While the cannabis industry has certainly seen its share of ups and downs over the last decade, and we know some of the established markets are struggling lately – but despite all that, it’s still a growing and relatively stable industry, and there are thousands of jobs available in many different sectors such as cultivation, retail, legal, business, science, and everything in between.
According to the 2022 Leafly Jobs Report published at the end of last year, the cannabis industry creates an average of 280 new jobs per day. But as the industry grows, so does the competition to get a job. Even in my sector (writing/journalism/media), a lot of cannabis companies are requiring years of experience and bachelor’s degrees or similar education levels before even considering your application.
So that means hopeful cannabis professionals are going back to school; and universities, colleges, and trade schools in the USA and Canada are adapting their curriculums to accommodate this multi-billion-dollar industry. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top-rated schools and courses to give you the edge you need over other applicants.
If we think back a decade or so ago, when recreational cannabis was first legalized Colorado and Washington and the mainstream media really started to pick up on how big of an industry this could truly become. While there has always been a demand for pot, the idea of getting a formal education on a cannabis-related subject still seemed farfetched.
Fast forward to today, and we have both a huge demand for individuals with knowledge and experience of industry topics, as well as fierce competition while the market continues to grow. New jobs, and new job categories, are popping up left and right – from chemists and lab technicians to medical professionals to marketing professionals, legal experts, and even budtenders and cannabis sommelier-type roles, the possibilities are almost endless. But, like with any other career choice, there are many things a person needs to know before they can do one of these jobs correctly.
To compensate, we’re seeing more educational programs offering courses and workshops to help cannabis industry professionals get ahead of the curve. There are dozens of schools to choose from, many of them rivaling each other so pricing is often competitive and affordable. Many of these institutions also offer both in-person and online classes, and some are even accredited by their states.
Because this industry is so competitive now, compared to say, 5 years ago, it’s much more difficult to get a decent job working with weed. So the option of higher education is great news for anyone who has a lot of experience in another somewhat related field (like finance or healthcare, for example), but lacks the familiarity needed with cannabis.
Schools and programs
There are dozens of learning institutions dedicated specifically to cannabis education, and some are even accredited! We rounded up the top five below.
Founded in 2007, Oaksterdam is known in the industry as being the first official cannabis educational institution. While they started off very small, they have since expanded to offer over 25 in-depth courses, available to students in 110 countries and counting. Some of their most popular classes including horticulture, business, extraction, and believe it or not, budtending. They also have a variety of elective courses for curious consumers who just want to learn more for themselves, some of which are free. For those who are working towards degrees and workforce education, they offer both self-paced and fast-paced courses, so students can work at whatever speed is best for them.
Cannabis Training University
Cannabis Training University has also been around for the well over a decade. CTU was founded in 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Similar to the previous listing, CTU focuses largely on “frontline industry jobs” such as cultivation, extraction, and retail (again, budtending). Their courses can be completed entirely online and they offer very affordable tuition rates. Ed Rosenthal, Tommy Chong, and entrepreneurs featured on Shark Tank have recommended CTU as a great way for anyone to learn about many different cannabis industry-related topics.
Another Colorado-based school, what sets this learning institution apart from the rest is that it’s formally accredited by the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Private Occupational School Board. They offer a few very specified courses: phytotechnology, horticulture, business, and law, in addition to the numerous workshops and seminars they host all over the country. They currently have standalone and technical courses, and will soon begin offering online classes as well. For anyone interested in working directly for the university, you can check out their CLU training and certification options as well.
The Trichome Institute
While most other cannabis schools provide a broad range of topics and courses to choose from, The Trichome Institute takes a more unique approach by focusing on what they describe as “interpening”, or the study of terpenes and cannabinoids. By the end of this course, you should be able to know the science behind how all these compounds work and provide “connoisseur-level analysis” on different products. The Trichome Institute, which launched in 2014 and is all online, was one of the first schools to implement a cannabis-industry version of a sommelier.
Green Flower Media
Green Flower Media has been educating cannabis industry professionals since 2014, and they’re one of the best-known online platforms in the cannabis industry. They offer numerous different courses for both individuals and businesses who are looking to expand their knowledge or add new certifications to their resumes. These classes include: agriculture and horticulture, business, healthcare and medicine, law and policy, advanced cultivation technician, manufacturing agent, and training for dispensary associate positions. They have both 8-week and 24-week curriculums, and, like one other school on this list, Green Flower Media is fully accredited.
Courses and certifications
As mentioned in the previous section, there are many different avenues a person can take as far as education and career paths in the cannabis industry. It’s difficult to say exactly how many different directly-related or ancillary options there are, but some of the most popular courses and areas of study are:
Science – Cannabis is a plant, and as such, there is a lot of science involved in research and product formulation. These courses can include a wide range of subjects including extractions, testing, product development, cannabis healthcare and medicine, and more.
Legal – Topics relating to law and policy are already complicated, but even more so when it comes to cannabis and the legal landscape that is constantly shifting. These courses can help you get familiar with the basics, and learn the best ways to stay informed.
Business – Regardless of what you know about cannabis and your experience with the plant, if you want to run a successfully business, you’ll need to be savvy. And that means knowing the ins and outs of advertising, marketing, investing, and so on.
Retail – Kind of a subset of business, but retail focuses specifically on what you need to know to operate a cannabis store. These courses include everything from learning about what kind of inventory you need to budtending certifications, and everything in between.
Horticulture – Technically, cannabis can technically grow with little intervention, indoors or outdoors. But if you want high quality flower that would actually sell at a dispensary (and this matters as bottom shelf growers have been in debt and unable to sell flower for years now), then you will need to learn about cultivation techniques.
What I found quite interesting was how many of these schools offer budtending courses. It’s been a while since I’ve done retail, but it seems like the days of getting a super easy dispensary job might soon be long gone. I remember when I got a job working at a pot shop in Southern California back in 2010, my interview consisted of a few questions, all of which were related to different weights (like how much does an eighth or quarter weigh, for example).
While it may seem like an easy job, and it certainly was pretty chill back in the day, with the influx of new products, paired with all the research and positive effects the media has been sharing, we’re seeing a huge consumer base that really want to know more about the products they’re using. Which means that budtenders need to have a pretty large database of cannabis knowledge to be able to properly guide their customers.
Bottom line, whatever position you’re looking for in the cannabis industry, you will need expertise or education if you want to make the cut. In some ways, especially for those of us who have been in this world for a long time, it seems almost unnatural as the whole industry was built by the OG and legacy operators. But for those who don’t have years of experience with the plant, or a natural head for business, taking one of these classes is one of the best ways to learn more about your future dream job.
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