South Africa is home to over 95 000 plant and animal species. Due to habitat transformation, climate and general environmental change, species evolve and adapt to opportunities, threats and risks. These special adaptations in turn shape ecosystems and their functioning which support the natural, social and economic world. Understanding the genetics of plant and animal species can assist in understanding ecosystem functioning, ecosystem change and guide the planning and management of these changes for ecological and social health and wellbeing.

Geneticists study the genes and genetic variations of living organisms. They research genetic diversity and population dynamics and conduct experiments to determine the origins, mechanisms and principles and laws of inherited traits of a species. They then develop and implement methods to improve heritability, growth, reproduction, immunity and disease resistance or tolerance or even create new variations of species. Some work with populations to understand the species evolution and change within natural populations.

Geneticists mainly work in laboratories to examine genetic material and occasionally go into the field to make observations or collect samples for testing. They sometimes work with hazardous chemicals and substances and are required to wear safety equipment during lab analyses.


Geneticists need a comprehensive knowledge of plant and animal biology, chemical properties and principles and will also benefit from:

  • Extensive competence in laboratory techniques
  • Creative and logical analytical ability
  • Complex problem-solving ability
  • Strong organisational skills and attention to detail


Design, implement and monitor research experiments

Collect, study and test cell, tissue, bacteria and living organism samples

Analyse findings and identify practical applications and potential risks

Record and disseminate results in reports and presentations


B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Genetics at SU, UCT, UP and Wits

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences specialising in Genetics at UFS, UKZN and Wits

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biotechnology at SU, UJ, UKZN, UP and UWC

Diploma, Advanced Diploma, M.Tech in Biotechnology at CPUT, DUT, TUT, UJ and VUT


Agricultural and crop production companies.

Biotechnology and genetic engineering companies.

Pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

Research institutions.

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