There are many careers in the plant science field, including botany, which is the study of plants, and horticulture, which is the practice of growing plants. While botanists and horticulturists share some similarities in their work, there are many differences between these two jobs. If you’re interested in working with plants, you may want to learn more about botanists and horticulturists to help you explore your career options.

In this article, Pritish Kumar Halder define the two professions, list the key differences between a botanist versus a horticulturist and provide some tips to help you choose the right plant science career for you.

What is a botanist?

A botanist is a scientist who studies plants, such as algae, conifers and ferns. They study many areas of plants, including their genetics, physical structures and distribution. Many botanists specialize in an area of botany, such as ecology, which is the study of the relationship between plants and their environment. These professionals conduct research to help develop new medicines, improve food supplies and reduce pollution.

What is a horticulturist?

A horticulturist is a professional who specializes in cultivating and maintaining gardens. Their work focuses on growing plants for food or aesthetic purposes. They apply scientific knowledge to help plants and flowers grow and prosper. They consider a variety of factors to cultivate and nurture plants, such as the quality of soil and average temperatures. Some horticulturists who specialize in landscaping develop and maintain recreational areas, parks or other green spaces.

Botanist vs. horticulturist

While both botanists and horticulturists work with plants, these professions have many differences in several areas, such as job duties and work environments. Here are some differences between a botanist versus a horticulturist to help you choose a career path:

Educational requirements

Most employers require entry-level botanists to have a bachelor’s degree. Many botanists choose to earn their undergraduate degree in botany, plant science, biology or another related field. While there are jobs available for botanists with a bachelor’s degree, other positions may require a master’s degree, such as advanced research or biotechnology jobs. Botanists can earn a graduate degree in specialized areas, such as plant genetics. Some classes you may take while earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree include:

  • Molecular biology

  • Plant genetics

  • Plant structure

  • Laboratory techniques

  • Biochemistry

  • Plant ecology

  • Agronomy

  • Plant protection

  • Entomology

Unlike botanists, many horticulturists can find jobs without having a degree. Instead of completing a formal education, they may gain work experience in related areas, such as landscaping or groundskeeping, before transitioning into horticulture. While this career path is one way to become a horticulturist, some professionals choose to earn a bachelor’s degree to broaden their job prospects. Many horticulturists earn their undergraduate degree in agriculture science or a related area. While completing this program, you take a variety of courses, such as:

  • Pest management

  • Sustainable agriculture

  • Soil ecosystems

  • Agribusiness management

  • Earth science

  • Crop science

  • Field applications

  • Horticultural science

Job duties

Botanists and horticulturists both have a variety of job responsibilities. Botanists typically conduct research to study a particular plant or botanical area. They develop hypotheses, collect information and perform studies to determine the accuracy of their theories. While their duties can vary widely, some common job responsibilities for botanists include:

  • Locating and studying new or endangered plant species

  • Conducting experiments to determine the potential uses of plants, such as in medicine

  • Documenting their observations about plants and preparing reports on their research

  • Analyzing the properties of plants to determine factors that may affect their growth, such as climate

  • Collaborating with other scientists on methods to conserve or restore natural habitats

  • Reviewing other plant scientists’ research and findings to stay updated on trends in the field

While botanists study plants, horticulturists aim to use scientific knowledge to improve the growth of plants and flowers. They educate farmers about best practices for agricultural crops, such as irrigation and fertilization. They may provide recommendations to clients about landscaping or design, such as the types of flowers to plant. Some other responsibilities of horticulturists may include:

  • Designing floral or outdoor arrangements for clients

  • Planting trees, flowers or shrubs and fertilizing plants to nurture their growth

  • Providing general maintenance for landscaping clients, such as lawn care or mowing

  • Advising clients on the specific plants or flowers to meet their needs

  • Identifying strategies to improve the growth and production of plants, such as irrigation and pest management

  • Monitoring crop schedules to determine the optimal time to plant and harvest crops


Both botanists and horticulturists can work for various employers. Botanists often work for government agencies or private companies, such as biological supply firms or pharmaceutical companies. Some botanists work for universities to perform research and teach students. Horticulturists may choose to work for greenhouses or nurseries to help them grow and maintain different varieties of plants. Some work for landscaping companies to design yards, fields or other spaces, such as golf courses. Many horticulturists work for agricultural producers, such as farmers, to help them improve their annual yields.

Work environment

Botanists and horticulturists typically work in different environments. Botanists spend much of their time in the field to study plants and their surroundings. These professionals travel often for their work, such as going to rainforests to discover and analyze new plant species. Outside of fieldwork, botanists perform many of their job responsibilities in laboratories or offices. Horticulturists commonly work in greenhouses, nurses or on farms, where they spend most of their time outdoors to care for plants. Compared with botanists, horticulturists perform more work with their hands, such as planting new flowers or trimming shrubs.