How Do I Apply my Plant Biology Degree?
By Dave Cass
You could probably get some kind of job in industry, possibly with a biotech company that specializes in seeds (such as Pioneer Hi-Bred). Although you might be successful with an undergraduate degree, it would probably be better to get a master’s or Ph.D. to give yourself more control over your employment. Molecular plant biology will be increasingly important in your background; with such training, your salary in one of the biotech companies might be pretty good.
A strategy for a more satisfying career would, in my opinion, involved getting a Ph.D. and seeking an academic position at a research university. This is not for everyone, but for those prepared to invest a few years in postgraduate studies, it could be well worth your while. For me, an academic career was nearly perfect as it provided a stimulating mix of research activities and teaching.
With an undergraduate degree in plant biology, you might be able to land a job at a local botanic garden. Sometimes local botanic gardens have research and/or teaching laboratories. The Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, CA is a good example of this.
A final comment: For the last 20 years of my career, I was involved in experimental plant biology. Although I was successful at this (and, incidentally, the co-inventor of a patented technique useful for corn embryos), it would have been far easier if I had taken more time to learn molecular plant biology while I was still a student. I think molecular biology is the “wave of the future” in this field and one needs to be prepared for it.
Dave Cass, Professor Emeritus, Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, and 3M National Teaching Fellow.
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