Job growth in the cannabis industry has been increasing rapidly in recent years with 76% more cannabis jobs open in December 2018 than one year earlier according to Glassdoor and 211,000 new full time jobs created in the United States as of 2019 based on research conducted by Leafly.
But job creation isn’t the only reason why people are shifting to the cannabis industry. They’re also attracted to the salaries and advancement opportunities. Glassdoor reported that the median salary for cannabis industry job openings is 10.7% higher than other industries, and more than half of job openings in the cannabis industry (53%) are for professional and technical workers.
With the explosive job growth in the marijuana industry, many people are thinking of changing their careers to get into the industry or simply taking their existing jobs and segueing into the cannabis sector. Students are studying marijuana in college, and experienced professionals are searching job boards and working with recruiters to find positions that match their knowledge and skills.
But where does a job seeker start? What types of marijuana careers are available, and how do you land one of these jobs?
These are the questions job seekers are asking, so to get you started, below is a collection of jobs that marijuana cultivators, testing labs, processors/manufacturers, and dispensaries and retailers are often looking to fill.
Marijuana Jobs in Cultivation and Growing
Working for a marijuana cultivator puts you at the beginning of the supply chain. You’ll be helping to grow the cannabis that will eventually be used by patients and consumers. Some of the most popular cultivation jobs include:
Master Grower: The Master Grower is in charge of the grow operation and has experience growing cannabis plants and large crops. Typically, a master grower is a botanist or horticulturist. Responsibilities include managing grow-house technology, cloning, planting, crop cultivation, and pest control. A Master Grower could make $50,000 to $150,000 per year depending on the location and size of the grow operation.
Cultivation Supervisor or Assistant Grower: The Cultivation Supervisor manages the trimmers and grow team. They also cover for the Master Grower when he or she is unavailable. For larger operations, the Cultivation Supervisor has several direct reports to help manage day-to-day operations.
Trimmer: Trimmers manicure the cannabis plants by cutting buds and preparing them for the Master Grower to cure. This is an entry-level position.
Cultivation Site Worker: A cultivation site worker is the next step up from a trimmer position. In this role, the worker maintains the plants by monitoring lighting, chemicals, feeding, and so on.
Marijuana Jobs in Testing
Testing labs are an important part of the marijuana supply chain, particularly in states where testing is legally required. Following are some common jobs you could find at testing facilities:
Laboratory Analysts: Lab Analysts are typically chemists. They dissect and test cannabis to confirm there are no pesticides or heavy metals (like lead) in the samples that aren’t allowed by law. They also perform tests to ensure only the legally allowed amounts of cannabinoids (particularly THC) are present.
Laboratory Technicians: Lab Technicians (also referred to as Sampling Technicians) assist the Lab Analysts and scientists by preparing samples, staging and labeling incoming and outgoing vials, handling documentation, and performing lab cleanup.
Lab Manager: The Lab Manager is responsible for overall operations of the lab to ensure compliance with regulations and smooth functioning of the lab at all times. He or she also manages the lab staff.
Quality Control Inspector or Marijuana Tester: Quality Control Inspectors are most often employed by cannabis companies or government agencies. They are usually tasked with inspecting cultivation operations and enforcing marijuana cultivation laws. People in this position typically have a PhD in a scientific field like chemistry, biology, agronomy, or entomology.
Marijuana Jobs in Processing and Manufacturing
Marijuana jobs in processing and manufacturing facilities are involved in turning raw cannabis from cultivators into products that can be sold in dispensaries or retail stores. Some of the jobs you can find in processing and manufacturing are:
Extractor: An Extractor takes the trimmed parts of marijuana plants and uses CO2, butane, nitrogen or other non-volatile extraction methods to make concentrates and/or hash, which can then be sold or used to infuse into edible products. This is a specialized and dangerous job that demands skill, knowledge, and a high salary ($80,000 to $250,000 per year). Extractors typically begin as Extraction Technicians and can move up to Assistant Extractors and Master Extractors as they gain experience.
Packager: Packager jobs are typically entry level. Responsibilities include making sure cannabis or cannabis-infused products are properly, safely, legally, and efficiently packaged for distribution and for sale.
Edibles Chef: There are many companies that produce edible marijuana products and need trained chefs to make these products (and improve them) as well as to create new edible products. In addition to cooking, an Edibles Chef often oversees the production of all food items that are infused with marijuana with a careful eye to ensure doses are precise.
Marijuana Jobs in Dispensaries and Retail
Dispensaries and retailers are the patient and consumer facing side of the marijuana supply chain. Jobs at these businesses require good customer service skills. Popular positions include:
Budtender: This entry level job is basically the same as a sales position in a retail store or a patient care consultant in a pharmacy. Budtenders greet patients or customers, discuss their needs, describe products, and make sales.
Dispensary (or Store) Manager: The Dispensary (or Store) Manager is responsible for daily operations, managing staff, handling law enforcement, communicating with vendors, training employees, and so on. They’re also required to stay current on all local and state laws that could affect the dispensary or retail store.
Delivery Driver: Marijuana delivery drivers could work for dispensaries or retailers or for third-party cannabis delivery companies. This position is responsible for delivering cannabis to patients or consumers as state and local laws allow.
Security: Dispensaries and retailers need security to keep marijuana products and cash safe. This is especially important since many dispensaries and retailers don’t have banks and are forced to work in all-cash environments. In addition, cultivators, processors, distributors, and testing labs need security, so this is a role that could allow you to work in multiple parts of the marijuana supply chain.
Network Your Way to a Cannabis Career
Attending industry events and conferences is a great way to make connections with professionals in the cannabis industry that could lead to career opportunities. Follow these tips to make your networking efforts as successful as possible:
- Do your research and make sure you understand the industry, the key players (both individuals and companies), the challenges, the terminology, and how you could fit in.
- Understand the regulations and regulators.
- Write and practice your 30- or 60-second elevator pitch before you attend any events.
- Be extremely professional. The business of cannabis is very serious.
- Focus on building relationships rather than finding a job. Those relationships could lead you to a great career opportunity in the future.
The cannabis industry is still young and building relationships with industry professionals is still an essential part of establishing your own foothold in the industry. With that in mind, get out there and start networking!
Work with a Cannabis Industry Recruiter
It’s important to understand that the cannabis jobs mentioned in this article are not an exhaustive list of roles. There are so many positions required to run cannabis businesses – just like any other company. These jobs include roles in marketing, finance, operations, customer service, accounting, and more.
You can find many of these jobs on general and industry-specific job boards as well as at career fairs, or you can work with a cannabis industry recruiter to search for your new career. A few of the established companies in the industry are (in alphabetical order):
Each of these companies works with employers to fill specific positions in the cannabis industry. If you have skills that hiring managers are looking for, contacting one of these recruiters could help you find the right cannabis job.
How to Land a Job in the Cannabis Industry
In addition to the jobs above and the many other roles available at cultivation, processing, testing, and dispensing/retail facilities, there are also many jobs available at ancillary businesses that provide products and services to licensed cannabis businesses. Depending on the type of job you’d like to get in the cannabis industry, working for an ancillary business might be a good fit for you.
However, marijuana jobs can be very competitive, so make sure you understand the industry terminology, have a clean record, and do your homework about salaries and culture before you start your new cannabis career search.
Originally published 8/27/18. Updated 6/21/19.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.