The Best Marijuana Jobs & Salaries
Dec 26, 2019 | Save On Cannabis
Video Article Summary
The cannabis industry is booming, and a wide range of lucrative marijuana jobs are available as we speak. According to a comprehensive 2019 report, the industry is currently valued at $14.9 billion and is projected to reach a staggering $40.6 billion by 2024. For anyone who wants to get into the rapidly growing industry, it’s useful to know the best career opportunities and the salary of each job in cannabis.
If you have any direct experience with legal cannabis, you’ve interacted with a budtender at one time or another. When you enter a recreational or medicinal dispensary, the budtender is your primary point of contact, guiding you through the transaction. Budtending is one of the most commonly sought-out cannabis jobs in the market.
What Does a Budtender Do?
Budtenders are employees of cannabis dispensaries, assisting patients and customers with the selection process. They listen to the customer’s needs, make recommendations, and complete each financial transaction. They may also be in charge of explaining any rules or requirements, such as instructing customers to keep cannabis products sealed in a bag and stored in the vehicle’s trunk during transport.
Because budtenders are relied upon as knowledgeable experts by customers who don’t always know what they’re looking for, the job entails more than just personal interaction. Budtenders are expected to keep up with industry trends, which requires constant research. They often attend trade shows and forums to learn about the latest products, and they use that knowledge to better serve their customers.
Required Education and Skills for Budtenders
In general, a budtender must possess a high school diploma and be at least 21 years of age. There are no general higher-education requirements, but some organizations do offer online budtender certifications. This type of certification lets prospective employers know that the candidate has a fundamental knowledge of cannabis culture, strains, and compounds, as well as the effects of different products. Some dispensaries require this type of certification; even when it’s not required, it can still give applicants a competitive edge.
Basic knowledge of cannabis products is more important than formal education in most cases. If a patient wants to learn which strain will best alleviate their anxiety, which delivery method will give them the longest-lasting effects, or how CBD differs from CBG, the budtender needs to be able to provide an adequate answer and make suitable recommendations.
For anyone interested in becoming a budtender, the best way to prepare is to follow the top cannabis industry blogs and news sources, brush up on the laws and regulations, and learn absolutely everything about the products that are widely available.
The average hourly wage for a budtender is $12.84 according to the most current data, and the median annual salary is $32,000. However, these numbers are a bit misleading. Like many service industry professionals, budtenders often rely on tips. When accounting for gratuity, the actual take-home pay can be considerably higher, especially for a knowledgeable budtender with excellent people skills.
Things to Know About Working as a Budtender
Don’t overlook small and independent dispensaries. While larger brands like MedMen do tend to pay more and offer better benefits, they also tend to have more stringent employment requirements. For example, many MedMen job listings ask for 2 years of prior retail experience in addition to sales experience and even an associate’s degree. If you want to learn the ropes but you’re lacking in experience, it may be worth cutting your teeth in a smaller shop.
Though marijuana is traditionally smoked in plant form, it’s becoming increasingly popular in concentrate form. Vape oils, tinctures, and caplets are just some of the extractions that are flying off of dispensary shelves. Marijuana extracts—like wax, shatter, and oil—are gaining popularity not just because they can be consumed in a variety of ways, but also because they’re more potent than cannabis flowers and have less of an odor.
In order for cannabis to be synthesized in these forms, the work of an extraction tech is required.
What Does an Extraction Tech Do?
The cannabis extraction tech is the specialist who separates the concentrates from the plant. This person removes the oils and wax containing the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds. These compounds can then be repurposed in a variety of commercial products and sold to consumers who want the benefits of marijuana but aren’t necessarily looking to “light up.”
Extraction techs are becoming especially important for the growing cannabidiol (CBD) market. The extraction of CBD from cannabis and hemp plants requires advanced machinery and intricate cultivation processes. As the demand for CBD products increases nationwide (not just in states with medical or recreational marijuana), there’s a huge need for extraction techs who specialize in this type of cultivation.
Required Education and Skills for Extraction Technicians
As this is still an emerging field, there’s no official certification process at this time. However, cannabis extraction requires an intermediate knowledge of chemistry, chemical engineering, and photobiology. You may be required to possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of these fields before getting hired as an extraction tech.
Professionals in this line of work are required to operate highly sophisticated and potentially hazardous machinery. The concentrates are produced when extreme heat, pressure, and industrial solvents are combined for the purpose of extracting pure compounds like THC and CBD. Extraction techs are required to work with highly corrosive chemicals and compounds like carbon dioxide and butane gas, and improper use of machinery can be not only costly but dangerous. That’s why a related science degree and hands-on lab experience are usually recommended or required.
Extraction Technician Salary
Though Indeed lists the average salary as $16.26 per hour (about $32,000 per year), an educated extraction tech has the potential to earn significantly more. An extraction tech with a Ph.D. in a related field can actually earn up to $125,000 per year (making it one of the most coveted marijuana jobs) so salary can vary greatly depending on education and experience level. The best way to prepare is to pursue a formal degree in chemistry.
Things to Know About a Career as an Extraction Technician
If you’re thinking of starting your own extraction lab, you should know that the startup costs can be exorbitant—ranging between $400,000 and $800,000. A good CO2 extraction machine on its own can cost over $200,000. And we haven’t even gotten into the routine costs, like annual licensing fees, rental property, insurance, and labor. Unless you have sizable startup capital, your best bet is to focus on honing your skills and then work as an extraction tech for an existing operation—at least until you’ve saved enough to start your own business.
Master Grower (Marijuana Botanist)
If you’re seeking a job that’s more lucrative than a budtender but less hazardous than an extraction tech, the master grower position may be a perfect fit for you—that is, if you’re okay with the long hours.
What Does a Master Grower Do?
A master grower is an expert marijuana botanist, responsible for cultivating cannabis on an industrial scale. We’re not talking about your casual home grower who keeps a couple of plants in their closet. We’re talking about a professional who oversees hundreds of plants at a time, usually on behalf of a major organization. They’re responsible for the entire lifecycle of large-scale crops, from seeding to harvesting, and it’s a very intricate process. Many master growers are also adept at breeding.
Required Education and Skills for Master Growers
A formal education isn’t always required to become a master grower. As long as you have a high school diploma and are at least 21 years of age, you can start as an entry-level bud trimmer and learn the ropes from more experienced growers. However, if you’re considering a career as a master grower, you can gain a competitive advantage by pursuing a master’s degree in botany or horticulture. There are also certification programs for master growers.
A master grower must be an expert in the minutiae of growing, harvesting, and cloning marijuana strains. You’ll need to know the three stages of growing (seed/clone, vegetative, flower) and understand the precise effects of water, light, temperature, ventilation, and humidity. You’ll need to have expert knowledge of the nutrients that promote healthy growth throughout each stage of the cycle, and you’ll be required to understand the pests and environmental issues that can inhibit growth. You’ll also need to understand how the growth cycle differs in specific environments, such as soil vs hydro, indoor vs outdoor, etc.
Master Grower Salary
The grow master job is one of the most lucrative positions in the industry. If you have the ability to grow with all the skill and precision of a master chef, you can earn an annual salary north of $100,000 plus profit share. There are still very few people skilled in the nuances of marijuana growth, so this type of marijuana botanist is in high demand. If you have plenty of experience of growing marijuana, this may be one of the best marijuana jobs for you.
Things to Know about Being a Master Grower
While the master grower job has an excellent outlook and offers tremendous income potential, it’s not for everybody. Large-scale growth is tedious and time-consuming work, and many master growers find themselves dedicating over 60 hours a week to their job. Tending to over 100 plants will eat up a majority of your time, and it’s not the most exciting work. Some people thrive in this type of quiet but labor-intensive environment, but others burn out rather quickly.
If you love to prepare sumptuous meals and also partake in herbal delights, you might want to pursue a career as an edible chef. After all, those brownies and candies don’t prepare themselves. Whenever you enjoy edibles, you’re enjoying the hard work of a dedicated chef.
What Does an Edibles Chef Do?
A marijuana edible chef crafts and produces cannabis-infused foods and drinks that are sold in dispensaries. Just because you know how to add decarboxylated cannabutter to a batch of cookies doesn’t mean you’re ready to become a commercial edible chef. This is an intricate and complex trade that involves melding specific ingredients at precise temperatures to produce products that are pleasing to the taste buds without smelling strongly of plant matter.
Required Education and Skills for Edibles Chefs
For cannabis chefs working in an official capacity, a secondary education in the culinary arts is usually required. Many edible chefs have earned an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, and most have professional kitchen experience. Chefs should be knowledgeable about general nutrition, menu planning, and the chemical interactions that impact cannabis-based food creation. Once basic educational benchmarks have been achieved, prospective chefs are usually required to take part in an internship or apprenticeship to better learn the intricacies of cooking with marijuana.
Aside from general culinary knowledge, chefs must also be educated on state and local regulations as they pertain to packaging, licensing, and the products themselves. For instance, some states restrict the amount of THC that’s permitted in edibles and cannabis products, so chefs must know how to produce edible goods in accordance with those requirements. Some states also require chefs to obtain a manufacturer license before working with dispensaries. These requirements make edibles chefs one of the harder marijuana jobs to qualify for.
Edibles Chef Salary
A highly qualified edible chef can earn a salary of $50,000 to $100,000 a year. As with all positions, salary varies based on experience, but there is certainly a wealth of earning potential for chefs who put in the time to gain a culinary education and learn about the finer points of edible creation.
Things to Know About Being an Edibles Chef
The long-term outlook for this position is especially high, as dispensaries are just the beginning. As more states legalize marijuana for recreational use, we’re starting to see a whole new industry of cannabis restaurants and cafes. Cannabis Cafe—which opened in West Hollywood in 2019—was the first such eatery in the U.S. Starting in 2020, Colorado is also set to allow cannabis-based eateries. You can expect other states to follow suit, creating the opportunity for a wealth of new marijuana dining experiences.
Cannabis Product Reviewer/Blogger
If you’re passionate about cannabis culture but you consider yourself to be more of an influencer, an online product reviewer may be one of your best-fitting jobs in cannabis.
What Does a Cannabis Product Reviewer Do?
Some would call it a dream job. Get paid to use cannabis products and then write about them. Major newspapers like The Oregonian and Denver Post have hired marijuana writers, and more cannabis-centric publications like High Times and Leafly are popping up all the time.
Some savvy bloggers will start their website and review products in exchange for ad revenue or affiliate income (cannabis affiliate programs have become very popular in recent years). As a reviewer, your job is to educate patients and customers about products and get people excited to buy.
Required Education and Skills for Cannabis Reviewers
If your goal is to work for an established brand, you’ll want to have at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field. These cannabis jobs are very competitive, and a journalism background is a common prerequisite. You’ll also need to have an in-depth knowledge of cannabis, with an expert understanding of strains, medicinal uses, history, and terminology. It’s not a job for the casual user, but it can be incredibly rewarding for the right person.
If you decide to start your own blog or affiliate website, you won’t be subject to any educational requirements. However, you will need to have some additional skills, including social media and SEO savviness. You’ll have to build your following from the ground up, and that means being dedicated to and strategic about online marketing.
Cannabis Product Reviewer Salary
The salary range can vary dramatically depending on your education, income source, and popularity. If you manage to score a full-time job for an established cannabis brand, you may pull in $30,000 to $50,000 a year. If, however, you start your own site and rely on ad revenue or affiliate income, you may earn as little as $5 a month or as much as six figures per year. It all depends on how effectively you’re able to attract an audience and promote product sales. A typical Google ad will receive one click per 100 visits. To earn $100,000 on an ad that pays 10 cents per click, you’d need about 10,000,000 hits over the course of a year.
Things to Know Reviewing Cannabis Products as a Career
Perhaps one of the most awkward requirements of an online reviewer is that you generally need to be willing to use your real name. This instills trust and allows you to speak with authority. While this isn’t a problem for everyone, it’s understandable that not everybody is comfortable being candid with their personal identity—as there are some unfortunate stigmas that still exist. Thankfully, these stigmas are slowly fading.
Which Marijuana Jobs Appeal to You?
Several more states are already reviewing and reforming their marijuana laws, and even the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to make cannabis more widely available. The tides are changing, and that’s great news for anyone interested in becoming a part of this growing industry. Now is the perfect time to decide which cannabis jobs appeal to you and to start perfecting your craft.
As long as you have the skills and the work ethic, the cannabis boom may just prove to be a gold rush for you.
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