What can I do with a major in Botany?

What Is Botany?

Botany is the scientific study of plants—how plants function, what they look like, how they are related to each other, where they grow, how people make use of plants, and how plants evolved. Botany often includes the study of algae, may deal with fungi and bacteria, and usually explores the lives of plants, from tiny floating duckweeds to gigantic redwood trees. Plants are essential to the lives of humans, providing all our food—either directly or indirectly—as well as the oxygen we breathe. In addition, the plant kingdom is nature’s medicine cabinet because plants are the source of many of the most important remedies used today. Some plants produce beautiful flowers for which people pay hundreds of dollars, plants and plant materials are worn by people, and some plants produce toxins that kill animals, including humans. Plants are the foundation of all terrestrial communities, and they dramatically affect the world’s climate, the global cycles of nutrients and water, as well as the lives of animals every day.

Why Study Botany?

Because plants are so diverse, botanists--who are scientists that study plants--share a common interest in and curiosity about the hundreds of thousands of species of plants on earth. While some botanists earn a Ph.D. and may conduct research and teach at a college or university, many more botanists earn a bachelor’s degree and find careers in a wide variety of places and occupations. If you want to work in a tropical forest or on a farm, studying Botany can help prepare you. If you want to search for new medicines or advance the frontiers in the study of cellular and molecular plant processes, working with a botanist can lead you in the right direction. If you want to understand ecological and global processes, botanical knowledge is critical. If you want to become a doctor or a dentist or work in the health professions, a Botany degree can be used as a means to your goal. Or, if you just want to learn how to grow bigger vegetables, more colorful flowers, or healthier lawns, Botany will be extremely beneficial to you.


What Can I Study?

Plant EcologyPlant Anatomy
Economic BotanyPlant Molecular Biology
Ecosystem Ecology Plant Physiology
PaleobotanyPlant Systematics
Plant-Animal InteractionsField Biology
Cell BiologyPlant Reproductive Biology
GeneticsBiology Education
Global Change BiologyPlant Care and Cultivation
Plant UltrastructurePlant Development Biology
Environmental BiologySexual Plant Reproduction

Where Can I Work?

The need for botanists and those trained in botany will continue to grow in the future. The headline of a recent news article from the journal Nature was, "U.S. universities find that demand for botanists exceeds supply." Businesses, industry, and research centers are also looking for botanists. For instance, the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis recently opened and now employs many botanists to increase understanding of basic plant biology, to apply new knowledge for the benefit of human nutrition and health, and to improve the sustainability of agriculture worldwide. In Oklahoma, the S. R. Noble Foundation employs botanists who investigate how to enhance plant productivity through fundamental research and applied biotechnology. As the population of people on earth continues to explode, the need to produce more productive crops and more nutritious foods will depend on the talents of botanists. Because all people use resources and produce wastes, there will also be increasing pressures on the environment with a need for botanists to help solve problems with air, water, and soil pollution and to preserve the ecosystems around the globe. The world is constantly changing, but the need for future botanists remains strong.


  • Colleges, Universities, and Plant Research Centers
  • Museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution
  • Botanical gardens and arboretums, such as the National Arboretum
  • USDA branches and US Forest Service
  • Federal Agencies
  • Ecological consulting companies
  • Petrochemical, chemical, and lumber and paper industries
  • Pharmaceutical, food, seed and nursery, fruit growers, biological supply houses, and biotechnology firms
  • Environmental and biotechnical regulatory agencies
  • State Park naturalist, College Campus grounds administrator, Environmental impact specialist, Greenhouse technician
  • US Forest Service employee
  • Landscape management and design
  • Consultant, Botanist, Horticulturist, Ecologist, Plant Specialist
  • National Park Service Employee
  • Marine/freshwater biologist
  • National forestry or conservation expert
  • Science Columnist
  • Biological photographer
  • High School Biology Instructor
  • Agricultural Research Service

Botany Career Websites for Jobs:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • http://www.ars.usda.gov/careers/scientificcareers/
  • BSA’s Careers in Botany
  • http://www.botany.org/bsa/careers/
  • Careers in Horticulture
  • http://www.ashs.org/hortcareer.html
  • American Society of Plant Physiologists
  • http://www.aspb.org/
  • American Society of Plant Taxonomists
  • http://www.sysbot.org/
  • American Institute of Biological Sci.
  • http://www.aibs.org/index.html
  • America’s Job Bank
  • http://www.oesc.state.ok.us/jobnet/
  • Oklahoma Office of Personnel Mgmt.
  • http://www.state.ok.us/~opm/
  • US Office of Personnel Management
  • http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/
  • Cool Works-Great Jobs in Great Places
  • http://www.coolworks.com/showme/
  • College Board.Com
  • http://www.collegeboard.com/apps/careers/majors/ 0,1465,15-027,00.html

    Internships and Information

  • Carl Albert Public Internship Program
  • http://www.opm.state.ok.us/html/policy_capip
  • Tulsa Zoo
  • http://www.tulsazoo.com/
  • Oklahoma City Zoo
  • http://www.okczoo.com/
  • The Student Conservation Assoc. Inc.
  • http://www.sca-inc.org/
  • National Science Foundation
  • http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/reu/reulist
  • Office of Science
  • http://www.scied.science.doe.gov/
  • Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  • http://www.mmnh.si.edu/rtp/
  • Environmental Careers Organization
  • http://www.eco.org/ (Lists internships)

    For more information, visit the Departmental website, contact the Department by e-mail at e-response form or the chairman, Gordon Uno at or sent postal mail to: Gordon Uno, Chairman, Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019