Getting Schooled in Marijuana for a Career in Cannabis

Marijuana is going mainstream. And this means the cannabis industry is working hard to shed its old stoner image of people growing cannabis in their closets, not really knowing what they’re doing and hoping for the best.

With medical cannabis legal in 30 states, marijuana companies of all kinds are facing the same decisions that affect the success of any business. They’re looking for the most qualified employees for every position in the company.

To fill the growing demand for skilled workers, a long and growing list of educational institutions are offering certificates and degree programs in cannabis-related fields. Now, attending a school or course focused on cannabis may be just the ticket to a well-paying new career.


The cannabis industry includes a multitude of different kinds of businesses including growers, processors and cannabis consultants who advise customers for dispensaries and delivery services. Other businesses that may work with the cannabis industry like hiring firms, financial services, law firms, health care providers and others are also looking for training in cannabis.

All of these kinds of companies need staff who understand the particular needs of the cannabis industry. And this is especially important at a time when marijuana is still illegal on the federal level and in numerous states.

To build credibility and function on the same level as other similar businesses, cannabis entrepreneurs are looking for professional-level staff with certificates or degrees in fields either directly or indirectly related to cannabis cultivation, processing and many other aspects of managing a cannabis business.

In 2017, cannabis concerns across the country hired around 230,000 workers to fill a variety of positions. If you’d like to join them, here’s a look at ways to get the cannabis-related education you need to succeed.

Traditional College & Universities Offering Cannabis Courses

Some colleges and universities offer either degree or certificate programs with a focus on cannabis.

The first and best-known of these is at Northern Michigan University, which has a complete undergraduate degree in medicinal plant chemistry. The program is a rigorous course of study that includes courses in chemistry, biology and botany as well as cannabis entrepreneurship. Students who complete the program can also do post-graduate work focused on plant chemistry and biology.

A number of accredited schools also offer marijuana-related courses in a variety of departments. The University of Washington School of Medicine offers a course for medical students on medical cannabis and chronic pain. The University of Denver has a law school course on representing a client in the marijuana industry.

Other schools include cannabis studies in agriculture programs, such as the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which has a series of courses on sustainable food farming. Colorado State University’s seed technology training also includes cannabis among many other plants and seeds. And Oregon State University has a Master Gardener curriculum that focuses on plant cultivation and propagation, including cannabis.

Cannabis-Focused Schools & Training Programs

Along with traditional college programs, students can also prepare for a career in cannabis through marijuana-specific schools and training programs. These institutions offer courses and certificates both online and in traditional classroom settings.

California’s Oaksterdam University calls itself the nation’s first and most respected cannabis college. It has a long list of online and classroom courses on cannabis cultivation and entrepreneurship.

Many of the professors and school administrators have been on the front lines of cannabis legalization and other marijuana issues for decades. And they’re well-versed in all aspects of the plant and in cannabis law.

Then there are online-only schools like:

These schools offer certifications in a variety of cannabis-related fields for growers, dispensary and health care workers, and entrepreneurs. Students around the world can take these courses for use in a variety of cannabis-related positions.

Professional Organizations Are Getting in on Marijuana Education

Some professional organizations offer cannabis-specific training courses, too:

  • Cannabis nursing is a fast-growing subspecialty within the nursing field. The American Cannabis Nursing Association offers its own cannabis training program for nurses and nursing students who want to work with patients using medical cannabis.


  • The National Cannabis Industry Association, whose mission is to elevate standards in the cannabis industry, also offers its members opportunities for seminars, workshops and conferences on a variety of cannabis-related issues.
  • Americans for Safe Access (ASA) also offers a Cannabis Care Certification for medical professionals and anyone who works with medical cannabis. ASA’s Cannabis Care Certification satisfies continuing medical education requirements for doctors, nurses and therapists, and also adds professional qualifications for dispensary workers and caregivers working with patients who use cannabis.

For many people, cannabis still carries the stigma of its illegal past. But today’s cannabis industry is working hard to change those perceptions. Hiring professionally trained workers with the skills and qualifications of other mainstream enterprises can help cannabis businesses of all kinds grow and prosper—and create new opportunities for students in all kinds of fields.

Photo credit: Stefan Lorentz

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.


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