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What can you do with a postgraduate degree in plant science?

SOURCE: ALAIN JOCARD / POOL / AFP
Plant science can help us address global issues like food security and climate change.


By U2B Staff 

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Plants are our source of food. They release oxygen so we can breathe. They can be turned into fabrics and furniture. They’re an indispensable part of our lives, and if you’d like to develop an expertise in the field, a plant science or a related degree could take you many places.

The discipline doesn’t get the attention to that of other programmes, but they are critical to the survival of many different aspects of life on Earth. A deeper understanding of plants can help us address global issues like food security, climate change to conserving species and better protect our ecosystems.

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It can be useful to take up plant science at the postgraduate level.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics notes that positions for soil and plant scientists are set to increase at a rate of eight to 10%, adding 6,700 jobs by 2022. With sustainability and conservation growing in awareness, the field could offer plenty of opportunities for nature enthusiasts.

Depending on your area of interest — be it identifying and classifying plants in detail to adapting plants for specific needs or opportunities — there are plenty of postgraduate degrees in the field to cater to varied interests. 

Depending on the speciality, graduates may find employment in fields such as agriculture, horticulture and conservation, and work in government agencies, universities or NGOs, to name a few.

Botanists, for instance, study various aspects of plants, from their physiological processes such as photosynthesis at the molecular level to their current relationships with their environments, notes EnvironmentalScience.org. 

What plant science or related programmes are there?

Many. 

If you’re interested in botany or the scientific study of plants — be it fungi to sequoia trees — an MSc in botany could be ideal. This branch within biology could include understanding plant breeding, its genetics and biochemistry, and understanding its interactions with the environment.

Lund University in Sweden offers a master’s in plant science programme which focuses on plant biology, evolution and biodiversity. Students can expect to learn how plants function at different levels of an organisation, from the molecular to the eco-physiological level. 

Students can also expect to study how plants interact with other organisms and their ability to adapt to environmental change. 

The University of Leeds, for instance, offers an MSc in plant science and biotechnology, which aims to develop students’ expertise in molecular plant science and its application.

The programme will provide students with an overview of a range of modern techniques and methodologies that underpin contemporary biomolecular plant sciences. Expect to gain specialist training from leading experts in the modern molecular aspects of plant science and its application to plant biotechnology.

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University of Edinburgh MSc Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants programme — taught in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh — equips students with a wide knowledge of the diversity of plants, fungi and lichens, and their investigation, combined with instruction in the methods of pure and applied taxonomy.

Students benefit from the broad range of ages and cultural diversity, becoming worldwide ambassadors for botany and plant conservation.

The university notes that the majority of students find medium or long term employment in taxonomy, while others continue to PhD studies. Those with taxonomic expertise could work in medical and pharmaceutical research and applications, assessment of plant resources and genetic diversity, and agricultural and ecosystem research, among others.

Ultimately, there are plenty of areas to branch into by specialising in plant science, and opportunities are abound for those with expertise in the field.