The Qualifications Required to Work in a Cannabis Testing Lab
If 4:20 is your favorite time of day and you have a sticker or t-shirt anywhere that says “Legalize” on it, you may be very excited to learn that you can get a job in the field of cannabis testing. Making sure only the best quality pot passes your desk – best job ever! But before you get too excited, you should know that there’s a lot more to cannabis testing than meets the eye.
Working in a cannabis testing lab comes with a strict set of requirements. You have to have the education, the experience, the certification, and the background check. Read on to learn more about some of the requirements to be a cannabis tester.
What Do Cannabis Testers Do?
The first thing we should clarify is that, no, cannabis testing does not involve smoking any pot. In fact, you may even be subject to regular drug tests. For the moment, regulations surrounding cannabis production and those who work in the industry are extremely strict.
Cannabis testers are primarily responsible for ensuring that no poor or harmful products get put into the cannabis market. You’ll be looking at any fungal or mold growth on the product, as well as for heavy metals. You’ll also have to test levels of terpenes, chemical compounds that give cannabis its smell, as well as cannabinoids, the chemical compounds that affect how our brains interact with the substance.
Degree in Science
You won’t be surprised to learn that the number one requirement to work in a cannabis testing facility is a degree in science. Depending on the job, you may need a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. As with most other areas, the higher the degree you have (no pun intended), the more money you’ll make.
Most places ask that you have a degree in chemistry since it comes with the kind of lab experience you’ll need. You can also get away with a degree in biology in some cases. Oddly enough, a degree in botany won’t be very helpful if you’re wanting to work in a testing lab; that would be more on the growing or extracting end of operations.
Most jobs these days require basic computer skills from their applicants, and cannabis testers are no exception. You’ll be expected to be experienced in Microsoft Excel and other basic computer programs, including being able to use Excel’s macros. But it may surprise you to learn that you’re going to need some basic programming skills for these jobs.
Some labs ask their top-level managers have programming experience in something like Visual Basic for Applications, a Microsoft event-driven programming language. This is because you’ll be generating complex reports on your different findings. So, when you’re earning that chemistry degree, consider a minor in computer science as well.
Ability to Tuck and Roll (No, Not Like That)
Working in a lab, you’re going to be facing an ever-changing work environment. Doing lab testing requires attention to detail and an ability to follow the rules right down to the last letter. But you also have to be able to think creatively about the results you’re seeing and how to solve problems you run into.
Most of these labs have no time to lose so you’re going to have to move quickly. You have to be able to work in a high-pressure environment without slipping up or forgetting anything. Your clients are counting on you, and you have to be able to roll with the punches.
Working Knowledge of Lab Safety
A big part of the reason most labs want you to have a chemistry degree is the lab experience that comes along with that degree program. Lab safety is no joke, especially in the cannabis testing labs. You’re working with a lot of substances that are dangerous, regulated, or both, and you have to make sure you and your coworkers are safe.
Before you apply to jobs, if it’s been a while since college, it’s a good idea to brush up on lab safety. Make sure you know the latest standards, and when you start the job, ask where all the safety equipment is. Part of the rigorous standards you’ll be expected to follow deal with the issue of lab safety.
Experience with Lab Equipment
The other advantage you’ll gain from working in labs in college is experience with different pieces of lab equipment. Cannabis testing isn’t as simple as focusing a microscope and describing what you see. You’ll be using equipment like a gas chromatography flame ionization detector device on a daily basis.
If you’re having trouble breaking into the cannabis testing field, see if you can get a job working in a pharmacy lab. Much of the equipment used in the pharmacy labs are the same devices you’ll see in a cannabis testing lab. You can get experience working with those devices if you didn’t gain that in college.
Finally, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are special certifications for cannabis testers. Because marijuana is still illegal in most states and medical cannabis is still a controlled substance, the requirements to be able to work around it are stringent. A certification can help your application stand out, as well as give you important skills to do the job.
There are several certification programs available for people looking to get into the cannabis testing industry. The ANSI National Accreditation Board offers an accreditation program that is very well respected in the field. A2LA has also recently started offering a cannabis certification, and there may be others available in your area.
Learn More About Cannabis Testing
Working as a cannabis tester can be a great way to get involved in the legal marijuana field. But you’ll have to work hard to get the degrees, certifications, and the experience you’ll need to be a part of a cannabis testing lab. But always aim high, and you’ll find yourself on cloud nine!
If you’d like to learn more about careers in the cannabis industry, check out the rest of our site at HempStaff. We have information about cannabis careers, as well as budtender training and cannabis recruiting tools. Peruse our list of cannabis job openings today and get started on the coolest career path ever.