhouse and nursery management

  • Sales and marketing
  • Organic certification

  • Product development

Employers

  • Organic farms
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Agribusinesses

  • State and federal departments of agriculture
  • Plant propagation and production businesses
  • Agrichemical companies

  • Colleges and universities
  • Self-employment
  • High-end produce buyers
  • Local tourism departments

Strategies

  • Pursue experience in organic production through work at organic greenhouses, farms or agribusinesses.
  • Seek involvement with local farmers’ markets, community food projects and other sustainable agriculture initiatives.
  • Join student chapters of professional associations to network in the industry.
  • Become a Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticulture Science.
  • Research extension and teacher education programs for working with youth which vary by state.
  • Become familiar with certification programs for organic produce.

Area

Public Horticulture

  • Education/Outreach
  • Urban horticulture
  • Urban forestry

  • Horticulture therapy
  • Plant collections
  • Research

  • Communications
  • Management
  • Facilities and maintenance

Employers

  • Public and botanic gardens
  • Arboreta and conservatories
  • Museums
  • Radio and television stations
  • Magazines, newspapers and internet sites

  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Cities and parks
  • State highway departments
  • Cemeteries
  • Theme parks

  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Extension Offices
  • Hospitals and therapy centers
  • Nursing homes and senior centers
  • Freelance writer

Strategies

  • Develop excellent writing and speaking skills, as those interested in public horticulture work extensively with people.  Photography skills may be advantageous for some career paths.
  • Join student organizations to develop leadership and communication skills.
  • Gain related experience through internships part-time job in public gardens or parks.
  • Earn Registered Horticultural Therapist licensure for plant therapy through The American Horticulture Therapy Association or become a Certified Horticulturist through the American Society for Horticultural Science.
  • Obtain teacher certification for public school positions.

Area

Turfgrass Science and Management

  • Golf course management
  • Sport turf management
  • Sod production

  • Residential/Commercial lawn installation and management
  • Irrigation systems
  • Agrichemicals

  • Sales and service
  • Green industry consulting

Employers

  • Golf courses
  • Lawn care companies
  • Colleges and universities
  • Sport and athletic fields

  • Local/city governments
  • Parks and amusement parks
  • Sod production farms
  • Pest management companies

  • Landscape companies
  • Irrigation firms
  • Self-employment

Strategies

  • Obtain practical experience with golf courses and other turf businesses through internships or summer and part-time jobs.
  • Participate in relevant campus organizations, (e.g. the Turf Club or Horticulture Club).
  • Develop effective communication skills, particularly for leading crews of employees. Pursue a minor in business, agricultural economics or agricultural leadership for management or self-employment.
  • Gain knowledge of federal, state and local laws and regulations governing operations and management of sports fields and facilities.
  • Research professional certifications in the field: Certified Golf Course Superintendent (CGCS) and Certified Sports Field Manager (CSFM).

General Information

  • For entry level positions in most areas of plant sciences, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient.
  • Depending upon specialty area, supplement curriculum with supporting courses: business, journalism, planning, geology, entomology, soils or biology.  Take communications courses to develop oral and written skills.
  • Majoring in two subject areas or pursuing a minor can increase marketability. For example, study in landscape design and business, or public horticulture and journalism, can lead to greater opportunities.
  • Internship experiences with well-known organizations aid students when seeking employment.
  • A graduate degree may be necessary for advancement in some fields.
  • Master’s degrees allow for more opportunities in research and administration.  Some community colleges will hire Master’s level teachers.
  • Doctoral degrees are necessary for advanced research and administrative positions, university teaching and independent research.
  • Join professional associations and community organizations to stay abreast of current issues in the field and to develop networking contacts.
  • Secure strong relationships and personal recommendations from professors for graduate school admission.
  • Consider completing a post-doctoral experience after graduate school.
  • Meet with career center staff that can assist with government job searches.