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Biology Road to becoming a Botanist?

  1. Jan 10, 2017 #1
    Hi there, I was hoping I could get some advice to get on a path to become a Botanist, specifically one the deals in the Genetics Engineering of new Plants (not Pharming but something along the lines of creating new breeds of plant for consumption). I feel this is what I want to do with my life, but I am unsure where to start (google searches have not helped).

    Some background info, I work full time as an IT specialist, I am 24, and live in Pittsburgh. As far as experience background I can't really say I have worked in the science field, though I have worked since I was 12 so I have worked many jobs (Security Guard, Brick Layer, Baker, IT Help Desk, Janitor, Repairman, Heavy Vehicle Operator, Line Cook, Web Designer, Delivery Man, I could go on for days). I had went to college once before but was forced to drop out after being hospitalized for 5 months, though I have gotten my student debt down to 5k so far and hopefully pay the rest off soon. As far as the subject matter of learning something new, I have complete confidence I can learn most anything extremely quickly. Botany is something that really interest me, thus I have a really easy time understand and learning things about it. I work about 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. So schooling time would have to work around the other 76 hours I am awake during the week. So the real question here is if anyone knows of any online or local schooling ways I can get on the path to become a Botanist.

    TL;DR - How to get on the path to become a Botanist, while also working full time.
    (School suggestions are greatly welcome)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2017 #2


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    Do you believe realistically you could work more than full-time (more than 40 hours per week) and AT LEAST ATTEND one Biology course per semester, and somewhere along the line, include more than one Botany course - most of these courses having LABORATORY sessions? Would you be able to cut your work job hours to about 16 to 20 hours per week so that you could include other courses necessary for some kind of undergraduate degree (like you would need some other science courses and up to about a semester of Calculus, maybe some Statistics)?
  4. Jan 10, 2017 #3
    I am not entirely sure, thus is why I am asking. Do you know average time required for classes per week (including labs)? If you know of any, would you suggest online course options? While I could not afford to pay bills and work less than what I already do, I only need about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a day. I could use the free time out of work to attend classes and such. So by attending Biology classes and getting credits; is this the way to go about it? -then later on specializing in Botany?

    Also, thank you for the reply.
  5. Jan 10, 2017 #4
    A rule of thumb (green in your case, haha) is that for every credit hour in class you should allocate 2 hours outside of class. So for a 3 credit class 3 + (2*3) = 9 hours a week. A lab usually adds another hour to that. Online for biology? Google turns up some results, but you are in Pittsburgh! Pittsburgh has so many great universities.

    I found this http://www.botany.org/bsa/careers/car-req.html which might be helpful.

    Yes, it would be considered a sub-discipline of biology. So you'd start there. Outside of school you also have these folks nearby that have some certificates you might be interested in. I don't know what that gets you other than some nice exposure to the field directly.

    If you really want to do this you'll have to find a way to get classes in I think. And again, Pittsburgh is such an awesome place with so many societies and businesses and things to do, I almost wonder if you couldn't already look for work that is somehow related to the field.

    -Dave K
  6. Jan 10, 2017 #5
    Thank you very much. These are some great resources to get started with, pretty much what I was looking for; it was more so just looking which direction to go in.
    Also, you are correct Pittsburgh has tons of great Schools, yet you would be amazed how few of them offer specialized classes for Plant Biology (outside of the extremely expensive schools). Online school was also more of a way to gain class credits without further extending my daily commute (I already drive 1 hour both ways to work and back).

    But again, thanks. This is what I was looking for.
  7. Jan 10, 2017 #6
    Botany is a specialization within biology. In most cases, such specializations do not occur until grad school. The most common path would be an undergrad degree in biology (including 2 semesters of general chemistry and 2 semesters of organic chemistry and 2 semesters of calculus and 2 semesters of physics) followed by an MS or PhD in your desired specialty.

    My son is facing a similar issue. He wants to be an ichthyologist. But his plan is to pursue an undergrad science major (likely chemistry) followed by graduate school in his desired specialty.
  8. Jan 10, 2017 #7


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    Another option to consider is first taking one or two night school classes in first year biology to see if you really enjoy that kind of study. If you've been out of school for a while, that might give you a taste of what you're in for without the commitment of a full time course load.
  9. Jan 10, 2017 #8
    I think its a poor idea to try to get your BS while keeping your job. How are you going to form a network with your peers while only showing up part time? How are you going to do undergraduate research? How will you get time off to go to symposiums or conferences? Classes are just one part of a BS experience. If you restrict yourself to going part time then you cannot commit to your goal full time. And that is a problem because all scientific fields are competitive.

    Regardless of how you manage your BS, you will need to quit your job for your PhD. If you are going to spend 6-8 years in grad school making 25k a year anyway, it might be worthwhile to make the same sacrifice for your BS to make sure you are on a solid footing.

    Edit - I do like the idea of going part time at first just to test the waters.

    Also, keep a back-up plan in your pocket. Just getting a PhD will not guarantee you a position as a botanist.
  10. Jan 10, 2017 #9


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    Choppy and Dr Courtney have the right idea. Some lab courses/sections are necessary if you expect to study or learn Biology and Botany in the right way. You are in a tough situation for what you want.

    (ModusPwnd also understands the situation about what is necessary.)
  11. Jan 10, 2017 #10

    jim mcnamara

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    Basic Biology 101 and 102, College Chemistry 101 and 102 , Physics 101 and 102, Plant Taxonomy, Genetics, are all lab courses. In a semester based curriculum you meet from 31 hours lectures and a single 2-4 hour lab per week. You also have to take Calculus I and II, Statistics, and so on.

    The points are:
    1. there is substantial in class/lab time, plus study.
    2. some classes like Calc normally time-consuming homework.

    So figure in class/lab time plus a 40% overhead at home doing things. Often field work is involved, which is going to be in daylight hours. An advanced Taxonomy class on grasses I used to teach, met for two four hour lecture/lab, then once a month we had a Saturday field day of about 8 hours.

    You been given great advice: take Bio 101 and see how you fare. However. Firstly, find a university, check the curriculum, check the class schedule for some required upper level classes.

    Those two things will tell you how to proceed.
  12. Jan 11, 2017 #11
    Thank you everyone for your replies. All of the advice has given me a good idea of what I need to do.
    While I can not quit my job, or go part time (the world is not kind enough to hand out free money for bills); I have decided to start out by taking a Biology course at my local community college. I would take classes during the night hours, and work during the day (I am no stranger to working more than one job).
    Granted course would only earn me an Associates, but I do believe it would be a good start. The course also has an elective for Botany during the final semester! I doubt this would be enough to get a job as a Botanist, though I think it would be a good entry point into to the field, after which I could look where to move from there.

    Would love to hear anyone's input on this idea, thanks again for the replies.
  13. Jan 11, 2017 #12
    You should do a job search for jobs you would like and see what they require. I don't see an associates being of much value at all. But I'm not sure about what jobs you are thinking about.
  14. Jan 11, 2017 #13


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    The way things used to be, an associates degree combined with several months of related on-the-job experience was very good for keeping a related job. That may have now changed because employers seem to want minimum of Bachelors Degrees, and still much job-related experience.

    Magna Curiositate, you did not say what your current job is, but saying so or not is your decision.
    (My mistake; you reminded us in post #14 your job. I forgot and did not check/recheck first.)
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  15. Jan 11, 2017 #14
    I am the IT Specialist at an Architectural Firm - I don't hate my job, yet it is not something I wake up excited to do; it is not a job that satisfies my daily curiosity.

    Also, when I referred to associates being an entry point, I meant it more so as defining my next schooling steps than an entry into the job market. Felt that I needed clarify that.
  16. Jan 11, 2017 #15


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    Attitude like that will carry you a long way, "Mr. Burbank." (Luther, that is.)
  17. Jan 13, 2017 #16
    Hey that's cool I'm trying to work in plant science myself but more along the lines of bioenergy and natural products research. I think plants are the coolest life-forms.

    I think you'll need a bachelor's in biology with a heavy emphasis in genetics. And then in graduate school you can focus on something much more specific. Sorry but I can't give better advice than that since I'm just a lowly bachelor's degree.
  18. Jan 14, 2017 #17
    Have you considered bioinformatics? In that case, genetics, some biochemistry and the relevant specialized bioinformatics tools/algorithms is all you need to learn.
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