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Botanist

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Summary of occupation

Botanists study the biology of plants, fungi and other related organisms, such as lichens and algae. By studying different plants, botanists observe and record the impacts of pollution and human activity, the way plants breed and grow, and the structure and genetic make-up of various species. This knowledge can be used to develop and promote environmental protection programs, improve plant growing techniques, and identify and extract plant products used in medicines, food, fabrics and other products. Some botanists may also search for and classify new plant species. It is also common for botanists to present their findings in scientific reports, which may be published in journals and/or presented as lectures.

ANZSCO description: Studies the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and ecology of plants.
Alternative names: Plant Scientist
Specialisations: Agronomist, Ethnobotanist, Mycologist, Paleobotanist, Palynologist, Plant Morphologist, Plant Pathologist, Plant Physiologist, Plant Taxonomist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A botanist needs:

  • to enjoy and have an aptitude for scientific research
  • patience
  • good communication skills
  • a methodical approach to work
  • a logical and enquiring mind
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Working conditions

Botanists may work primarily indoors, usually in clean well-lit laboratories, while others will spend the bulk of their time conducting fieldwork, either outdoors or in greenhouses. Those working outdoors will be exposed to different weather conditions depending on the environment they are visiting, which in Western Australia can vary from lush forests in the South-West to hot, dry deserts in the centre of the state. Some botanists may even focus their studies on marine plants and will spend time collecting samples from underwater. They generally work standard office hours, however, some research may be carried out at night or need regular attention, which could involve working on weekends.

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Salary details

Botanists, classified under life scientists, can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week on average ($78 000-$103 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As a botanist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.​

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Tools and technologies

Botanists use a variety of equipment depending on whether they are working in the field or in a laboratory. When in the field they may use secateurs, trowels or other hand tools to collect plant samples, which are may be transported in airtight sample bags. Cameras may also be used to document plant species when it is not practical or desirable to collect a physical sample, such as for particularly rare plants. Many botanists also use a compass and map or Global Positioning System (GPS) for navigation. In the laboratory they use microscopes and various staining techniques to examine samples. Plant presses are also commonly used to preserve samples, and a wide range of reference material can be used to help identify samples.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a botanist you generally have to complete a science degree with a major in botany, plant science or a closely related field. Completion of a postgraduate qualification may also improve your employment prospects. 

Most of the universities in Western Australia offer science degrees in relevant fields. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.​

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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