Eligibility Information

California Consulting Botanist Certification


Are you eligible to for the CNPS Botanist Certification? Read on to learn about the exam requirements and levels of certification.

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. These exams are rigorous with high expectations as this certification, for both Field and Consulting Botanist levels, is intended to identify those professionals with deep and broad knowledge and experience in the consulting botanist field in California.

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.

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

Levels of Certification

Field 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)

Consulting Botanist

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