Plant physiologists study the physical, chemical, and biological functions of living plants. They study whole plants, as well as plant cells, molecules, and genes. Thus, plant physiologists study plant flowering, seed development, production, and growth; photosynthesis; carbohydrate and protein production; water transport; enzyme functions and metabolism; growth regulators and hormones; reactions to light, gravity, temperature, water, minerals, and the environment; cell structure and membranes; root-shoot interactions; and interactions with other organisms.
Probably because plant physiology is a basic science, most plant physiologists work in academic institutions (65 percent of the members of The American Society of Plant Physiologists) where they both teach and conduct research. Some (about 20 percent) are employed by federal and state agencies. A few (about 10 percent) work full time for, or as consultants to, industrial and other organizations that have agricultural or related biological interests.
To be a plant physiologist you need to understand botany, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. You must know how to write and communicate well. Because plant physiologists support scientists in other disciplines, they need to know about enzymology, meteorology, horticulture, economics, philosophy and the human condition, politics, history, and how to teach. Plant physiologists must be willing to relocate and must continue their education.
In high school, take mathematics, chemistry, biology, and botany. Develop strong writing and communication skills. Be persistent, inquisitive, and eager to learn, discuss, and accept new ideas. Try working part time in a laboratory.
-- Melvin J. Josephs, American Society of Plant Physiologists