After reading this guide on the top-five, cannabis-related degree programs in the United States, you should have a much better understanding of what cannabis careers are available and what route to take in pursuing them.
We believe it was Confucius who first said:
“The man who claims it cannot be done should not criticize the man who is actually doing it.”
Whether or not that’s entirely true or more attributable to George Bernard Shaw is a debate for another day (or post).
What’s not for another day, however, is how relevant that saying is for the aspiring cannabis student, who’s planning on being a major player in the booming industry.
Dispensaries, research and development (R&D) companies, and healthcare-related firms the whole world ‘round are on a feeding frenzy when it comes to hiring individuals with cannabis-related experience.
And now more than ever, individuals with recognized cannabis-related degrees from top universities as well.
But which programs are actually worth their weight in green gold and which are all hype?
Read on to not only see which programs stand out from others, but also how to best leverage your experience and soon-to-have knowledge of attaining a lucrative and fulfilling career in the biz!
2 Universities for Cannabis Careers
Northern Michigan University
This was the first ‘real’ university in North America to offer a cannabis-centric undergraduate degree program to the masses beginning in 2017.
It’s important to note that NMU follows in the footsteps of Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, and the University of Sydney, among others, who have for decades offered research-heavy curricula to both undergrad and postgrad students.
NMU’s program is proving to be more than meets the eye and is not a rubber stamp certification for the guy or gal who has a fleeting fancy in the field.
What NMU offers that’s extremely relevant to cannabis education is its STEM (science, tech, engineering and mathematics) programs, with courses in organic chemistry, biostatics, gas and liquid chromatography, and lab-based research as an absolute must for aspiring cannabis research professionals.
The program’s stated outcome is to have all graduates be fully qualified lab technicians able to analyze the medicinal benefits of THC and CBD as well as perform R&D tasks as needed.
Still, candidates should not be put off as this degree can be highly rewarding. Here’s what we think:
- Financial Outcome: starting salaries can be north of $70K
- Fulfillment: immediate impact on professionalizing the cannabis space
- Rewarding: immediate impact in developing drugs or other protocols to treat, and eventually beat, hard-to-defeat illnesses and possible contributing to some of the world’s best cannabis strains.
Any nascent college applicant, be they a career switcher with 20 years of experience or a passionate ‘kid’ straight out of high school, will have come across this university after a quick Google search.
While it may have flown under the radar since 1995 (for obvious, regulatory reasons) as a medicinal marijuana buyers’ club in Oakland, California, the university was actually founded by a career switcher in 2007.
NOTE: Even though this is the ‘oldest’ marijuana-specific uni in North America, its apparently still focused on offering flexible learning solutions – solutions that may be not as common within older bureaucratic Universities.
In following this model, Oak U. offers learning and certification plans both online and in-class, and can tailor programs to individual learners, of which, presently number over 40,000 from all over the world.
Since its founding, Oak U. has had a grassroots appeal (no pun intended) to the underground experienced grower who is in need of documentation or some sort of “official” legitimacy around the knowledge they’ve gained. And today it still draws experienced growers from all over.
Oak U. also appeals to business-oriented types and offers a wide range of affordable CannaBusiness programs. Here is what we think:
- Financial: While these programs are a little more ‘high-level’ and will not immediately enable one to go from backyard botanist to cannabis extraction technician, they do help individuals get certified as master growers who can pull in between $80,000 to $100,000 per year
- Fulfillment: Oak U. maintains its mission and founding principles, which all grew out of the belief that medicinal marijuana can help those suffering from cancer or other ailments. Therefore, they offers courses in civics and law that can help the cannapreneur continue the long, hard fight toward world-wide decriminalization
- Rewarding: In keeping with this long-standing belief that education can lead toward legality, and given the university’s modular approach to learning (i.e., build your own degree or certification plan), folks can take any number of classes ranging from growing to warehousing to advocacy and return at each and every stage of their career to keep up to date on the changing regulatory environment
The Ivy League for Cannabis Careers? Obviously.
Yale (and UPenn)
While not entirely cannabis or marijuana accredited just yet, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania are encouraging their MBA and doctorate-level students to follow their passion, start clubs, write papers and pursue research in the cannabis field.
Yale in particular boasts a long history of encouraging cannapreneurs to go their own way, with one former student already amassing a fortune through venture capital initiatives worth $140 million.
Also, the Yale School of Medicine is particularly keen on maintaining national and international focus around the potential benefits of this plant through various psychiatry programs, alumni-backed talks, and student clubs.
NOTE: UPenn is also getting students onboard and even has fellows coming back to partner around nascent startups and incubators that promise to make waves in law, politics, finance, and more on a global-scale.
The Ivy Leagues might not be for everyone, but they are certainly more open to the idea of backing MBA and doctoral-level candidates to investigate the cannabis industry and come back as mentors to help drive professionalism in the industry from coast-to-coast.
Here’s what we think:
- Financial: These courses and universities are expensive upfront, but the network that is growing around cannabis at such storied institutions will more than pay for itself, especially with venture capitalists reeling in more than $100 million and helping to launch small start-ups from their alma maters
- Fulfillment: Receiving mentorship and becoming a marijuana mentor means that everyone stands to benefit regardless of their degree type, which is to say, ‘It’s not about what you know, but who you know.’
- Rewarding: These programs are all about paying it back (i.e., returning to give TEDx talks) and paying it forward (i.e., funding like-minded cannapreneurs), which is a win-win for everyone in an industry that needs as much professionalization as quickly as possible
The Hogwarts of Cannabis Degrees for Cannabis Careers? We think so.
Just as Yale and UPenn command a premium from folks willing to buy into the adage that ‘You get what you pay for’, the same actually holds true for online certifications offered by THC University.
THC U. has been around since before the most recent green boom, offering certifications in 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month long programs. These are a great place for young, cash-strapped enthusiasts to see whether they really, truly want to pursue a much more costly 4-year degree program.
The variety of courses are basic and include Marijuana 101, Grow Basics, Budtender Basics, and some regulatory courses for Colorado and Washington State (when they will offer California or Massachusetts is unknown at present). THC U. is self-paced, which is great for the person looking to, again, see if this is an industry they want to pursue.
Here’s what we think:
- Financial: Again, these certifications hold very little clout, but could signal to a potential future employers one’s intent to continue always learning about the industry
- Fulfillment: These courses can also help the nascent lawyer or consultant looking to break into the industry and get an idea of what cannabis is all about, but without overextending oneself financially and then having to backpedal at cost
- Rewarding: These courses are also good OJT, or on-the-job, training modules that start-ups can have their new employees take to better understand how they fit into the cannabis retail, research, or agricultural space
Cannabis Training University
The name says it all: this is the place of useful learning for anyone looking to bolster or add on to their growing body of knowledge.
CTU offers a myriad of courses to add a bit more clout to the industry professional already in (canna)business for him- or herself.
Basic courses include How To Grow Marijuana and Marijuana as Medicine, but scale quickly to more nuanced trainings for the edibles chef or lawyer already practicing the trade.
CTU is, arguably, a step-up from THC U. in that it advertises, quite clearly, that it’s not in the business of providing accreditation, but, instead, helping the grower, cooker, career-specialist, doctor, or budtender take his or her game to the next level with a bounty of relevant and timely course offerings
Here’s what we’ve concluded:
- Financial: again, CTU is one of those ‘you-get-what-you-paid-for’ offerings and is a bit pricier than THC, but, it’s based out of Colorado and will save the budding cannapreneur in the long-run, given the exploding industry
NOTE: consider for example, that an edibles chef makes over $80,000 per year, but also has to be careful around pricing and protecting his or her bottom-line by offering employees training that won’t break the piggy bank.
- Fulfillment: whether taking a specific course or a more basic offering, CTU training materials are easily applicable to retail, dispensary operations, management administration, and any other creative or ancillary businesses that the cannapreneur would like to explore
- Rewarding: investing in these online courses also mean increasing the reputation of the industry writ large, especially when the owner and operator of a small shop can proudly display his or her certificate in their own small business
What University and Cannabis Career Should You Choose?
Many cannapreneurs may turn their noses up at the thought of having to go back to school, what, with their 20-plus years of industry experience, but that is just what it takes to make the leap from a small-time grower or dispensary owner to one competing for big-time contracts and deals.
That said, it’s not necessary to go into debt (initially, anyway) and sign up for a four year course. Rather, take time first to explore the space through legitimate offerings (at a fraction of the cost) online or at specific cannabis universities and then decide whether getting a STEM or law degree is worth it to you.
And when in doubt, remember the sage wisdom of our friend Confucius who espoused a multi-stage approach to learning:
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
So avoid the bitter and get a leg up on the competition by pursuing one of the many diploma, degree, and certification programs out there!
Your Californian Cannabis Providers,