Biology can take you in many different directions, from the very academic to the very practical – and many jobs that combine the two. You might be in a high-tech lab in the morning, and then spend the afternoon outside.
But for a career in biology and related areas, you’ll probably need to do some further study and training.
The type of study you need to do depends entirely on what career you’re aiming for. Some careers, like being a research scientist, need a University degree in biology or plant sciences, while other careers need more practical training.
Studying at University
If you’ve enjoyed studying plant biology so far, you might enjoy studying plant sciences at University. It’s a great way to develop your knowledge and skills, and can make a foundation for a good career in the future.
You’ll find studying at University very different to school and college: you’ll be expected to work much more independently and to plan out your own time. You’ll attend lectures and lab sessions with large numbers of students, as well as studying in small groups. And you’ll read research articles by scientists working in the field, some of whom may be your lecturers. By the third year of your degree, you’ll be expected to be doing real, independent research on a subject that interests you.
If you’d like to travel, some degrees include the option to spend a term or a year abroad as part of your studies. Studying plant sciences at the University of Nottingham, for example, can include a term studying in Malaysia.
Some degrees also offer the opportunity to spend some time working in industry. This is a good way to develop new skills, and to get work experience to prepare you for finding a job after your degree. Some University degrees focus on plant sciences for the whole time, while other degrees start with a broad overview of biology, and then concentrate on plant sciences later.
Some of the Universities that teach plant science include Nottingham, Cambridge, Leeds and York. You can search the UCAS website to find what courses are available at any time. For more information about what any degree course includes, you’ll need to look at the University prospectus. It’s a good idea to make a list of what particularly appeals to you about each of the courses – perhaps they offer a year in industry, or they include plenty of fieldwork in the course – and then check out other courses to see if they offer the same. Don’t forget that you can always contact the University to ask about anything that they don’t mention in the prospectus.
To find out more about studying science at University, have a look at the FutureMorph website.
Land-based and environmental careers
Plant biology doesn’t have to be anything to do with the lab. There are hundreds of career choices in land-based and environmental subjects, including agriculture, horticulture, conservation, timber management, and much more. To find out more about the skills and training you need to move into one of these careers, take a look at the LANTRA website.
If you’re interested specifically in careers in horticulture, with careers ranging from mass-market food production to garden design, take a look at the case studies and careers advice on the Grow website. There are even job adverts so you can get an idea of current demand and wages.