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Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology concentration

See also: Course requirements for the Disease concentration


Students interested in studying plant diseases, host-pathogen coevolution, the symbiotic relationships between microbes and plants, fungal biology and/or sustainable agriculture are good fits for this concentration.  This concentration allows you to unravel mysteries of how pathogens work, diagnose causes of disease, and develop disease-resistant plant varieties.  Work in this concentration will prepare students for careers related to disease and pest management, and for graduate study in plant pathology, mycology, and the biology of plant-microbe interactions. 

Studies in the concentration will allow for work in all types of environments and a broad range of crops. Students interested in this concentration could work in laboratories, agricultural fields, greenhouses, ornamental facilities and have opportunities for overseas research.


  • Academic profession: Work in this field can involve positions at university research facilities as a plant pathology professor and/or researcher. This would involve teaching students in various plant pathology courses, as well as running a laboratory for independent research and opportunities to encourage student researchers. Full-time professors of plant pathology make anywhere between $60,000 and $100,000 per year depending on university and standing in the school’s system.
  • Agricultural advising: Plant pathologists apply their knowledge to solve a wide variety of pathology issues. Possible careers can include:
    • Consultant: These professions give you the ability to work alongside farmers, small scale businesses and even industrial businesses. Using the skills you learn throughout the program gives you the ability to assist in the success of others' businesses. Examples of jobs include extension agents, crop epidemic research and agrochemical consulting. Salaries are around $40,000 to $50,000 with a Bachelor’s degree. However, many consultants have a master’s degree, which can increase salary to around $60,000.

    • Health Manager: Working for government agencies such as the USDA, EPA, FDA and state and local agencies to find ways to increase crop health for greater food production. Graduates from this concentration could work to develop different IPM approaches and help to create safer foods for consumers. The salaries in this career range between $80,000 to $90,000.

  • Conservation: Plant pathology knowledge can be useful in many ways to a multitude of conservation fields.
    • Conservation Scientist: By understanding the affect of certain pathogens on ecosystems as a whole, conservationists with plant pathology backgrounds can better asses the best ways to remediate and preserve natural areas. This can provide crucial insight into the broader fields of ecology, hydrology, and environmental science. Work in this field would involve employment either in the public or private sector. Conservation scientists make an average of $60,000 per year.
    • Bioremediation: This career is focused on microbiology and the growth and development of microscopic organisms like bacteria, algae and fungi.  Using these microorganisms can help aid in restoring the health of contaminated ecosystems. Throughout that time monitoring the progress through sample collection and analyzing are done.  Salaries for a position like this are around $65,000 per year.
  • Diagnostics: An extremely important part of dealing with plant pathogens involves diagnostics, the identification of the pathogen in a way that is conducive to treating it. This knowledge can be inaccessible to the public, so many universities offer diagnostic labs to assist in identification. Anyone can send in samples to the lab, and for a small fee the lab scientists will analyze the samples and find the disease that is ailing the plant. As well as diagnosing the plant disease the lab also offers control recommendation to effectively eliminate or suppress pests. 
    • Technician: This career allows you to explore certain pathogens and crops you find interesting and have the ability to do research related field trials and laboratory work.  This work helps farmers and growers produce healthier crops.  Salaries for technicians range from $36,000 to $105,000 but the median annual salary is around $60,000.

    • International Agricultural Research Centers: Interested in travel and research?  This could be a great opportunity for you.  All over the world people are trying to grow healthy disease and pathogen free plants.  Salaries range from $62,000 to $77,000

    • Seed, Plant Production and Tissue Culture Companies: Help to grow and discover more resistant plants from the start.  Salaries can range from $40,000 to $50,000.

  • Law: Employment in this area varies, but includes developing policies for waste damage, environmental conservation, and regulation of crop importation and exportation. Careers in this field require strong writing and public speaking skills, but they offer the chance to work towards a greener world. Depending on the type of law one practices, salaries can range from $108,000 in agriculture to $113,000 for an environmental lawyer to $130,000 for a biotech patent attorney/agent.

  • Public Sector:

    • Turf Management: Working in the turf industry offers you the opportunity to work outdoors with plants, people and nature.  Possible careers include Golf Course Superintendent, Sports Turf Manager, Lawn Care Manager.  With this career choices salaries can range from $35,000 to $50,000 the first few years but after working in the industry for 5 to 10 years you have the opportunity to make between $50,000 to $250,000.
    • Nursery and Greenhouse:  If you like being hands on and insuring that plants are happy and health this career path could be a good fit.  This concentration will give you an eye for detecting when things may go wrong.  Pathogens can spread quickly in greenhouses and facilities like that so having knowledge on the subject is strongly sought after.  Salaries range from $25,000 to $60,000 per year.

Supplementary Courses:

  • ENTOM 2120, Insect Biology
  • PLSCS 3150, Weed Biology and Management

Discover more about Plant Pathology and microbe biology careers: