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- Job Description
- Salary & Benefits
- Working Hours & Other Details
- Entry Route & Requirements
- Training & Progress
Plant breeders and geneticists experiment with plant species using advanced genetics expertise, tools and techniques. They do so with the objectives of increasing crop yields, developing new horticultural strains for commercial enterprises, improving species’ resistance to pests and disease and their chances of survival in extreme conditions and habitats.
This isn’t necessarily done out of environmentalist motives: geneticists’ interventions will make crops taste nicer and last longer!
Geneticists have to consider their commercial utility whilst building specialty and pursuing academic research and experimentation in new directions of immense potential benefits. Plant breeders and geneticists are employed in agriculture, horticulture, pharmaceutical, biosciences, commercial and public sector companies engaged in food production, government and regulatory bodies, research institutes and academic institutions.
The industry is represented by the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), membership of which is restricted to corporate entities and institutions.
Breeding and genetics are expensive and capital-intensive operations, requiring massive financial investments over a long period of time, with returns realised over decades. Hence, most jobs in this field are funded by private and government sectors or through academic and research grants.
Salary & Benefits
The average salary for personnel with only a few years of experience is £24,000. With around five years experience, it’s £31,000, and upwards of £40,000 for anything beyond that. Benefits available include pensions, health insurance and a company car (for private sector employees).
Working Hours & Other Details
Plant breeding and the development of new strains or genetically modified crops is a long process with no immediate results. Working hours are long and irregular during peak planting seasons for a variety of plants and crops. Frequent travel within the UK for conferences and workshops with other professionals is common.
Entry Route & Requirements
Academic requirements for plant geneticists or breeder roles are an upper second-class or higher honours degree in agriculture, biology, biotechnology, botany & plant science or other related disciplines.
A postgraduate or doctoral degree, not to mention work experience, provides an edge in the recruitment process. A full and valid driving licence is necessary for employees engaged in field and lab work.
Training & Progress
Development exercises are mainly facilitated by on-the-job monitoring and guidance provided by line managers and experienced colleagues in the department and.
Employees in commercial R&D facilities and state-funded research organisations receive training via structured programmes, including rotations across various functions, technical, scientific and soft-skills courses and a longer placement in the chosen area of specialisation.
Career development is driven by performance, qualifications and professional experience. Completing an advanced degree programme from accredited institutions, innovative R&D work output published in trade and academic journals and dissertations are fast track routes to promotions and jobs with increased managerial responsibilities.
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