Want to Get a Foot in the Marijuana Industry? These 7 Jobs Are in Demand

In this photo illustration, two people tend to marijuana plants as part of their job.
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As medical and recreational marijuana becomes legal in more states, more people are wondering how to get a job in the marijuana industry. Now is the time to find out as this booming industry keeps growing. Consider this:

  • Medical marijuana use is legal in 37 states and Washington, D.C., and recreational use is legal in 17 states.
  • There are 7,490 marijuana dispensaries across the country, according to a 2021 study by Kisi security access company.  (That’s more than the nation’s 7,000 Taco Bells.)
  • Over the past 12 months the legal cannabis industry has created 33,700 new U.S. jobs, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in America, according to the latest annual report by Leafly, a leading cannabis website.
  • Nationwide, the report found 243,700 full-time jobs with cannabis companies as of January 2020, compared to 122,800 in 2017.

Many jobs at cannabis companies pay much better than restaurant or retail positions. What’s more, some don’t require years of experience or training. Many employers in the cannabis industry are young companies open to hardworking employees who can grow as they do.

Here’s a look at marijuana jobs in demand.

Knox Medical Lead Chemical Engineer Alexander Karol conducts testing on C02-extracted cannabis oil to ensure products meet high standards of purity.
Knox Medical Lead Chemical Engineer Alexander Karol conducts testing on C02-extracted cannabis oil to ensure products meet high standards of purity. Photo courtesy of Knox Medical

7 Jobs in the Legal Marijuana Industry

1. Head Grower/Master Grower

Head Growers are responsible for plants, crops and teams of growers. You’ll be expected to establish growing procedures for the cannabis business and track plants through their entire lifecycle with the goal of creating the best product possible. The master grower is responsible for many factors that impact the health and value of a plant such as nutrient applications, humidity, ventilation, temperature, light, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.

Pay Range:  $58,000 to $153,000.

Job Qualifications:

  • Horticulture degree or equivalent often required
  • Several years’ growing experience
  • Knowledge of plant nutrients, soil, grow technology, pest control and harvest methods
  • Comprehensive knowledge of strains: Sativa, Indica and hybrids
  • Advanced knowledge of the cannabis plant, genetics and cloning
  • Management experience
  • Some states may require an occupational license
  • Some companies may require Master Grower certification

2. Edibles Chef

Edibles chefs create cannabis-laced food and beverages for medicinal and recreational consumption for cannabis companies. They typically have culinary training in addition to whatever local and state certifications are required for marijuana jobs.

This career isn’t as simple as sprinkling a few buds into brownie mix. An edibles chef has to create products with evenly proportioned amounts of mariujuana per serving that deliver the effects promised. The products also have to taste good, look good, meet legal requirements and be packaged safely.

Pay Range: $50,000 to over $100,000

Job Qualifications:

  • Thorough understanding of marijuana strains and concentrates
  • Excellent cooking skills
  • Professional cooking and kitchen experience

3. Budtender/Dispensary Agent

An exterior photo of Knox Medical Dispensary in Ivanhoe Village in Orlando, Fla.
Knox Medical Dispensary is located in the Ivanhoe Village neighborhood of Orlando, Fla. Photo courtesy of Knox Medical

Budtenders, sometimes called dispensary agents, are the intermediaries between the customers and retail and medical marijuana sellers. They have to be knowledgeable about a wide range of cannabis plants, medicinal uses, products, dose and consumption methods.

This entry-level job is highly sought-after because it helps cannabis industry workers get their foot in the door and learn skills for other marijuana jobs

Pay Range: $25,000 to $85,000

Job Qualifications:

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Thorough understanding of marijuana strains and products
  • Clean criminal record
  • Ability to establish trust and rapport with customers

4. Bud Trimmer

Marijuana plants are just like lots of other vegetation; they grow best when they’re kept neatly trimmed and manicured.

A trimmer maintains the cannabis flower buds on the plant and cuts and weighs them when they are ready for sale. Trimmers often spend long hours pruning buds for maximum bag appeal. Trimmers may have downtime when they can learn other aspects of the business such as budtending, growing or filling out paperwork.

Bud trimmer is also an entry-level job and a great way to learn about different strains of marijuana plants and how they grow.

Pay Range: $23,000 to $46,000

Job Qualifications:

  • Accuracy and consistency in trimming
  • Understanding of marijuana plants and strains
  • Ability to accurately weigh and measure

5. Extraction Engineer

Concentrates extracted from cannabis are another growing market within the legal cannabis industry.

Extraction managers strip away the valuable compounds from the plant and produce a range of concentrate types including distillate oil for edibles or terp sauce for cannabis connoisseurs. They prepare the plant for extraction and operate highly sophisticated equipment. They also keep strict records of all plants, chemicals and equipment used in the laboratory.

Pay Range: $29,000 to $80,000

Job Qualifications:

  • Most of these positions with a cannabis company require two or more years of experience with extraction in a lab, preferably cannabis, pharmaceutical or nutraceutical products.
  •  B.S. Degree in organic or inorganic chemistry or a related field.

6. Cannabis Company Compliance Manager

Compliance is crucial to making sure cannabis companies are abiding by all laws and protocols.

Typical duties include monitoring state and local regulations, developing and maintaining records, policies and procedures to ensure there are no illegal or unprofessional behavior practices among employees.

Compliance managers also conduct regularly scheduled audits of inventory, finances and facility operations for cannabis companies.

Pay Range: $23,500 to $128,000

Job Requirements:

  • Minimum 1-3 years’ compliance experience in a highly regulated industry.
  • Specific experience in cannabis cultivation/manufacturing operations strongly preferred.
  • Experience in seed-to-sale software programs (BioTrack, METRC, MJ Freeway, etc.) required.
  • Experience leading inspections and completing corrective action plans.

7. Business-to-Business Salesperson

You may have sales experience that could be put to use at a cannabis business. Salespeople call on new prospects and existing accounts to highlight a grower’s products to recreational and medical dispensaries and distinguish the products from others. They identify potential clients, build relationships, set sales goals, monitor competition, create sales materials and make live presentations.

Pay Range: $35,000 to $60,000 plus commission

Job Qualifications:

  • Minimum six months to one year of sales in the cannabis industry preferred, not required
  • Minimum of one to two years proven track record in business-to-business sales
  • Strong knowledge of cannabis and cannabis related merchandise
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Bachelor’s degree preferred, not required

There are various online sources that offer cannabis education required for certifications that may be needed for some of these jobs.

Completion of paid training programs for entry-level jobs in the legal marijuana industry may or may not impact your hireability. Be sure to do your homework before plunking down money to take a class on something you might learn on the job for free.

Katherine Snow Smith is a Senior Writer for The Penny Hoarder. Former staff writer Lisa McGreevy contributed to this report.