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Botanist vs Horticulturist – What’s the difference?

Plants make us feel amazing. In fact, scientists have found a connection between greenery and human happiness on a global scale! If you are passionate about preserving these incredible organisms, then you might be seeking a career that helps you do just that. There are two main roles that could fulfil this wish: a botanist or a horticulturist. But what’s the difference between them? And just how much hands-on gardening time do they actually entail?

Here’s our guide to these tongue-twisting roles, and what they could mean for your dream career in preserving our all-important greenery.

What does a botanist do?

A botanist’s work is in the realm of science. They work to build our collective human knowledge of the benefits of plants in food medicines and to our ecosystem. Often working for governments or large agencies, they strive to ensure the protection and balance of all sorts of green spaces. 

Job responsibilities of a botanist could include:

  • Travel and research new or endangered plant species 
  • Work with communities to conserve or restore habitats 
  • Document and track the agricultural production of crops
  • Study rainfall and soil conditions and their effects on plants
  • Publish research and findings
  • Review the latest research of others

What does a horticulturist do?

A horticulturist, whilst similar to a landscape gardener, has a more in-depth knowledge of the science behind different plants. Experts in the growth of crops, trees, flowers and fauna of all kinds, horticulturists can work in lots of settings, such as education, government, or private gardens. 

Typical duties include:

  • Experimentation and research on growth, reproduction, pests and diseases
  • Advice on landscaping and design, such as specific flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees for a client’s needs
  • Advising on agricultural issues such as irrigation, fertilisation and general plant welfare through knowledge of climate, soil & necessary nutrients 
  • Supervising landscapers and gardeners, planning and organising landscaping or gardening projects that fit within a budget 
  • Creating impressive flower sculptures or large, outdoor arrangements of shrubs and bushes
  • General maintenance for clients such as lawn care, planting & trimming
  • Educating others on the effect of plants on us and the world around us through teaching, presentations and publications
  • Leading environmental cleanup efforts, and providing information for others on environmental sustainability and protection

As you can see, while both roles have similar goals, their application can be a little different. Horticulturists tend to be a little more hands-on than botanists, who may spend more time researching. Their work environments can differ quite a lot too…

Where does a botanist work?

Botanists need to be able to travel. A lot of botany work requires working “in the field”, in remote locations tracking new species or trekking to collect specimens in places where humans and animals can’t easily reach. The rest of their time is usually spent in laboratories conducting studies and reporting findings. Being able to visit rainforests or arctic tundras can be an exciting and rewarding career, full of adventure. However, it requires a lifestyle that relies on the ability to move and travel, often to remote areas. 

Where does a horticulturist work?

Horticulturists spend most of their time in gardens, farmlands, greenhouses, or in labs – depending on their specialised areas. In general, there’s a lot of hands-on work. Whether planting, pruning, or harvesting, it is often a physical job, with the increased workload during some key seasons of planting or harvesting. However, work hours are fairly regular and a self-employed horticulturist can set their own schedule. So if you are looking for a family-friendly, flexible workload – horticulture could be the way for you.

How much does a botanist make?

A botanist makes an average of around AU$60,000 – AU$70,000 a year.

How much does a horticulturist make?

A horticulturist makes an average of around AU$40,000 – AU$60,000 a year.

So while their workplaces might differ, their salaries have only a small difference. But what is the route into these two similar roles?

To become a botanist you will need a bachelor’s degree. This means a minimum of 3 years of study in plant science, plant biology, or general biology. To go above entry-level roles will require a master’s or further study. 

Horticulture has a much wider entryway available. Some choose to complete a bachelor’s degree, while others choose to follow a hands-on approach and diversify into areas such as becoming a ranger, a groundskeeper, working in horticultural therapy or environmental activism. With so many choices and avenues open to you, our online horticulture certificate is a great place to start.

Full of a comprehensive and broad coverage of horticulture, our online course has been specifically designed from the ground up by industry professionals to put you in good stead to develop a strong foundation for this wide industry. You will elevate your gardening expertise, learning all about different kinds of greenery & soil. Meaning you’ll be ready to find an entry-level career, or simply discover where your specific plant passion lies. 

Our course also has a strong business component, enabling you to establish a firm understanding of the business side of horticulture and how to have a successful, thriving career. 

With flexible learning, 24-hour access & affordable payment plans, our online horticulture program is the best way to your future. Filled with a career bursting with the celebration & preservation of our glorious plants. So start growing, and learn with us today!

Botany vs Horticulture infographic