Plant Geneticist

Orchestrating plant genes, improving plants. Plant Geneticist

Plant geneticists fall into many categories. Some try to understand how genes work (functional genomics) or where genes are (structural genomics), or they follow the flow of genes between and within populations to understand forces of evolution (population genetics). Some plant geneticists are plant breeders (quantitative genetics) who produce superior plants through selective breeding. Molecular plant geneticists track down genes to discover their functions and identify genes useful for creating improved plants. Their goal is to improve the production and quality of food and fiber. The genes they identify can be used in different ways, sometimes to create traits completely new to the species and other times to enhance traits that plants already have.

Plant geneticists work with all plant species important for commercial agricultural production. Plants they work with include, for example, maize, wheat, soybeans, tomatoes, grapes, and trees. Private corporations hire plant geneticists to develop such things as new seeds and new varieties of fruit trees, vegetables, grains, and trees. State universities, and state and federal agencies hire plant geneticists in research, teaching, extension, and regulatory positions.

To be a plant geneticist, earn a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, agronomy, plant science, horticulture, forestry, or biology. Genetics draws heavily from mathematics, biology, statistics, biochemistry, microbiology, and chemistry, so those courses are important. Graduate degrees can lead you to more sophisticated research and development positions.

In high school, take as many courses in math, science, and English as possible. Also, take courses in computer science and communications.


Download an 8.5-inch x 11-inch, printable poster for Plant Geneticist. (downloadable pdf format)
The second page of the download includes the career description above.

Home Search About Us Contact Us USDA USDA