So you want to be a professional cannabis cultivator?
Working in cannabis cultivation can be an exciting way to bring your passion for the plant to life. For Oaksterdam University horticulture students, it’s a chance to apply knowledge gained through OU’s horticulture classes in the real world.
Whether you desire to grow at home or make a career out of cannabis cultivation, getting a job in a commercial indoor facility, greenhouse or outdoor farm can give you invaluable experience in plant care.
If your goal is to become an entrepreneur and open your own licensed cannabis grow facility, working in an existing operation will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the processes, equipment, staffing, and management involved in running a professional grow so you can decide whether taking the plunge is right for you.
What kind of jobs are available in cannabis cultivation?
There are a wide variety of job opportunities in cannabis cultivation. Entry-level jobs include cannabis cultivation technicians and trimmers. From there, you can rise through the ranks to manage a facility.
There are also positions for those who have specialized knowledge in the hands-on botany of the plant, such as breeders, tissue culture technicians, and integrated pest managers.
Here’s a look at each type of position available in the cannabis cultivation industry as well as average salaries.
Cannabis Cultivation Technician
A cannabis cultivation technician is a skilled professional within the cannabis industry who focuses on the practical aspects of cannabis cultivation. Working under the guidance of a cannabis agronomist or master grower, the cannabis technician is responsible for hands-on tasks involved in the cultivation process. Their duties may include planting and germinating seeds, cloning plants, transplanting seedlings, maintaining and adjusting environmental conditions like temperature and humidity, watering and feeding plants, monitoring for pests and diseases, and performing general maintenance on the cultivation facility. Cannabis technicians play a vital role in ensuring the day-to-day health and well-being of cannabis plants, thereby contributing to the overall success and productivity of the cannabis cultivation operation. Their expertise and attention to detail are crucial in producing high-quality cannabis products for the market.
The median salary for a cannabis cultivation technician is $27,450, up 4% from last year.
A cannabis trimmer, also known as a bud trimmer or trim technician, is a specialized worker in the cannabis industry responsible for meticulously manicuring cannabis buds after harvest. The trimming process involves carefully removing excess leaves, stems, and other unwanted plant material from the buds to enhance their appearance and potency. Using precise hand trimming techniques or automated trimming machines, the cannabis trimmer ensures that the final product is visually appealing and free from unwanted elements while preserving the valuable trichomes that contain cannabinoids and terpenes. Attention to detail is essential in this role to maintain the product’s quality and market appeal. Cannabis trimmers play a crucial part in the post-harvest process, contributing to the overall value and consumer experience of the final cannabis product.
A job as a trimmer pays an average of $36,200 a year, according to CannaBiz Team’s 2023 Cannabis Industry Salary Guide. That’s up three percent from last year.
A cannabis agronomist is a specialized professional in the field of agriculture who focuses on the cultivation and management of cannabis plants. With a deep understanding of botany, horticulture, and agricultural practices, the cannabis agronomist plays a crucial role in optimizing the growth and quality of cannabis crops. They are responsible for selecting suitable cannabis varieties, ensuring proper soil nutrition and irrigation, implementing pest and disease management strategies, and monitoring environmental conditions to create an ideal growing environment. Furthermore, cannabis agronomists stay abreast of the latest research and advancements in cannabis cultivation techniques, applying their expertise to promote sustainable and efficient practices while adhering to local regulations and quality standards. Ultimately, their expertise contributes to the production of high-quality cannabis products for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
The median salary for a cannabis agronomist is $97,900, with the high end of the pay scale at $112,400, up 3 percent from last year.
A cannabis plant breeder is a skilled and knowledgeable professional within the cannabis industry who focuses on the controlled and intentional crossbreeding of cannabis plants to develop new and improved genetic varieties. With a deep understanding of plant genetics, botany, and horticulture, the cannabis plant breeder aims to create cannabis strains with specific desirable traits, such as higher potency, unique flavors, enhanced medicinal properties, or increased resistance to pests and diseases. They meticulously select and cross-pollinate parent plants, carefully tracking and analyzing the offspring’s characteristics to identify the most promising traits for further breeding. Through rigorous and iterative selection processes, cannabis breeders contribute significantly to the diversity and advancement of the cannabis market, providing consumers with an ever-expanding array of tailored and specialized cannabis strains. Their work serves as the foundation for the continuous evolution and innovation in the cannabis industry.
The average salary for a plant breeder in 2023 is $84,750, up 4% from 2022.
Integrated Pest Manager
A cannabis integrated pest manager is a skilled professional in the cannabis industry who specializes in identifying, preventing, and managing pest-related issues in cannabis cultivation facilities. With a comprehensive understanding of plant health, entomology, and integrated pest management (IPM) principles, their primary objective is to maintain a pest-free environment while minimizing the use of pesticides and promoting ecological balance. The integrated pest manager conducts regular monitoring to detect early signs of pest infestations, identifies the specific pests affecting the cannabis crops, and implements a multifaceted approach to control their populations. This approach may include introducing beneficial insects, using organic pesticides, implementing cultural practices, and optimizing environmental conditions to deter pests. By employing sustainable and environmentally friendly methods, the cannabis integrated pest manager ensures the health and vitality of the cannabis plants while safeguarding the overall ecosystem and contributing to the production of high-quality, pest-free cannabis products.
Integrated pest managers made an average of $75,800 in 2023, up 3% from the prior year.
Tissue Culture Technicians & Managers
A cannabis tissue culture technician is a specialized professional in the cannabis industry who focuses on the propagation and maintenance of cannabis plants through tissue culture techniques. With expertise in plant biology, sterile laboratory procedures, and tissue culture methodologies, the tissue culture technician is responsible for initiating cultures from plant tissues, such as meristems or callus cells, in aseptic conditions. They meticulously monitor and care for the cultures, ensuring proper nutrient and hormone supplementation to encourage the growth of healthy and disease-free plantlets. Additionally, tissue culture technicians play a vital role in cloning elite cannabis strains, preserving genetic purity, and mass-producing uniform plantlets for cultivation.
On the other hand, a tissue culture manager in the cannabis industry is a higher-level professional who oversees and coordinates the entire tissue culture laboratory. With advanced knowledge in plant genetics, laboratory management, and tissue culture protocols, the tissue culture manager designs and implements strategies to optimize the efficiency and productivity of tissue culture operations. They lead a team of technicians, providing guidance, training, and quality control measures to ensure the successful production of disease-free and genetically stable cannabis plantlets. The tissue culture manager collaborates with other departments, such as research and development or cultivation, to identify specific genetic traits needed for the cannabis cultivation program. Additionally, they stay updated on advancements in tissue culture technologies, exploring innovative approaches to improve the overall tissue culture process and contribute to the continuous growth and success of the cannabis industry.
A typical salary for a tissue culture technician ranges between $59,800 and $88,900, up 4 percent from last year, and a tissue culture manager makes typically makes $78,600 to $97,600 annually, up 2 percent.
A Director of Cannabis Cultivation is a high-level managerial role within the cannabis industry, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the cultivation process. With extensive experience in horticulture, agronomy, and cannabis cultivation techniques, the Director ensures the efficient and successful growth of cannabis plants from seed to harvest. They develop and implement cultivation strategies, manage cultivation teams, and maintain compliance with local regulations and quality standards. The Director of Cannabis Cultivation is also involved in selecting and sourcing genetics, optimizing cultivation environments, and coordinating with other departments to streamline operations and maximize productivity.
The average salary for a director of cultivation ranges from $110,000 on the low end to a high of $195,700, up 7 percent from last year.
Vice President of Cannabis Cultivation
A VP of Cannabis Cultivation holds an even higher executive position within a cannabis company, typically overseeing multiple cultivation facilities or a vast cannabis cultivation operation. With a strong background in cannabis cultivation, business management, and strategic planning, the VP of Cannabis Cultivation plays a key role in developing the overall cultivation strategy and direction of the company. They collaborate closely with executive leadership to align cultivation goals with the company’s broader objectives, make critical decisions regarding expansion and resource allocation, and implement best practices to ensure consistent and high-quality cannabis production across all facilities. The VP of Cannabis Cultivation also represents the company in industry events and engages with stakeholders to foster partnerships and drive innovation in the cultivation sector.
Pay at this level varies widely from a low of $175,000 to a high of $337,600 on average, with the median salary at $256,300, according to CannaBiz Team’s report. Pay is up 8 percent from last year, the highest jump of any position in the cannabis cultivation industry.
Your Journey in Cannabis
Oaksterdam University prepares students for a wide range of jobs in cannabis cultivation. Our Horiticulture Certification Course offers a broad foundation for employment in a professional cannabis cultivation facility. OU also offers a Home Grow course, for those who want to learn the tricks of the trade for successful amateur harvests.
Learn more about our Horticulture Courses here.