Horticulturists are scientists who study plant cultivation, or the growth and development of plants. They may work with trees, fruits, shrubs, flowers, vegetables or other kinds of plant life. Common focus areas include:
Horticulturists study key issues related to plant cultivation, including diseases, crop yield and insect resistance. Many work for public or private laboratories as well as federal agencies. Some teach students, conduct research and publish findings as college or university professors.
Horticulturists should have a strong interest in plants and natural science. Exceptional analytical and problem-solving skills are important in this field. In addition, horticulturists should have expert knowledge of related research methods, technologies and laboratory tools.
Most laboratory positions for horticulturists require advanced degrees in horticultural science, agricultural science or a related discipline. Some professionals earn associate or bachelor’s degrees in horticultural science from an accredited online or on-site college or university. A master’s degree or doctorate degree in horticultural science may be desirable for candidates seeking positions at high profile federal agencies or competitive post-secondary institutions.
In some U.S. states, soil scientists must be licensed prior to working professionally. Depending on the specific state, licensing requirements may include passing an exam, working a minimum number of hours under a licensed scientist, and earning a bachelor’s degree in soil science.
The annual salary for a horticulturist may depend on his or her specific education, work environment and professional experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for soil and plant scientists in May 2010 was $57,340. For this same period, the top 10 percent of horticulturists received $101,740 annually while the lowest 10 percent earned $34,420 per year.