Salaries and Availability of Jobs

Today the range of job opportunities and potential earnings for plant biologists is wider than ever before. The American Institute for Biological Science 2003 salary survey “Compensation of Life Scientists in the United States of America”; indicates the 2003 median income (salary plus cash compensation, such as bonus, profit sharing, or both) for people with less than one year of experience was estimated at $33,000 and for those with 30 years or more $108,000. The median for all positions without supervisory responsibilities was $48,000 and for those supervising 10 or more professional and sub professional employees, the median income was $126,500.

A few of the position/salary examples are: Intermediate research technicians $33,000, Postdoctoral researchers (12 month appointment) $36,366, Secondary school teachers $44,200, Assistant professors (9 to 10 month appointment) $49,713, Intermediate researchers $50,250, Laboratory managers $53,000, Professors (9 to 10 month appointment) $85,000, Research unit supervisors $85,000, Laboratory directors $90,000, Government section heads $98,000, Research section heads $108,387, Professors (12 month appointment) $118,000, “Distinguished” researchers$126,000, College department heads $129,000, Research managers $139,000, Research vice presidents/directors $142,000.

The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from doing interesting and worthwhile work is one of the rewards of a career in plant science. In addition, many positions in botany provide other benefits such as individual freedom, varied work, pleasant surroundings, stimulating associates, and the opportunity to travel. Besides depending on experience and education, the geographical location of the employer also makes a difference. In general, salaries vary with the cost of living in a particular region.

Job availability is generally good. Employment opportunities vary over time depending partly on the status of state and national economies. Some fields are more competitive than others. Challenging positions are usually available for well-trained plant scientists.

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A Botanist in Molecular Biology

Why study "jumping genes" of corn?

Flowers with colored stripes, indicative of variegation in gene expression, have always fascinated me. As a child I was an avid gardener, requesting bushes and bulbs for birthday gifts; my favorites were always striped. Now that I'm a plant molecular biologist, I know that transposable elements Oumping genes) are the main cause of this variegation.

Developmental control is reflected in [1] timing: jumping genes are inactive in dividing cells but highly active later in development, and [2] differentiated state: in body cells, these genes jump out but in meiotic cells they jump in. We are analyzing this in maize using a combination of biochemistry and molecular biology.

At the level of plant:enviromnent interaction, we see activation of jumping genes by stresses such as ultraviolet radiation. Here the environment can act as an on-off switch.

Virginia Walbot, Professor, Stanford University

[Note: "jumping genes, " which are now widely known in animals as well as plants, were first discovered in 1950 by Barbara McClintock who won a Nobel prize in 1983 for her pioneering work in corn genetics.]




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