‘High-paying jobs’ in cannabis could await grads from new university program


Majoring in pot is serious business for students at McGill. The Montreal university will become the first top-tier research school in Canada to offer a degree in commercial cannabis. The program was designed to meet the talent needs of the rapidly growing sector. 

McGill said it started pre-screening students for its year-long Diploma in Commercial Cannabis program last week. The 30-credit degree to be launched in June will span two academic terms, followed by an internship in the industry. 

While the school is by no means the first in Canada to train students to work in the pot sector, McGill is the only one among the elite U15 Canadian Research Universities to offer a full program to train biologists to grow cannabis, develop strains, protect against contaminants, and understand the industry’s legal framework. 

“We’ll really be diving into issues that are very specific to the cannabis industry,” Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean Anja Geitmann told the McGill Reporter.

A bachelor of science in biological, agricultural, or environmental sciences, including 15 credits in plant-related courses and a course in biochemistry or organic chemistry is required for admission.

Jobs in Canada’s cannabis sector have nearly quadrupled since recreational pot was legalized last year. Approximately 9,200 people worked for cannabis companies in April 2019, compared to 2,630 in fiscal 2018, and 1,438 in fiscal 2017, according to Statistics Canada. The number of pot companies has surged as well, from 37 in 2017, to 83 in 2018, to 175 at the time StatCan published its report. 

There is evidence to suggest it pays to work in pot.

A study earlier this year by the career website Glassdoor found that the median salary for American cannabis industry job openings is US$58,511 per year, $5,648 or 10.7 percent, higher than the U.S. median salary of $52,863. Due to the diverse mixture of available jobs, salaries ranged from $22,326 per year to $215,384 per year, according to Glassdoor.

“Our students will have the tools to get the high-paying jobs – master growers, quality managers, microbiologists and formulation specialists – in the cannabis industry,” Geitmann said.

A separate analysis by Marijuana Business Daily found the average salary of a cannabis company CEO at one of the five major firms is $528,090 (or $285,113 if you take out the $1.5 million annual salary of MedMen Enterprises’ (MMEN.CN)(MMNFF) Adam Bierman. Bierman accepted a $50,000 annual salary in late May, after the publication of Marijuana Business Daily’s research, according to the company’s financial filing.) The publication estimated that the average chief executive in other industries earns $196,050.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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