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The Breakdown

Let’s state the obvious – plants are necessary to sustain life.  We rely on them as a vital source of vitamins and nutrients.  We use them for medicinal purposes.  Most importantly, they can brighten up even the most sterile home.  If you find yourself researching the difference between a branch root and a primary root and if you’re captivated by all things funghi, then perhaps you should consider studying botany.

If you choose to major in botany, you’ll likely find yourself within the larger framework of the biology department.  More specifically, you will study plant diversity, development, function, ecology and use.  You’ll learn how plants respond to their environment, how to examine changes in ecosystems and how to safely exploit them for food, fuel and shelter.  Aside from biology/botany and ecology courses, you’ll likely also be expected to take a class in chemistry, physics and Calculus.  And, of course, you will have a combination of classroom, laboratory and research work.           

As a discipline, botany requires strong analytical and observational skills.  You will also come to find that a facility for math is useful.  Additionally, it’s important to possess a curiosity about how things are connected and/or interrelated.  It’s also imperative to be someone who is capable of working independently.  And, of course, the most successful botany students are the ones who know how to identify (and thus easily avoid) poison ivy.


Nuts and Bolts

As a botany major, you’ll quickly become an expert in plant life with a course-load that includes classes such: Elementary Organic and Biological Chemistry, Practical Plant Taxonomy, Plant Diversity, Plants in Human Affairs, Plant Geography, Essential Cell Biology, Introduction to Ecology, Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants, Paleobotany, Sexual Plant Reproduction and Environmental Biology.

Decisions, Decisions

Botany majors are generally quite curious about flora and preserving the natural world.  Therefore, they are also likely to enjoy studying biology, ecology, wildlife management, conservation biology, environmental science, landscape architecture, forestry, environmental engineering, coastal management and oceanography.

What's Next

From developing and analyzing genetically modified crops to preserving rain forests, the world definitely needs smart, successful botanists.  And upon graduation there are certainly many avenues you could pursue.  Many majors move on to work in sustainable agriculture, working to enhance productivity through safe, viable means.  A number of graduates also enter the pharmaceutical industry, developing and testing new drugs based upon plant properties.  Another popular route is working for ecological consulting companies and environmental agencies.  Botany majors are also found working with the National Parks Department and various botanical gardens and arboretums.  No matter where you ultimately land, majoring in botany is sure to lead you to a satisfying professional life. 



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Don Munce