Sow the seeds of a career with botany
Plants play a big role in sustaining life on earth, and if you love nature, botany is a fascinating subject. BSc, MSc and PhD degrees have ample scope for job opportunities in diverse sectors of every sphere of human life. These include farm/agriculture, industry, medicine, environment and energy. Various botanical gardens in India and abroad hire botanists. They are also in demand in nurseries, seed companies, for medicinal plant research and biotechnology firms.
Job options depend on levels of education. BSc (hons) botany has many openings starting from Central and state civil services, through Union Public Service Commission.
Yes, one can even get a job as a probationary officer in centralised and private banks, since the minimum qualification for such services is only graduate. For a teaching job in schools, you have to complete BEd for getting a position of TGT (Class 6 to Class 10).
You could also work as medical representative; scientific assistant in the herbal based medicinal and food industry, like Dabur, Patanjali etc. Horticulturists are needed in Central and state municipal corporations, public works departments and other governmental and private institutions. Biology laboratories of academic institutions and scientific establishments hire technical assistants.
Botany graduates can go for higher studies like MBA to secure managerial positions in herbal based pharmaceutical industries or in the food and fermentation business. You can also study for a master’s degree in botany/plant sciences or other allied subjects such as economic botany, genetics and plantbreeding, plant molecular biology, biotechnology, horticulture, plant physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, mycology and plant pathology, forestry and environmental science/biology. Taxonomists and environmental consultants are hired in public and private industrial sectors. Agronomists, plant breeders and plant pathologists can explore the agriculture sector. Microbiologists, biotechnologists, food technologists are hired by pharmaceutical and biotech companies as well as the food industry. Teaching jobs at the senior school level after an MSc in botany require an additional degree in education (BEd/MEd).
Also, an MSc botany candidate has two options – the first one is for a PhD in botany/plant sciences and other allied subjects or second to go for jobs like agricultural research scientist through Agricultural Research Service or research assistant in agricultural institution/universities; Conservator of Forests through Indian Forest Service in the ministry of environment and forests or as an assistant professor in academic institution. For this one, however, you have to qualify NET/JRF of UGC/CSIR.
After a PhD in botany you can opt for teaching as a career in academic institutions as assistant professor in botany or in allied subjects of your research specialisation. Educational institutions also provide jobs to botanists as researchers and administrators. The state departments, Botanical Survey of India, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, CSIR laboratories, Environmental Protection Agency, oil industry, drug companies, pulp and paper and food and fermentation industries provide skill based jobs to botanists.
PhD candidates are the preferred choice of diverse sectors/ establishments/ institutions/industries as plant taxonomists, ethnobotanists, plant pathologists, plant scientists, palaeobotanists and palynologists, plant ecologists and weed scientists etc.
Not all botanists get the jobs of their choice, as it depends on how skilled they are at what they do. Organisations/industry usually hire those who have requisite formal academic qualifications in botany or allied subjects with experience in their field of specialisation they require. For example, a biotech company would prefer to hire a botanist who has attained knowledge, expertise and experience in biochemistry, molecular biology and plant biotechnology. Similarly, a PhD in botany with specialisation in medicinal plant research, having experience in formulation of herbal medicine, becomes the first choice of the employer in the pharmaceutical industry.
(The author is professor and head, department of botany, University of Delhi.)