Botanist Certification

California Consulting Botanist Certification

Caulanthus californicus

Professional certification for field and consulting botanists is good for the profession and good for the environment. Certification helps ensure that the most qualified people conduct California’s environmental reviews and that our decision-makers have the information they need to make sound land-use decisions.  That’s why CNPS and other leading botanical organizations have partnered to create a consulting botanist certification to formally recognize 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

Three levels of certification: Associate Field Botanist, Field Botanist, Consulting Botanist

Those botanists that have become certified have each passed rigorous examinations to determine their knowledge and experience.  A total of four examinations have been developed to measure a botanist’s knowledge. Many of the test questions are based on years of experience, not from a course lecture.  Two of the exams measure the botanist’s knowledge and skill at identifying the California flora. The remaining two exams measure the botanist’s knowledge of terminology, taxonomy, floristics, statistics, field measurement and survey methods, vegetation ecology, environmental regulations and processes, and everything else that field and/or consulting botanist working in California needs to know.  The Certified Botanist has passed each exam with at least a score of 75%, as well as signing their name to a Botanist’s Code of Ethics that requires the Certified Botanist to hold and follow high professional standards in conduct.

Certified Associate Field Botanist

Associate Field Botanist certification demonstrates the botanist’s basic knowledge of the California flora and the ability to use dichotomous identification keys to determine a plant’s identity. The Associate Field Botanist also has a basic understanding of botanical terminology and field survey methods. They can be considered an apprentice to become a Certified Field Botanist. An Associate Field Botanist certification is awarded to those who have received a score between 60% and 74% on each exam.

Certified Field Botanist

The Field Botanist is competent in identifying native and naturalized plants found in California, and is able to use appropriate field survey methods and protocols that satisfy documentation and assessment requirements.  They can identify the dominant and characteristic plants that compose the California flora and know how to identify those native and naturalized species that they may not be able to identify on sight. They have a good grasp of botanical terminology and know how to conduct field surveys and map plant occurrences and populations that are necessary for laboratory analyses and/or impact assessments.  They can also monitor plant populations during and after construction, and perform monitoring of mitigation implementation (during and afterwards). The Certified Field Botanist knows how to characterize the botanical resources of a site and record their findings.

Certified Consulting Botanist

The Certified Consulting Botanist has satisfied all requirements of a Field Botanist, as well as demonstrated competence in document preparation, such as: 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.  They know how to research environmental policies and regulations that apply to a variety of projects and how to document the existing conditions of a project site or study area. The Certified Consulting Botanist knows how to assess project-related impacts to the botanical resources of the site and whether those impacts are considered signification pursuant to environmental regulations, whether they be federal, state, or local. They also can develop feasible mitigation measures to reduce any significant impacts to less-than-significant levels, and are adept at assisting clients through the environmental permitting process, at least as far as the botanical resources are concerned.

Find a Certified Botanist

Upcoming Exam Dates

August 9, 2024
in Davis, CA
(Registration is Full)

Details and Waitlist

Interested in becoming certified? Sign up for updates on future exam dates.

Contact us

For more information about California Botanist Certification, contact us at

Do you or a group want to become certified? Email us at to let us know you are interested and your location.

Fremontodendron californicum
Fremontodendron californicum

Are you Eligible?

The CNPS certification program recognizes three levels of expertise: Associate Field Botanist, Field Botanist, and Consulting Botanist. See which is right for you.

Solanum xantii. Credit Michael Terry.
Solanum xantii. Credit Michael Terry.

How to Prepare for the Exam

Download the study guide, plant ID list, and slide deck on preparing for certification.

Lasthenia fremontii downingia
Lasthenia fremontii downingia

Why Should I Get Certified?

Certification is a step forward for the field of consulting and field biology as well as the environment. See why.

Ipomopsis. Credit Nick Jensen.

The Application and Renewal Process

Fees, certification maintenance, and other brass tacks.

Credit Stacey Flowerdew.
Credit Stacey Flowerdew.

Frequently Asked Questions

See common questions about the certification process and exam.

Trifolium variegatum. Credit Julie Evens.
Trifolium variegatum. Credit Julie Evens.