The highest-paying jobs in the cannabis industry

March 12, 2020, 3:45 PM UTC

If you’re considering a career change, and looking for a fast-growing field, think about this: The legal-marijuana business is projected to add 410,000 new jobs this year—and that may be a conservative estimate. Currently, pot is legal for both recreational and medical use in 11 states and Washington, D.C., while 35 states allow medical marijuana only. By the end of 2020, 10 more states will vote on whether to legalize it, which could further speed up the industry’s expansion.

No experience with Mary Jane? No problem. As established firms keep growing and startups proliferate, they need people with the same kinds of experience—from lawyers to web developers to delivery truck drivers—that other companies need. Because the business is relatively new, cannabis-specific knowledge isn’t usually required, and many skills are readily transferable from elsewhere.

Retail outlets, for instance, need budtenders (the title comes from bartender, and the job is similar). A strong background in customer service is a must, but when it comes to familiarity with the product, employers will train you.

To help sort out what talent is in most demand now, and pay ranges for those jobs, Denver-based cannabis recruiting firm Vangst published a salary guide that includes state-by-state job hunting tips. According to Vangst, specialized, hands-on roles (often referred to as “plant-facing” or “plant-touching” jobs) fall into four main categories: cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, and retail.

As in any industry, salaries vary by geographic location, experience, and other factors. Here’s a sampling of current titles and pay ranges.


  • Director of cultivation: $59,800 to $118,600
  • Grow manager: $43,400 to $93,400
  • Grower/horticulturalist: $13.10 to $19.80 an hour


  • Director of extraction: $75,000 to $119,500
  • Extraction manager: $51,500 to $96,000
  • Quality manager: $51,500 to $89,000
  • Compliance manager: $49,500 to $122,000
  • Chemist: $51,600 to $81,500


  • V.P. of manufacturing: $107,000 to $167,000
  • Production supervisor: $44,200 to $77,500
  • Edibles specialist: $35,300 to $63,000


  • V.P. of retail: $80,000 to $152,000
  • Director of retail: $76,700 to $124,200
  • General manager: $35,000 to $90,600
  • Budtender: $12.50 to $18 an hour

Let’s say you’re aiming to transfer your manufacturing or retailing acumen over to the cannabis trade. These employers advertise on the big job boards, hire recruiters, and comb through social media for candidates just like everybody else, so finding a job in the marijuana business is no different from job hunting in any other industry, with one slight exception: Meeting and greeting people who already work in the business matters even more.

Showing up at cannabis-industry conferences and events, which are easy to find online, is “crucial,” says Karson Humiston, CEO of Vangst. “Job seekers can get right in front of the leading companies, which can drastically cut down on the time it takes to find a job.” Good to know.

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