California Native Plant Society

California Consulting Botanist Certification

Over the years, it has become clear that a formal identification of minimum standards for botanists is needed for California. The California Consulting Botanist Certification (CBC), administered by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), fills this need by formally recognizing botanists that:

  • Incorporate scientifically sound botanical principles in decision-making
  • Meet a minimum set of standards in knowledge and experience
  • Adhere to high ethical standards

Botanists in the field
Botanists in the field. Photo by David Magney

Goals and Function

  • Certify only well-trained, competent, responsible, and ethical professionals.
  • Establish widely accepted standards of proficiency and professionalism that guide the training, development, and performance of botanists and their products.
  • Facilitate relevant professional training.
  • Maintain and promote courses and training in academic, field oriented, and reporting arenas.
  • Require routine recertification to ensure botanists stay up-to-date with current scientific practices and regulatory requirements.


  • Serve the needs of botanists who wish to establish and validate their professional credentials.
  • Guide biologists, governmental entities, regulatory agencies, courts, and the public in defining minimum standards of knowledge and ability for professional botanists.
  • Establish a critical peer evaluation of a botanist's knowledge and skills based upon defined minimum technical skills and knowledge.
  • Encourage all practicing botanists to meet established professional standards.
  • Assist the public, regulators, and project proponents in identifying qualified professional botanists.
  • Create and maintain confidence in the advice and opinions of Certified Botanists, as well as educated and experienced professionals, who have pledged to uphold the Botanist Code of Ethics.

Certification Benefits

  • Recognized on the Register of California certified botanists
  • Hold a Certificate as a Certified Field or Consulting Botanist
  • Receive a Certification number and relevant acronym for business cards and (email) signatures
  • Annual California Professional Botanist newsletter

Botanist in the field
Photo by Julie Nelson


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Requirements for Eligibility

Certification Examinations
Prior to certification, applicants are required to pass two plant identification (sight identification and keying) and two written examinations, each with a score of 75% or above. The Field Botanist examination will only have one written examination.

Note: Applicants who fail to pass one or more of the tests (three for the Field Botanist, plus one more for the Consulting Botanist) will not be certified. However, if the applicant registers for the Consulting Botanist exams and passes the three tests for the Field Botanist certification, but fails the final Consulting Botanist exam, then they will receive certification as a Field Botanist. Retesting can only occur at the next available (or subsequent) examination date, and the applicant will be required to pay the full examination fee again.

Study Guide: Minimum Qualifications and Experience Recommended for the Certified Field Botanist and/or a Certified Consulting Botanist Examinations

Education and Experience

  • No formal education is required; however, the Board of Certification believes that candidates holding a bachelor's degree with the equivalent of at least 30 semester hours of ecosystem sciences (with at least 9 semester hours of botany and at least 12 semester hours of physical and mathematical science), will greatly benefit from such coursework.
  • Field experience will also give the candidate a substantial advantage over those lacking it. Practical, both on-the-job and independent, experience is needed to provide the depth and breadth of knowledge expected for those that want to become certified.

Levels of Certification

Field Botanist Consulting Botanist
The Field Botanist must demonstrate their competence in identifying native and naturalized plants found in California, and confirm their ability to utilize appropriate field survey methods and protocols that satisfy documentation and assessment requirements.

Exam Topics:

  • Plant identification (sight ID, terminology used in taxonomic descriptions and identification keys)
  • Plant systematics and taxonomy
  • Floristics
  • Field survey methods (including tools needed) and protocols
  • Site characterization methods
  • Vegetation classification and mapping (including aerial photo interpretation)
  • Laws and regulations pertaining to field work, including those pertaining to vouchering listed plants and obtaining permission to collect from landowners
  • Reporting and record keeping of field work results
  • Ethics (professional and conservation)
The Consulting Botanist must satisfy all requirements of a Field Botanist, as well as demonstrate competence in document preparation by: describing baseline conditions of a study/project area, critically analyzing project-related impacts to botanical resources, developing feasible mitigation measures to avoid or compensate for identified impacts, and demonstrating a clear understanding of environmental laws and regulations pertaining to plants.

Exam Topics:
Field Botanist exam topics, plus:

  • Federal, state, and local laws and regulations pertaining to impact assessments, take of listed species, and rare plants
  • Reporting and assessment of impacts and findings
  • Development and implementation of mitigation measures

Application Procedure

Application for certification and registration for tests is now open for 2017. Examination dates and venues for 2017 are below. Applicants are required to fill out the application form and provide current contact information, sign the Code of Ethics (PDF), and submit the examination fee.

Applicants will be notified on the next available examination (date and location). Upon successfully passing the examinations, the applicant will be required to pay the membership fee before receiving their certification number, certificate, and certification card.

Test locations, dates/times

March 6, 2017 (Monday) Northern California
Curry Canyon Ranch, near Clayton, California
Register online

May 9, 2017 (Tuesday) Southern California
Fullerton Arboretum
Register online

  • There will be two opportunities to take the tests each year:
    • One will be administered in Southern California
    • Another will be administered in Northern California
  • Field Botanist and Consulting Botanist tests will be administered at the same location and date.

Application/Examination Fees

Field Botanist: $350
Consulting Botanist: $450

Exam Registration

Online registration is available at the links above under the test location info. You can also register using the downloadable form below.

Registration Form (PDF 429kb)

To register for the upcoming 2017 exam dates, please fill out the registration form and send by mail, along with the examination fee, to:

2707 K Street Suite 1
Sacramento, CA 95816

...or by e-mail to or by fax to (916)-447-2727.


Certification Maintenance

Botanists in Northern California
Botanists in Northern California. Photo by Mona Robison.

Maintenance Fees
An annual fee of $85 for Field Botanist and $95 for Consulting Botanist must be paid by annual membership date each year to maintain certification.

Renewal of certification is required every 5 years; however, reexamination is not required unless annual membership fees are not kept current.

  • 50 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) must be completed before renewal
  • PDCs will only be accepted from authorized providers (details coming) or courses pre-approved by the Board of Certification
  • Subject areas include: professional ethics, taxonomy/plant ID, laws and regulations pertaining to plants, and methods in survey, assessment, and mitigation
  • Certification at a higher level than previously certified requires the submission of a new application for certification and testing for that level


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Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)



California Botanist Certification Administration

The CBC is a collaboration of many groups and organizations, and is administered by CNPS. The CBC includes three standing committees to implement and administer it: Board of Certification, Professional Ethics Committee, and Advisory Committee. Board of Certification members are Certified Botanists elected by their peers, and the Professional Ethics Committee is also composed of Certified Botanists and one attorney specializing in ethics. The Advisory Committee is composed of representatives from groups and organizations with an interest in supporting and maintaining high standards in the professional botanist community and who support the CBC. The main function is to serve as a communication channel between cooperating organizations and the Board of Certification so that the cooperating organizations stay apprised of the CBC status. Members of the Advisory Committee do not need to be Certified Botanists, and membership in this committee is approved by the Board of Certification.

All fees obtained through the certification testing process will be used to administer the CBC.

Collaborating Organizations

Northern California Botanists Southern California Botanists California Botanical Society Santa Barbara Botanic Garden UC Davis Plant Sciences Department University and Jepson Herbaria Botanical Society of America

  • Botanical Society of America
  • California Botanical Society
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Northern California Botanists
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
  • Southern California Botanists
  • University of California & Jepson Herbaria
  • University of California Davis Plant Sciences


Contact us

For more information about California Botanist Certification, contact David Magney at .


*Please note: This page is updated to reflect current information about the CBC, as details of the program are still being finalized. Therefore, information on this page is subject to change until the first certification exam is held. Please contact us if you have questions.


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