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Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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The cannabis industry supports 428,059 jobs in the United States. There are three times as many cannabis workers as dentists, and more people working in cannabis than hairstylists, barbers, and cosmetologists combined. In this rapidly emerging field, universities and colleges are introducing cannabis science degrees to educate upcoming horticultural technicians, budtenders, researchers, entrepreneurs, and medical marijuana clinicians.
With undergraduate, graduate, online, and in-person programs available, there are degree programs to suit all levels and interests. Students aspiring to a career in cannabis can gain a qualification traversing disciplines as diverse as horticulture, chemistry, sociology, psychology, and medicine.
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What Is a Cannabis Science Degree?
A cannabis science degree can offer graduate or undergraduate students a course program oriented towards a specific career path in cannabis.
Many cannabis degrees are focused on cannabis science, oriented towards careers such as:
- Medicinal plant chemistry
- Cannabis separations chemistry
- Cannabis laboratory science
- Applied horticultural science
- Biotechnological cannabis extraction
- Medicinal cannabis therapeutics
However, there are also cannabis degrees directed toward other aspects of the industry.
Students who are more inclined towards business, psychology, culture, or marketing can undertake a cannabis-focused degree on subjects like:
- Business administration
Students can even study cannabis cuisine. Many of these degrees also contain mandatory courses that concentrate on cannabis science.
Additionally, universities throughout the U.S. and beyond are expanding their curricula to include cannabis in different educational capacities. While some universities offer full degrees focused on cannabis, other institutions offer single cannabis courses for students who’d like to dip their toes into the world of weed without committing to an entire degree.
There are also ways to get on track for a career in cannabis for those currently attending or planning on attending a college without any cannabis course offerings.
For example, chemistry, biology, and business degrees can still set students up with vital foundational knowledge that can later be honed and specialized for a cannabis career.
Schools With Cannabis-Specific Degrees
Several prominent universities within the United States currently offer comprehensive undergraduate or postgraduate cannabis degrees. Beyond degrees, diverse courses, certificates, and diplomas are available both online and in person.
American International College
This Master’s provides students with an understanding of the basic science, business, and legal issues of the cannabis industry. Courses include chemistry, marketing, management, and federal and state laws and policies.
City College of San Francisco
This major is grounded in Behavioral Sciences and explores how intersecting identities, geography, and history influences cannabis and its use. The major incorporates anthropology, biological psychology, and sociology. It also uses a social justice framework to analyze public policy, rhetoric, and health concerning cannabis.
Colorado State University-Pueblo
The Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Biology and Chemistry (CBC) provides a foundation of basic chemical and biological principles that can be applied to the emerging field of cannabis science.
The degree focus is placed on cannabis physiology and growth and practical applications for working within the industry. Graduates will be equipped to work in biology labs, chemistry labs, and cannabis labs and pursue professional opportunities in natural products, plant chemistry, and cannabis research.
The Cannabis Studies Minor focuses on cannabis and its social, legal, historical, political, and health-related impacts on society. As a result of this minor, students will understand how basic chemical and biological principles can be applied in these fields.
Eastern Gateway Community College
This degree offers a well-rounded selection of courses designed to provide the student with a foundation in cannabis business management. Courses include options such as Introduction to Cannabis, Cannabis Policy and Law, and Cannabis Customer Service.
Community College of Denver
The Associate of Applied Science degree is designed to prepare business managers and operators working within a cannabis enterprise. The program combines a mix of the core business, management, and marketing curriculum with applied cannabis-related courses. Students will be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and practical experience essential to operate a cannabis business within the current legal landscape.
This degree is designed to equip graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to gain employment in the emerging cannabis field. Core outcomes of this degree include applied chemistry and microbiological concepts to undertake quantitative analysis of cannabis-related products and contaminants. Students will also be able to apply safe practices in cannabis-related laboratories and industrial facilities.
Johnson & Wales University
Cannabis Entrepreneurship merges science, business, economics, and entrepreneurship to evaluate the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Students begin with the foundations of entrepreneurship to learn how to create and launch their own business or work with an established company. They will then develop their own non-psychoactive cannabis product from seed to distribution.
Lake Superior State University
LSSU’s Cannabis Chemistry focuses on the quantitative analysis of cannabis-related compounds and contaminants, including THC, CBD, terpenes, and more. This progressive program is offered in baccalaureate and associate degrees. Upon completion, students may also qualify for an American Chemical Society (ACS) degree.
Students in this program study the state, federal, provincial, and international established and developing cannabis laws. Courses have been designed to provide graduates with the skills to plan, develop, and operate a cannabis business within the current legal constraints. Students study topics such as the history of cannabis and examine the complexities of this new market.
The Bachelor of Business Administration includes major courses such as the Business of Cannabis Cultivation and Manufacturing, the Retailing of Cannabis, and Cannabis Product Development and Merchandising. Students complete the degree equipped with the knowledge to enter the industry or pursue graduate studies further if preferred.
This Master’s degree option offers students more complex ways to develop and enhance their knowledge of the cannabis business, with courses such as The Cannabis Supply Chain, The Marketing of Cannabis, and Cannabis and Regulatory Compliance. Students also develop a formal plan for a cannabis business and pitch it directly to industry professionals.
Little Priest Tribal College
This degree equips students with foundational knowledge about practical and theoretical aspects of growing, using, and selling cannabis. Upon completion, students will be able to understand the history of cannabis and the industry, explore the uses of medicinal cannabis, and understand how cannabis processing and testing methods affect the final product.
Medgar Evers College
Medgar’s Minor in Cannabis Studies introduces students to the world of cannabis with courses such as Commercializing Cannabis Science, Cannabis Product Formulation, and Cannabis Medicine & Health Professions. Students also undertake a cannabis internship.
Minot State University
This four-year medicinal plant chemistry program focuses on the extraction and analysis of botanical products. Students pursue coursework in chemistry, biology, physics, and calculus. As part of the degree, students must also complete a capstone research project and undertake more than 600 hours of laboratory experience focusing on extracting, separating, and analyzing compounds and chemicals from plant material.
Naugatuck Valley Community College
Naugatuck’s cannabis course is offered to Horticulture majors interested in learning and training in hemp and cannabis production. This course teaches students all aspects of cannabis production, such as soils, plant biology, plant nutrition, pest management issues, and harvesting.
Northern Michigan University
The Medicinal Plant Chemistry degree has been designed to equip students to work in emerging industries related to medicinal plant production, analysis, and distribution.
Pacific College of Health and Science
The Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Therapeutics program prepares students to thrive in the cannabis industry as healthcare providers, advocates, educators, coaches, or entrepreneurs. Students learn to use cannabis science evidence and holistic approaches to educate, coach, and advocate for cannabis patient populations.
Pennsylvania Institute of Technology
Cannabis Business students at PIT focus on a combination of cannabis courses to determine the most promising path for their careers. Students become familiar with vertically integrated business models by studying the science, botany, marketing, and accounting aspects of a cannabis business in depth.
This degree prepares students to enter the medical cannabis field or transfer to complete a four-year degree in healthcare, allied health, or botany.
The Cannabis Horticulture associate degree program prepares graduates to start their own businesses, work in a dispensary, undertake a grow/extraction operation, or transfer credits to a university to earn a bachelor’s degree. The associate degree specifically focuses on the botany, growing, harvesting, and extraction aspects of a cannabis agribusiness.
An MBA Concentration in Cannabis Commercialization focuses on topics such as cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, and retail. Students are equipped to adapt, refine, and extend best practices in these fields into the highly regulated cannabis market.
This minor consists of five courses, including Medical Cannabis, Cannabis Law, and Internship Preparation. The fourth course is an internship. Students can intern in a wide variety of areas, including cultivation, energy efficiency, small business operations, communications, social media, retail, patient research, and more. The fifth course is an elective.
The AAS degree incorporates the existing Biotechnological Science Certificate in the first year, while the second year expands on core courses in Biotechnological Science with a well-balanced range of topics in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The degree is designed to produce well-rounded graduates who can obtain employment in pharmaceutical, medical device, and food technology or quality laboratories.
This minor is appropriate for students in horticulture, agriculture, and natural science-related majors and provides students with opportunities to focus on a specific area of interest within the emerging field of cannabis. Graduates will be equipped with a broad understanding of cannabis botany, be familiar with a variety of production and processing techniques, and be able to evaluate market trends.
Thomas Jefferson University
The Master of Science (MS) is designed to prepare students for future careers as researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, or healthcare providers. The MS degree program encompasses three stackable graduate certificates in the areas of Cannabis Medicine, Cannabis Science, and Cannabis Business.
University of Colorado
This Master’s provides a strong foundation in the pharmaceutical sciences and hones students’ expertise in cannabis pharmacology, therapeutics, and pharmaceutical principles of drug action and safety. The degree is completely online/distance learning.
University of Maryland
This program has been designed to provide students with the knowledge they need to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, contribute to existing research, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy.
Western Illinois University
This minor is focused on the biology and production of cannabis. It includes core courses exploring cannabis anatomy, physiology, breeding, propagation methods, management techniques, post-harvest processing, commercial production, crop rotations, and product applications.
This interdisciplinary minor offers students a foundation for understanding the socio-cultural, historical, and politics of cannabis use in the United States and around the globe. Students should be able to recognize the complex historical, cultural, and social/political/economic contexts that influence cannabis upon completion of the degree.
York College of Pennsylvania
This degree is an extension of the Chemistry and Forensic Chemistry programs. Cannabinoid Chemistry majors will specialize in the extraction, purification, and analysis of cannabis products.
Careers in the Cannabis Industry
A diverse array of job opportunities is available for students who have completed a degree in cannabis science.
Some potential career options include:
- Laboratory technician
- Analytical scientist
- Laboratory director
- Research analyst/research scientist
- Policy analyst
- Extraction technician
- Production supervisor
- Dispensary assistant/Budtender
- Horticultural technician
- Cultivation supervisor
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Frequently Asked Questions
What do cannabis scientists do?
Cannabis scientists can carry out cannabis research, provide policy advice, or guidance in regulatory capacities, work as cannabis therapeutic experts, hold roles as technicians or directors in extraction laboratories, or even oversee specialized aspects of cannabis cultivation or the manufacture of cannabis products.
Can you use a biology degree for cannabis?
A biology degree can certainly provide a robust foundation for a career in cannabis that is oriented towards jobs such as a cannabis clinician or a cannabis horticultural technician. Cannabis-oriented graduate programs can later add layers of specialization to those who wish to work in specific, expert fields.
Can I work in the cannabis industry with a chemical engineering degree?
A degree in chemical engineering provides a solid starting base for a person interested in pursuing work in a cannabis laboratory, extraction, or production facility. Chemical engineers design processes and equipment to manufacture and refine chemicals, a skill that can translate to those working in laboratories focused on extracting and refining cannabinoids.