Twenty years ago, studying cannabis at university wasn’t even an option. Now, with cannabis acceptance and legalization running rampant throughout the majority of U.S. states, several universities and cannabis colleges are doing what was once unthinkable: offering cannabis degrees and courses to anyone wanting to journey into the cannabis industry.
Have you been thinking about studying cannabis production? Ever wanted a deeper understanding of cannabis compounds and how they work? Are you ready to switch careers and retrain to be a cannabis expert in your brand new chosen field?
As cannabis acceptance and legalization in the U.S. continues to grow, so do cannabis education opportunities — there are 75+ degrees and courses to choose from across many universities and educational institutions
Cannabis degrees and courses range from cannabis business, law, and production to cannabis science, chemistry, and biology — some online, some in the classroom
Average salaries in the cannabis industry for degree-qualified graduates can range from $40,000 to $60,000 per year
University degrees and courses aren’t always required — several jobs are available for non-degree-qualified individuals e.g. budtenders, trimmers, laborers
Job opportunities in the cannabis industry are growing and demand is strong — a 50% increase in cannabis jobs between January 2020 and January 2021 (77,300 jobs created totaling approx. 321,000)
Cannabis education space is predicted to grow going into 2022 and beyond
Which universities are offering cannabis certifications and degrees?
While cannabis acceptance and legalization across many U.S. states has increased, so has the number of universities offering cannabis courses and degrees, ranging from cannabis chemistry all the way through to cannabis production.
Here, you can discover which U.S. universities and colleges are offering cannabis classes and degrees, and which ones could suit your desire to pursue a career in the cannabis industry.
CSU Pueblo, a public university located in sunny Colorado, offers you a chance to study a Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Biology and Chemical, where you’ll learn “cannabis physiology and growth, the pharmaceutical implications, and the practical applications for the industry”. Additionally, you’ll be taught the basic chemical and biological principles of many different cannabis fields. This degree is best if you’re considering a career in cannabis biochemistry, biophysics, and science e.g. becoming a chemical technician, environmental scientist, or agricultural and food scientist.
Michigan’s own Lake Superior State University offers three different degrees: Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Business, Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Chemistry, and Associate Degree in Cannabis Science. The BS in Cannabis Business is “designed for future managers, supervisors, and business development leaders within a commercial enterprise”, while the BS in Cannabis Chemistry is geared toward prospective students looking to learn about cannabis extraction, quantitative analysis, chemistry, and biochemistry.
Northern Michigan University not only has four different cannabis certification courses on the subjects of cannabis healthcare, law, business, and agriculture, but it also offers a Bachelor of Science in Medicinal Plant Chemistry. The BS in Medicinal Plant Chemistry was “the first-ever 4-year undergraduate degree program of its kind to prepare students for success in the emerging industries relating to medicinal plant production, analysis, and distribution”. With this course, you’ll also learn entrepreneurship and laboratory accreditation guidelines.
*Individual modules are also provided at $499 per module
New Jersey’s Stockton University offers you a minor Cannabis Studies Certificate covering six individual topics including ones named Cannabis Law, Cannabis Cultivation, and Introduction to Research in Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis. This certificate is online-based and you can complete it at your own pace. The university also offers a minor in Cannabis Studies complete with five modules: Medical Marijuana, Cannabis Law, Internship Preparation, Cannabis Research, and a fifth optional module.
The University of Rhode Island is one of the only universities on this list to only offer prospective students one certification course. The course is named Cannabis Studies and consists of four 3-credit modules, which the university claims will give you:
A foundation in cannabis studies
Help you develop core competencies in natural product separation and analysis and safe product development and manufacturing
An evaluation of the therapeutic potential of cannabis
Western Illinois University, situated in Macomb, is the only university on this list to offer you a minor in Cannabis Production. It’s the only university in Illinois to offer a cannabis minor. The course consists of three core courses and ten additional courses to choose from. The core courses include Cannabis Production and Practicum in Horticultural Science, as well as three optional modules. The minor is designed to help you learn about all cannabis biology and production including cannabis anatomy, physiology, breeding, post-harvest processing, and product applications (among many others).
Syracuse University offers non-credit marijuana certifications “with focused instruction from top experts for those interested in developing credentials to launch a future-focused career”. The courses are designed by industry professionals, providing you with a deep knowledge of specific cannabis sectors.
The University of Maryland has recently launched a 2-year comprehensive Master of Science in Medical Cannabis & Therapeutics Degree designed as a blend of online instruction and face-to-face learning experiences. Degree modules range from Cannabinoid Pharmacology and The Clinical Effects of Medical Cannabis to Advanced Cannabis Therapeutics and State and Federal Cannabis Laws & Policies. Internships and work experience are not provided but there are many networking opportunities with industry professionals.
SUNY Morrisville’s Medical Cannabis Science & Therapeutics minor began in 2019 in response to the fast-growing cannabis sector in New York State. The minor is a 15-credit credit course best used alongside Bachelor’s degrees in horticulture, agriculture, and natural science. Career opportunities upon completion with the aforementioned BS degrees include cannabis growing, cultivation, and science.
Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutic Management
Available by request
Saint Louis University offers an online graduate certificate program with four courses that cover Medical Cannabis History, Cannabis Pharmacology, Health Implications and Management Using Medical Cannabis, and Cannabis Entrepreneurship.
Beal University is based in Bangor, Maine, and offers two Associates degrees and one Bachelor’s degree. The two Associates degrees are in cannabis business administration and cannabis laboratory sciences. The Bachelor’s degree is in medicinal plant sciences. All three programs are best-suited to cannabis lovers looking for a position in the business or science sides of the cannabis industry.
Minot State University’s medicinal plant chemistry major is one of only two in the state. The university boasts high-tech facilities, exemplary teaching standards, and a complete program consisting of multiple cannabis-centered subjects. Career opportunities upon completion include cannabis technician, cannabis grower, and many more.
Thomas Jefferson University is a highly-acclaimed private research institute founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, officially combined with Philadelphia University in 2017. The university offers three cannabis certificate courses and a full Master of Science in medical cannabis science and business, each fully accredited and powered by the motto, “Dare to Ask, Dare to Answer”.
Cannabis colleges, universities, and training schools offering marijuana certifications
CBD & Hemp: Science, Market Trends, and Regulatory Landscape
The Economics Behind Cannabis Horticulture
Cannabis, Pain, Opioid Crisis
California Regulatory Agencies
Oaksterdam is often acknowledged as the first cannabis college established in the US. Launched in 2007, Oaksterdam has “been setting the bar high for academic rigor and applied to learn in cannabis”, offering virtual cannabis classes in the fields of cannabis business, horticulture, budtending, science, and advocacy with Live Semester and Self-Paced options. Boasting over 50,000 alumni, certification programs, comprehensive curriculums, and real-world project-based learning, this weed university is one to consider.
Budtending, Jobs, Resumes, Cannabis Business Plans
Marijuana as Medicine
The Cannabis Training University is known as one of the most well-rounded cannabis-centered colleges in the US, offering a wide range of courses suitable for an equally wide range of prospective students. All courses are online and cost $597 each (there are discounts offered throughout the year). You can also purchase them in one bundle. Once certified, you can add it to your professional profile or use it as a springboard into higher education.
THC University is one of the cheaper options on this list. For over 150+ hours of training, which covers a range of cannabis subjects, the cost is as low as $187. This price includes nine individual courses/modules, all geared toward gaining a deeper understanding of cannabis, cannabis business, budtending, and safety regulations specific to Colorado and Washington.
Healer is an online cannabis training school created by renowned integrative medicine physician Dr. Dustin Sulak D.O. This prestigious weed college, which is based in Maine, was launched to “empower individuals to live life to its fullest” through cannabis advocacy, education, and research. The school offers an annual subscription service, where you’ll gain access to not only six comprehensive courses on several different cannabis and CBD subjects but also other bonus exclusive perks not found in many other weed colleges.
Trichome Institute is a renowned weed college based in Denver, Colorado, and owned by certified entrepreneur Max Montrose. The school offers four online marijuana classes, which cover cannabis interpening, consultancy, extraction & concentrates, and general cannabis education. These four weed courses can be purchased separately or as a bundle, and are designed primarily for business training but can be used for your career development as well.
Trichome also offers a Cooking with Cannabis course, in partnership with The American Culinary Federation, to help professional chefs prepare and serve cannabis infusions.
New York State Healthcare Provider Education: Medical Use of Marijuana
Medical Use of Cannabis
Maryland Provider Education: Medical Use of Cannabis
Iowa Provider Education: Medical Use of Cannabis
Washington Provider Education: Medical Use of Marijuana
Minnesota Provider Education: Medical Use of Cannabis
Illinois Provider Education: Medical Use of Cannabis
Medical Marijuana, Recreational Cannabis, and Cardiovascular Health
Clinical Cannabinoid Medicine
Core Knowledge of the Endocannabinoid System
The Medical Cannabis Institute is an online, science-based weed college offering a range of marijuana classes and courses designed for medical cannabis education across a range of subjects. You’ll discover state-specific courses, physician training, and PharmD modules, many of which are accredited.
The Cleveland School of Cannabis is one of the most famous marijuana colleges in the United States. Spread across two Ohioan campuses in Columbus and Cleveland, the school offers classroom, live, and self-paced online learning. There are six certification programs to choose from (classroom and online), as well as an 8-hour online medical cannabis course. Each program is very comprehensive, where you’ll gain a very deeper understanding of cannabis. Prices are steep but many alumni students believe it’s worth every cent.
Colorado Cannabis School is one of the lesser-known weed colleges offering specialized cannabis courses. According to its website, the school launched in an attempt to dispel the myths surrounding the cannabis industry through simplified education. Each course is online-based and ideal for beginners.
Holistic Cannabis Academy is a female-owned and driven online weed college composed of leading experts and practitioners within the cannabis industry. The Holistic Cannabis Practitioner Program is comprehensive and features 31 modules spread over four separate courses, each covering a range of cannabis-related topics such as cannabis history, cannabis benefits, the endocannabinoid system, terpenes, herbal synergy, networking within the cannabis industry, and cannabis business building. This program is designed for aspiring cannabis practitioners, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople, as well as those with a keen interest in cannabis and related topics.
Olive-Harvey is a Chicago-based college with a comprehensive certificate in cannabis dispensary operations. The certificate is designed for cannabis enthusiasts looking to work in or establish a cannabis dispensary. Modules include Introduction to Business, Introduction to Cannabis, Dispensary Operations, and Customer Service Operations. Students will also gain an understanding of state and federal-level cannabis laws, alongside real-world experience with cannabis clients.
Stautzenberger College is an Ohio-based college that currently offers a program for Cannabis Dispensary Administration. This 8-month online program teaches the administrative, legal, medical, and customer service skills needed to successfully operate and grow a marijuana dispensary.
Cannabis Science & Medicine Professional Certificate (Online)
The University of Vermont is the first and only medical school to offer a professional cannabis certificate in the US. The seven-week course is designed for aspiring cannabis physicians, nurses, dispensary workers, pharmacists, and regulators. Students will learn about the pharmacokinetics of therapeutic cannabis use, the pharmacology and toxicology of cannabis products, and the clinical use of cannabis compounds.
Cannabis Business General Education Certificate (Online)
12 hours/2 days
Open, Invest, or Purchase a Cannabis Business Certificate (Live/Webinar)
Cannabis Business Management Procedures (Live/Webinar)
1 day/4 hours (1 classroom lesson)
Budtending Certificate | Art of Retail Cannabis (Online)
1 day/4 hours (1 webinar lesson
Building, Protecting, Merging/Selling Your Cannabis Empire CLE Executive Business and Legal Class (Live/Webinar)
Cannabis Culinary Art Certificate (Online/Webinar)
1 day/4 hours (1 classroom lesson)
Cannabis Culinary Art Certification Valentine Infused Cooking Class (Online/Webinar)
1 day/4 hours (1 classroom lesson)
Budtending Certification (Online/Webinar)
1 day/4 hours (1 webinar lesson)
Cultivation Program Certification (Online/Webinar)
Not yet specified/to be decided
Not yet specified/to be decided
Clover Leaf University is based in Denver, Colorado, and is the first-ever hemp and cannabis university specializing in phytotechnology to be approved and licensed by the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Private Occupational School Board. The university offers several cannabis-centered courses, ranging from cannabis business management and cannabis business investment to budtending and cultivation, all spearheaded by global, industry-leading executives, professionals, attorneys, cultivators, vendors, and manufacturers.
Why you should (or shouldn’t) take a cannabis course at university
One of the main reasons why you should take a cannabis course or degree at university is you get to understand cannabis in ways not found in an online blog or article.
You’ll discover a breadth of knowledge from certified experts in the fields of cannabis chemistry, biology, production, horticulture, agriculture, law, business, and many others.
Considering a career in the cannabis industry or looking to build upon your already existing professional repertoire? University courses and degrees look really good on paper and will impress prospective cannabis companies, businesses, and organizations.
However, if you’re looking at going into cannabis law or business, it might be worth looking at traditional law or business degrees instead. Why? Because these degrees encompass a much wider view of law and business, opening you up to more professional opportunities in and out of the cannabis industry.
Common cannabis certifications and degrees you can obtain at university
There are several cannabis certifications and degrees you can do at university, college, or dedicated cannabis training school. Two-year and four-year cannabis degrees—either as a Bachelor, Associate, or minor—are becoming way more commonplace in today’s American education system.
You can find 2-year or 4-year cannabis degrees in subjects such as:
Medicinal plant chemistry
Universities, colleges, and cannabis training schools also offer a wide variety of cannabis certifications. Many of these weed certifications are taught online and can be used as an educational venture or as part of your professional development.
Common marijuana certifications include:
Cannabis extraction and manufacturing
General cannabis studies
Cannabis degrees vs. cannabis certificates
Before you choose a marijuana certification or degree, it’s worth finding out what the differences are. You don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on a cannabis certification when what you need is a degree (and vice versa).
The main difference between a cannabis certification and a degree is what you learn.
Marijuana certifications typically focus on one or two specific skills related to any given cannabis-related field and are usually better for professional development.
For example, if you’re a junior cannabis farmer or grower, you might want to take a cannabis certification in agriculture and horticulture to help advance your career. They’re also useful as a foundation course when you want to enter into a degree program.
Full-time cannabis degrees offer a broader subject scope with multiple modules on several different topics spread over 2-4 years. The level of learning is much deeper, which is why they run over an extended period.
Cannabis degrees, on the other hand, are generally more useful if you’re looking to get into the cannabis industry for the first time or you’re switching from one career to another.
Differences between university cannabis degrees and cannabis training school certificates
Knowing which type of cannabis education to pursue can be a challenge, even for the most experienced academic buff. While it’s always tempting to choose the cheapest and least time-consuming route, it’s better to sit down and explore which type of cannabis education is actually worth the investment, even if it’s a little more expensive and time-consuming than you initially expected.
Here are some of the differences between university cannabis degrees and cannabis training school certificates.
What you’ll learn
As a general rule, cannabis degrees at universities provide a more in-depth look into cannabis. Cannabis degree courses not only focus on specific topics relating to cannabis but also offer to learn outside of cannabis, which produces a broad and well-rounded cannabis education experience.
Cannabis training schools, on the other hand, are less rounded and far more specific. They don’t tend to offer the same breadth of cannabis and non-cannabis learning as university degrees, which is why they’re cheaper and take a shorter time to complete.
University cannabis degrees are always more expensive than cannabis training school certificates. Why? Because university degrees are almost always classroom-based and cover a much larger range of topics, spread across numerous modules. You also have to pay tuition fees as well. The only way to reduce the cost is to pursue a part-time distance cannabis degree but this isn’t always offered.
Cannabis training school certification courses are less time-consuming than university cannabis degrees. The length of time to complete a weed certification ranges between six days to six months depending on the cannabis training school you choose to go for. By comparison, university degrees are either 2 years (Associate, Master’s) or 4 years (Bachelor’s).
Cannabis degrees at established universities are always going to be seen as more legitimate than a cannabis training school. There is a high level of prestige surrounding universities and the degrees they offer.
However, don’t count out cannabis training schools and their marijuana certifications. Many of them offer amazing courses and modules, each designed or taught by leading experts in the field. All you need to do is make sure they’re legitimate. Online reviews are helpful here, as are customer and alumni testimonials.
Regardless of whether you’re in the cannabis industry or not, investing in further education pays off dividends and will have a positive impact on your career in the future.
A degree (Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s) is typically needed for almost all jobs in the U.S. cannabis industry, especially higher-level jobs such as technicians, growers, and scientists. If you’re looking to enter into any of these job fields, we recommend a degree.
However, if you want to advance your already existing cannabis career or supplement a degree you’ve already earned, a certification program is worthwhile.
Are cannabis courses and degrees worth the money?
This entirely depends on which cannabis profession you want to go into. If you’re looking at being a cannabis pharmacologist, lab technician, chemist, or grower (among others), a cannabis degree could be the biggest and best step you can take toward your goal.
From a self-investment standpoint, the cost of cannabis education, especially if you choose a 4-year degree, is high and might be off-putting.
However, if you look at average salaries in the cannabis industry, particularly for higher educated individuals, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Average salaries in the cannabis industry
According to the Vangst 2020 Cannabis Salary Guide, the salary for cannabis chemists ranges from $50,000 to $77,500 per year ($55,000 on average), while a cannabis production supervisor can make anywhere between $40,000 to $62,000 per year.
There’s also lots of room to grow in the cannabis industry, both in terms of professional development and overall income. If you move up from a cannabis chemist to a more senior director of extraction role, you could potentially earn up to $145,000 (lowest $72,500, average $105,000).
Likewise, if you move up from a cannabis production supervisor to a vice president of manufacturing role, you could pull in a salary of up to $177,500 (lowest $145,000, average $150,000).
Other jobs that traditionally don’t require a degree, such as cannabis packagers, trimmers/post-harvesters, and budtenders, typically start at $14.50-$16.00 per hour. Hourly rates usually increase with experience.
What are some potential positions you could land with a cannabis degree?
While a marijuana degree or cannabis certification won’t guarantee you a position in the cannabis industry, it will give you a better chance. Not only will you acquire a deeper understanding of cannabis (especially if you take a full 2 or 4-year degree), but you’ll also be given the opportunity to network, go on work experience, and have a decidedly better chance of landing the cannabis job you’ve always wanted.
The potential job positions you can acquire in the cannabis industry are dependent on which marijuana degree you choose.
For example, an Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree in cannabis chemistry or general cannabis science could help you land the following jobs:
Cannabis laboratory scientist
Similarly, if you have an Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree in cannabis production, it could open the door to the following job opportunities:
Cannabis production technician
Cannabis farmer, grower, cultivator
Manager (operations, farming, etc)
Are cannabis degrees necessary for a career in the cannabis industry?
Yes and no. Cannabis courses and degrees are, of course, needed for those entering into cannabis jobs requiring specialized skill sets e.g. bio-pharmacists, chemists, growers, lab technicians, and pharmacologists.
However, course and degree fees are high. People located on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder face financial hurdles even with government funding in the form of grants. This puts poorer individuals at a disadvantage, both educationally and professionally.
An even playing field for all in the cannabis industry is ideal but not always realistic, which is why other job opportunities requiring no academic certifications but a keen interest in cannabis are vital.
Apprenticeships are the way forward and will allow people from all backgrounds (disadvantaged or not) a chance to learn and prosper within the cannabis industry.
Is there a demand for jobs in the cannabis industry?
Yes. There’s a huge demand for jobs in the cannabis industry.
According to Leafly’s Cannabis Jobs Report, cannabis is the fast-growing industry in the US, bringing in over 243,000 jobs by the beginning of 2020, amounting to 33,700 jobs created within 12 months. Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Illinois were the leading states for jobs in cannabis.
Throughout 2020, the cannabis industry saw an even bigger growth than in 2019 with approximately 77,300 cannabis and cannabis-related jobs created. This number indicates a 50% growth, bringing the total number of cannabis jobs to roughly 321,000 going into 2021.
In comparison to other jobs, Leafly states there are now more full-time cannabis industry workers than there are electrical engineers. Let that sink in.
Closing thoughts: What is the future of cannabis education?
With more U.S. states embracing cannabis legalization and increasing demand for jobs within the cannabis industry, we believe cannabis education will continue to rise.
Universities, colleges, and other educational institutions will not only profit from the increased interest in cannabis careers but also provide cannabis organizations and companies with eager, educated, and knowledgeable job candidates.
Speaking with Best Colleges, several experts pitched in their thoughts about the growing need for cannabis education.
Natalie Papillion, Founder, and Executive of The Equity Organization believes:
“You can’t throw people into this Wild West and expect success without investing in educational opportunities that are legitimate and up to date and well resourced.”
Morgan Fox, Media Relations Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, reinforces Papillion’s sentiments, stating that “[Cannabis] course[s] and degree-track programs are certainly going to spur more interest in the field as a career and will help drive innovation that could create all sorts of additional opportunities.”