Blog Img

Horticultural genetics and breeding: What you need to do to get into the science side of agriculture

Back to Blogs

If you’ve always been interested in the idea of farming jobs, but your skills lie in more scientific than technical or marketing-focused areas, you might be surprised to find there’s plenty of careers that are ideally suited to you. From agricultural animal sciences to veterinary practices, there are plenty of animal-focused scientific career paths to pick from. But when it comes to horticulture, there’s an entire world of science to explore – one that will directly impact the future of the farming industry in new and exciting ways.

If horticultural genetics or breeding sounds like a scientific discipline that would suit you, you’re not alone. This field, and similar lab-based and tech-focused fields, are increasingly important to farming. Just as much as the technicians, managers and consultants that work on the ground itself. So, if a horticulture job sounds like the path for you, we’ve got all the information to get you started. Read on to find out more:

What is a horticulture geneticist or breeder?

Horticulture is a field all of its own, and especially so when it comes to the science behind plants. As a geneticist, your role will be focused on developing and understanding specific traits and genes within plants that make them more useful for agriculture. This could be improving their resistance to particular diseases in crops, for example, or enhancing yield on fruit trees to meet increasing demand. As such, genetics play a more important role than you might think, especially when it comes to the breeding side of this career.

Alongside identifying and singling out specific genes and traits, this kind of role will involve cross-breeding existing plants and crops in technical ways. These cross-breeds are designed explicitly within a lab to carry on positive genes, and often result in new or more refined strains of a specific plant or sub-species of the plant. With horticulture genetics, you’re not just working with what already exists – you’re working towards perfecting and evolving existing plants to be healthier, better and more advanced in every way.

As a career in the sciences, geneticists that make a name for themselves within their field can achieve relatively high salaries, of between £27,000-£40,000. For those starting out, a typical salary is anywhere between £16,000-£22,000. However, this all depends on a range of factors such as specialisations, the company you choose to work for and the value of your area of expertise.

What do horticulture breeders and geneticists do?

Beyond the technical information about what this kind of role covers, geneticists carry out of a wide variety of lab-focused and research-based projects as part of their ongoing work. This includes anything from designing and implementing new projects to completing research on existing genetic trials and processes. Conducting experiments, undergoing identification of traits and assessing breeding conditions are just a few of the many different areas in which geneticists work.

Beyond scientific endeavours, horticultural breeders and geneticists are also responsible for working directly with farmers and companies, working alongside field staff and providing detailed reports on their findings. This may include publication in scientific papers, networking with those in the profession and working as a project manager to ensure scientific experiments and ongoing research runs smoothly.

While mainly lab-based, this career may have a certain degree of fieldwork outside specific settings – particularly when it comes to releasing or growing specific agricultural plants for the first time outside of a sterile or particular environment. Commercial scientists in this career branch may also be required to keep up with the latest scientific insight and inventions, as well as monitoring the activity and work of competitors to achieve the best results and profits for their current organisation.

What qualifications do I need to work in horticulture breeding and genetics?

As a career in the sciences, it’s recommended that you have an honours degree to get a position within this specific field. While direct qualifications in agriculture, biotechnology, botany or genetics are valuable, a more generalised degree in the sciences is also acceptable – such as biology. For those that do not currently hold a degree, it’s possible to get technical positions within this career path. Still, you won’t be able to progress without a BSc in the vast majority of circumstances. To make yourself even more valuable, a postgraduate degree or relevant PhD is also a great addition to your qualifications.

In terms of a skillset for this role, a need for attention to detail and problem-solving is a must. You should also be able to communicate well with others both when spoken to and in writing. A passion and enthusiasm for horticulture and plant science will also ensure you enjoy your work, as well as being good at it. Much of the genetics and breeding involved in horticulture genetics is long-term, and as such, having the stamina and will to undergo long-term projects and experiments is also a requirement.

If you’ve got the relevant qualifications, a genuine interest in the subject matter and you’ve read up on the latest scientific information for a particular area of genetics you’d like to go into, you’ll be off to a great start. Other skills include project management, team-working and flexibility. In rare cases, a driving licence may also be a requirement for a role.

Who hires horticulture breeders and geneticists?

If you think that horticulture genetics and breeding sounds like the ideal choice for you, the next step is finding a place to work. As an incredibly varied field, a range of different employers offers these positions. Anything from commercial agricultural plant suppliers to government-backed research agencies will hire horticultural geneticists and breeders, as well as large-scale commercial companies and international firms looking to diversify their products.

At Agricultural Recruitment Specialists, we recruit for a wide range of different businesses and companies within horticulture, agriculture and beyond. See our job listings online today to discover your next career path, or get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you find your dream career in genetics and breeding for horticulture.

If you're looking for work in the agricultural sector, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help you find the right niche in the UK, Europe and beyond. We can assist in finding which doors are open for you with your specific background and even advice on what you could do to improve your prospects.

Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are worldwide recruitment experts in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: