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Title: Characterizing the landscape of plant science careers in the United States I: Government and private sector perspectives
Societal Impact Statement

Humans are dependent upon plants for oxygen, food, textiles, and medicines. Climate change and deforestation represent serious threats to our planet, causing significant disruptions to our ability to access and utilize these plant resources; this makes a botanically literate workforce and plant science careers more important than ever. Unfortunately, the current state of botanical career opportunities and training programs in the United States remains unclear. This study focuses on the current employment trends of government and private sector botanists and what skills future plant scientists will need to be successful in these careers.


Plant science plays a crucial role in our society and in ongoing efforts to address many global challenges, including food insecurity and climate change. Yet, despite a predicted increase in plant science career opportunities in the United States, the botanical career landscape outside of academia is not well understood.

To further our understanding of the training required for non‐academic botanical careers, the botanical sub‐disciplines used on the job, and career challenges faced by plant scientists, we surveyed 61 scientists working in government and 59 scientists working in the private sector in the United States.

In both career sectors, > 80% of survey participants reported recent hires at the bachelor's degree level. New personnel with master's degrees were more commonly reported in the government sector (95%) than in the private sector (69%). Most plant scientists working in government reported a focus on plant ecology and resource management. By contrast, most industry/non‐profit work involved horticulture and biotechnology, with some specific skills spanning both sectors. Notably, one prediction made nearly a decade ago appears to be manifesting: plant scientists seem to be retiring more quickly than they are being replaced. Survey respondents reported that attempts to hire full‐time staff are met with obstacles, including insufficient funding. Plant science professionals in both career sectors emphasized their routine use of botanical skills developed as students, highlighting the need for effective training at the undergraduate level.

We discuss the implications of these findings and present several recommendations for preparing future generations of plant scientists and increasing the scientific community's botanical capacity.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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