Layoffs, budget cuts, ever-increasing competition — the recent headlines for the cannabis industry aren’t exactly awe-inspiring. But that’s what grabs our attention, right? These dismal headlines have prompted some to ask, “is there still opportunity in cannabis?” In 2020, the industry is at its largest yet. States are continuing to legalize, adult-use sales are booming and new jobs become available every day. 

Although competition in cannabis is growing, there are still plenty of cannabis careers to pursue. New cannabis industry jobs are becoming available each day. Cannabis industry hiring is at an all-time high for many positions, making this the perfect time to join the industry. 

What type of cannabis industry careers are available?

Cannabis Cultivation workchart - Vangst

Plant-touching roles (meaning you work directly with cannabis) typically fall into one of the following verticals: cultivation, extraction, manufacturing and/or retail. Within cultivation, there are trimmers, growers, grow leads, grow managers, directors of cultivation and more. If you’re interested in growing cannabis, this is where you want to look. If you don’t have an educational background in horticulture or a similar field, you can start as a trimmer or post harvester and work your way up to growing. You could start at a grower position if your educational background directly relates to the skills necessary to cultivate cannabis. 

Cannabis Extraction Workchart - Vangst

After the cannabis plant properly matures, it is cured and ready for processing. It then moves to the lab/extraction or manufacturing teams. Cannabis careers that fall within the lab/extraction vertical include chemists, compliance managers, quality managers, extraction managers and directors of extraction. A chemistry or related background is usually preferred for the extraction, quality control and chemist positions. Prioritizing safety and strict lab standards are a must, as cannabis extraction is a dangerous process if not performed correctly and quality assurance is a requirement for proper labeling and adherence to local laws. Compliance managers don’t need a chemistry background. Instead, they focus on a complete understanding of the local and federal compliance regulations to ensure a business is fully-compliant. 

Manufacturing cannabis workchart - Vangst

The manufacturing sector of cannabis packages the product for sale in compliance with local and federal regulations. Common cannabis careers within manufacturing include packagers, production technicians, production supervisors, and directors or vice presidents of manufacturing. If you’re interested in manufacturing, the packager role is typically an entry-level position that offers the opportunity to advance into production technicians or supervisor roles. An educational background in operations management and production is preferred for mid- to upper-level positions. 

An edibles specialist, edibles chef or edibles packager are additional roles that crossover into manufacturing. Professional kitchen experience is preferred and strict adherence to packaging and dosage regulations is required. 

retail cannabis workchart - Vangst

Once the product is packaged and ready for sale, it hits the shelves for retail or medical purchase. Retail positions include budtenders, general managers, merchandise planners, directors of retail and vice presidents of retail. Budtending is a common entry-level position for those interested in directly interacting with the customer or patient. Budtending careers often require a working knowledge of cannabis and offer room for advancement into the general manager position. Roles for merchandise planners, directors and vice presidents of retail often look for a background in retail management or related field. 

The above positions are some of the most common plant-touching roles, but countless cannabis careers exist outside of the cannabis verticals. Businesses within the cannabis industry operate similarly to other industries, meaning they need marketing, tech, sales, admin, finance, lawyers and a whole host of other roles to operate successfully. Those interested in working in the cannabis industry can expand their opportunities by looking at supporting corporate roles that align with one’s background and experience. 

What do common cannabis careers pay?

how much can I make as a cannabis grower - Vangst

With talks of budgeting woes and layoffs, are cannabis careers still paying well? While a handful of companies are restructuring, there are still plenty of cannabis companies hiring competitively. The adult-use market is booming and companies who’ve positioned themselves to scale effectively are doing just that. With states continuing to legalize, new markets are opening up and opportunities arise in turn. Multiple states are considering both adult-use and medical legalization in 2020, a promising sign that the industry is far from slowing down.

Salaries vary greatly in the industry, depending on the location, position, prior experience and the company. From the information gathered in our 2019 salary guide, entry-level hourly positions like budtending, packaging, growing, trimming and post-harvesting make anywhere between $11 – $19+ per hour. With the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 per hour in 2020, common hourly cannabis positions remain between a few dollars to over double the federal minimum. 

Managerial positions like grow managers, quality managers, extraction managers, production supervisors and general retail managers average between $40,000 – $80,000+. Upper-level director or vice president positions typically fall between $80,000 – $120,000+. For a detailed look at the salary ranges for each position, check out our 2019 salary guide.

Non-plant touching salaries in marketing, tech, admin, finance, etc. vary greatly depending on the position and level of experience. Typically, these salaries are on-par with the national average for the role across other industries. If you’re interested in pursuing a cannabis industry career, there are multiple lucrative career paths available.

How can I start working in the cannabis industry?

cannabis careers - Vangst

Cannabis is unlike any other industry. Most states have a highly regulated system in place for both how the industry operates and how businesses employ their staff. Because the industry is not federally regulated, employment qualifications vary by state. For example, California has a 21+ age requirement in place to work in the industry. Colorado, however, requires a MED Employment License to work in plant-touching roles. Because the requirements vary greatly by state, we’ve created an online tool to search the criteria to join the cannabis industry in your region. 

If you’re unable to meet your state requirements for cannabis employment, you can explore options within the hemp/CBD industry, or consider non-plant touching roles. Hemp and CBD positions don’t require a badge because the plant contains an insignificant amount of THC. Non-plant touching roles like sales reps, developers, HR managers and other corporate positions don’t typically require a badge for employment either, as they don’t physically “touch” cannabis. 

How can I find cannabis industry careers?

If you’re ready to start applying and meet your state’s requirements, you can browse full time positions with leading companies in the industry. If you’re interested in trying a new career path in cannabis, Vangst GIGS connects job seekers with temporary opportunities in positions like trimming, budtending, packaging and more. Many jobs on our GIGS platform have the opportunity for full-time, permanent placement. Vangst GIGS is a great resource for trying your hand at a new role and finding your place in the cannabis industry. 

Networking is another valuable resource for uncovering opportunities in the industry. Attending industry events like MJBizCon, Vangst Career Fairs and CannaGather meet-ups can help introduce you to those hiring in cannabis. The cannabis industry is constantly looking for new talent. If you’re passionate about working in the industry, you can make it happen with the resources available and a drive to make your dreams a reality.

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