There Are Still Plenty of Unfilled Positions in the Cannabis Industry

by Stu Waters,

Despite a rough 2020, the cannabis industry has proven itself resilient and valuable. As it matures, newcomers might feel like job opportunities are becoming more scarce.

In reality, however, the industry is at its largest yet. States are continuing to legalize cannabis consumption, and recreational sales are climbing upwards. New jobs are becoming available every day. At the same time, cannabis salaries are increasing in great leaps and bounds. The $31 billion industry now boasts more than 20 positions that regularly deliver six-figure incomes.

As pay increases, so does the competitiveness of the job market. We’ve identified some of the best current opportunities to work in the cannabis industry according to availability, salary, and more.

Plant-Oriented Job Roles

There are four broad categories of job roles that deal directly with the cannabis plants. Candidates with the right backgrounds can leverage their knowledge to optimize processes in these principal areas:

1. Cultivation

Cultivation jobs in the cannabis industry include growing, trimming, and harvesting cannabis plants in an industrial grow environment. Since these jobs deal directly with cultivating cannabis, job candidates with a background in horticulture are likely to stand out from the rest.

However, there are great entry-level opportunities for trimmers and post harvesters to work their way up to management-level cultivation positions. This is good news, as cultivation managers make an average of $112,650 per year.

2. Extraction

Extraction jobs in the cannabis industry include all of the steps required to turn commercial-grade cannabis into the wide assortment of oils, tinctures, and topicals that cannabis users consume. The best job candidates for extraction positions have chemistry backgrounds. In particular, candidates who specialize in organic chemistry have the best chance of putting their expertise to use directly.

Chemists, extraction managers, quality control specialists, and compliance officers are all involved with the extraction process. Compliance officers are the only ones who don’t necessarily need a chemistry background to excel since their job focuses on keeping the operation compliant with local and federal regulations.

Leadership positions in cannabis extraction earn high salaries. Directors earn an average of $118,500 per year. However, unlike cultivation and retail, it’s unlikely that a candidate can obtain a leadership position without the right educational background.

3. Manufacturing

Manufacturing jobs in the cannabis industry include packagers, production technicians, and production supervisors. Packagers make up the entry-level position, which focuses on manually organizing and arranging cannabis products for shipment and sale. Middle- and upper-level management positions typically require an educational background in operations management and production.

Edible manufacturers also hire specialists with professional kitchen experience. Topical manufacturers look for candidates with chemistry and cosmetic science backgrounds.

4. Retail

Retail jobs in the cannabis industry start with budtenders and include store managers, merchandise planners, and director-level positions. Budtending is among the most popular entry-level positions in the cannabis industry, and it offers ample room for advancement into many other parts of the industry.

Merchandising directors make an average of $130,000 per year. They primarily focus on working with inventory managers to optimize product selection for cannabis retailers. Supply chain managers can earn similar figures helping retailers maintain steady inventory and keep operations running.


What About Non-Plant-Oriented Job Positions?

Cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, and retail are all exciting fields for cannabis job candidates, but they are not the only ones. Cannabis businesses need the same kinds of administrative support and leadership that every other business does, and some of these roles are among the best-paying in the field.

In fact, out of every job position in the cannabis industry, IT directors earn the most. The average salary for a cannabis industry Director of IT in 2020 is $217,000. Since so many of a cannabis company’s success relies on compliance, efficient communication, and the ability to automate time-consuming processes, it makes sense that IT jobs would take the lead.

Marketing and finance also include a variety of highly sought-after positions. Marketers need to be able to demonstrate they can work effectively in a highly regulated environment and achieve results even when most traditional marketing techniques are explicitly prohibited by state law. Finance employees are valuable because of the amount of effort that most cannabis companies put into obtaining investment.

In general, non-plant-oriented job positions in the cannabis industry follow the same patterns as their non-cannabis counterparts. Salaries tend to be on-par with those outside the cannabis industry, and the qualifications are generally the same – although having cannabis-specific experience is always a plus.

Greenbits is leading the field of cannabis retail software but also is a great example of companies servicing the cannabis industry. To see the positions open at Greenbits visit our Careers Page.

Regulatory Experience Remains a Top Qualifier for Cannabis Jobs

Overall, cannabis industry employers are understandably anxious about regulatory compliance. Regulations can change at a moment’s notice and suddenly create obstacles on every level of the organization. Job candidates with experience operating in highly regulated industries (like finance, healthcare, tobacco, and alcohol) will have a step up over people coming in from unregulated backgrounds.

Understanding the fine details of regulatory approval can make or break candidate qualification. In some states, employees in certain roles must obtain state licensing before accepting a job offer with a cannabis company. 

For instance, Colorado requires plant-touching employees to obtain a MED badge before starting work. Many states prohibit people with criminal records from participating in leadership roles in the cannabis industry.

The better a job candidate’s understanding of regulatory compliance is, the more compelling a case that candidate can make for taking a job in the cannabis industry. The costs of non-compliance are high, and cannabis employers want to make sure they can trust their employees to follow the rules laid out by their state governments.