Botany degree: requirements, modules, careers and FAQs
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 11 July 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
The field of botany is one of the natural sciences and is primarily concerned with studying plants and their biology. Botanists can work in various areas, including agriculture, research and development, food security and the development of biofuels. If you're interested in studying botany at university, it's useful to know what to expect and what the requirements are. In this article, we explain what botany is, the entry requirements for a botany degree, some common modules that you can expect, relevant careers and answer some frequently asked questions.
What is botany?
Botany is a natural science that's mostly concerned with studying and understanding plant life. Other names for this field include plant science, phytology or plant biology. Since it's concerned with a living organism, botany is a branch of biology. Some botanists or specialists within the field might also study things like fungi and algae. A botanist's study of plants can include their reproduction, diseases, metabolism, biochemistry, evolution, development, growth and taxonomy. This field can also include finding ways of extracting valuable resources from plants, including raw materials, fuels and food.
Entry requirements for a botany degree
A botany degree's requirements typically include some A-levels or equivalent school-level qualifications. Typically, you'd require two or three A-levels with good grades. Often, universities are going to require that biology is one of these. Regarding the remaining A-levels, there's sometimes a requirement to do them in another science subject, such as chemistry or physics. Mathematics and geography are also good choices.
If you're doing the International Baccalaureate (IB) at school, the requirements are often a score of 32 or higher. Just like A-levels, you'd require a Higher Level in biology in most cases. These entry requirements change from one university to another, so it's a good idea to check any institutions you're considering in advance. Remember that many universities may call it 'plant science' rather than botany.
Common botany degree modules
If you're going to study botany at university, there are certain modules that you can expect to encounter. These cover some of the core subjects in the field of plant science. Some common botany degree modules include the following:
Introduction to plant science
This is a common module in the first year of the degree, as it introduces you to the field of study and some of the major questions that this science wants to answer. You might learn about the fundamentals of plant evolution, mutations, crop yields, plant nutrition and how pathogens can affect plant growth and reproduction. This might also include laboratory-based lessons where you can learn practical skills, in addition to standard lectures.
Many degrees in botany might include a module on environmental science. This could be introductory or more advanced. This subject is important because plant life is closely connected to the natural environment. Environmental science modules might also include societal and decision-making topics. The main focus would normally be on the degradation of natural environments and how this can affect plant life.
This can also extend to the ethics of scientific research and how to communicate scientific findings with the public. This can include studying some of the many measures that are meant to protect the environment, including legislation, international treaties, economic policies and regulations. In some cases, the implications of public opinion might be an important part of this module, including issues like science scepticism and denial.
Physiology is the study of something's functions and parts, specifically in the context of a living organism. This module or a similar one is an important part of many degrees in botany and can often be an applied module. Plant physiology modules often include the study of a wide variety of plant species, both those native to the UK and from across the world. You'd typically learn about how plants grow, derive energy from natural sources and how they interact with their environments. This can include studying agronomy, which is the study of producing resources from plants, such as food.
Pharming and biotechnology
Pharming is the production and collection of pharmaceutical products from genetically-altered plant or animal life. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are an important part of modern agriculture. This can include things like 'synthetic biology', whereby scientists can use plants to produce other products in 'green factories'. A module like this can have a few historical elements, as you'd learn about how these industries have evolved over the years. You might also learn about some of the ethical issues that this can generate. You may also go on trips to production facilities to learn more about them.
Plant diseases and pests
Like almost any form of life, plants have certain pests and diseases which can pose a threat to them. This can lead to losses in production or crop harvests, so it's important for botanists to understand these threats and how they can deal with them. This can include both microbes and insects and how they can affect plant health and reproduction. A module like this also typically includes learning about some of the common counter-measures that can help you control or manage diseases and pests, including breeding resistance in plants, chemical interventions and other such solutions.
Plants and soil
The soil in which plants grow is an important factor for their development and health. Consequently, many degrees in botany have at least one module which focuses on plants and their soil environment. This covers things like the acquisition of water and other nutrients through the soil, both in terms of natural systems and agricultural ones. An important aspect of this is plant root systems and how they've evolved to thrive in particular environments. You might also study how to improve productivity by altering the soil environment, which could include practical sessions on a computer or otherwise.
Degrees in botany jobs
If you've got a bachelor's degree in botany or plant science, there are multiple career options that you can pursue after graduating. Some of these job possibilities include the following:
National average salary: £29,893 per year
Primary duties: Ecologists study the various relationships between plants, animals and their natural environments. This can include a lot of fieldwork, preparing reports, giving talks, lectures and surveying biodiversity and other phenomena. Some ecologists work to preserve and manage wildlife conservation areas, woodlands and other environments. You can also become an ecologist with a degree in ecology, conservation biology, environmental science or zoology.
Related: How to become an ecologist
National average salary: £28,001 per year
Primary duties: A horticultural manager is in charge of growing plants for commercial uses. This could be for parks, other public spaces or gardens. This role includes planning, crop scheduling, harvesting and managing various issues like weeds, pests and diseases.
National average salary: £35,004 per year
Primary duties: An agronomist is an individual who can advise farmers and other agricultural professionals on matters related to crop production and soil management. This can involve studying the soil and water on which plants rely, developing chemical treatments to remove weeds and pests, collecting crop yield data and performing field trials to test new solutions. This means that agronomists can work in a range of environments, including offices, research facilities and on farms. Other degrees that can allow you to become an agronomist include biology, agriculture, ecology and environmental science.
National average salary: £35,007 per year
Primary duties: Research scientists carry out investigations and experiments to answer important questions, both in academic settings and in industry. As a specialist in plant science or botany, the research would primarily involve investigating plants, soil and associated phenomena like diseases. Research scientists often develop research proposals, apply for research funding, do fieldwork, analyse data, test new products, develop new processes and present their findings. They might work in laboratories, universities and outdoors.
Frequently asked questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about degrees in botany, together with their respective answers:
How long do degrees in botany last?
This depends on whether you're studying full-time or part-time. A full-time bachelor of science in botany typically takes three years to complete. A master of science in botany typically takes one year to do full-time and two years part-time.
Are there areas of specialisation in botany?
Yes. Depending on your interests, you could choose to specialise in a particular area, especially if you decide to pursue postgraduate education. Some specialisations include agronomy, horticulture, economic botany, molecular biology, cytology, morphology, plant pathology, natural research management, lichenology, mycology, phycology and bryology.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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