So You Want to Work at a Dispensary? Here’s What You Need to Know to Become a Budtender

These days, saying “This bud’s for you” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re serving a customer a beer.  

With an increasing number of states having legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, there are many new jobs in the growing cannabis industry. One of the hottest jobs in the industry is budtending.  

For clients, the budtender is the face of the cannabis industry. Budtenders help customers find the best products for their needs and learn more about the benefits of cannabis use.  

For business owners, hiring qualified budtenders and/or training new employees is a critical part of creating an educational and friendly shopping experience and thus should be a key priority for your cannabusiness.

Just as a bartender is a mixologist for cocktails, a budtender finds the right cannabis, edibles, oils, and vaping liquids for each customer. The best budtenders are closer to pharmacists, finding the right cannabis products to treat different symptoms and conditions.  

With only 15 states outlawing marijuana in any form, the growing cannabis industry offers new job opportunities.   

working in cannabis

How Much Does A Budtender Earn?  

According to Glassdoor, across the U.S., budtenders earn an average base pay of $33,808 a year. That comes to about $16 an hour before taxes.  

Before you give up on your dreams, bare with us for a minute. Like many service-based industries a big part of budtender earnings is via non-hourly compensation.

So, keep in mind that reported average salaries don’t include tips. Since dispensary budtenders are considered as part of the service industry, offering budtenders tips is an acceptable and welcome way to thank them for excellent service.  

Northern Lights Cannabis recommends that tips be commensurate with service. Ringing up a quick purchase might bring you a tip of 5 percent or less, but if you as a budtender answer lots of cannabis questions, your customer may offer a tip of 15 to 20 percent or more.   

What are the Qualifications?  

Budtenders are the sommeliers of marijuana, the experts who can help customers have the most positive cannabis experiences possible. Having a passion for cannabis in all its forms is necessary, as is being a great communicator and teacher.   

Strong knowledge of cannabis, including all its strains as well as concentrates, edibles, vaping liquids, and topical products, is vital to being an excellent budtender.

Familiarity with the science behind cannabis’ effects is essential to providing excellent service to your customers as a budtender.  

Knowing the conditions that can be helped with marijuana and recommending the right products is vital to giving your cannabis customers the best possible experience while promoting responsible marijuana use.   

Delivery methods for cannabis vary, so a budtender must know about each of them and which would be best for specific clients.   

The best budtenders are also skilled at sharing that expert knowledge with their patients and customers. Budtenders must be personable since they will be an ambassador for the dispensary.  

Excellent customer service skills are needed since a budtender interacts with dispensary customers and helps them have the best experience possible. Friendly service is just as crucial as knowledgeable service.   

Being a good communicator is essential for budtenders, but so is being a good listener. Budtenders must be able to zero in on customers’ wants and needs so they can recommend the best forms of cannabis for them.  

Retail experience is also handy for a budtender to have, as they will likely be operating a cash register, taking inventory, opening the dispensary, or locking up.  

how to work in a dispensary

What are the Responsibilities?  

Budtenders are a dispensary’s managers of customer satisfaction as well as the resident experts on cannabis in all its forms. Keeping up with the latest trends in cannabis is vital to a budtender’s employment, so budtenders may attend trade shows, research products, and learn about different growers and the strains they cultivate.   

Learning about their customers and what they want and need is essential to budtending. Clients’ lifestyle, budget, prior marijuana use, and the experience they’re seeking will figure into a budtender’s recommendations.   

Part of satisfying customers and creating a positive shopping experience is staying knowledgeable on up and coming products.

For example, understanding all the forms of cannabis concentrates that are available and how they each behave differently, like live resin for example vs a distillate.

Budtenders need to keep records of the products their customers use and their results so they can learn what cannabis products work best for each client.   

Customer service and knowledge of cannabis are only part of a budtender’s duties. Budtenders are also responsible for meeting a dispensary’s sales goals and ensuring compliance with marijuana laws in their state.   

Learning new business and customer management software and inventory management software will undoubtedly be a big part of learning a new job

Administrative duties in a dispensary, including inventory management, records keeping, and even social media and advertising, can fall to the budtender as well. Security, including checking customers’ identification and locking up products and the dispensary, is also an essential duty of a budtender.   

How Do You Become A Budtender?  

Becoming a budtender is as easy as being hired by a dispensary. No license, certification, or training is required by law. However, dispensaries wanting to set a standard may expect a certain level of expertise from budtender applicants. 

The first step toward becoming a budtender is learning as much as you can about the cannabis industry, products, and trends. Much of this can be done at no cost, but there are affordable training programs available online.  

As part of your cannabis self-education, talk with working budtenders to learn as much as you can about this new career and how they got their start. Visit dispensaries to discover what you like and what you think could be improved.   

If you are considering a career change to budtending, test the waters by looking for a part-time budtending job. This way, you can learn more about the job and the cannabis industry as well as whether it’s something you’d like to do full-time.   

If you’re interested in budtending but can’t find an opening, consider another dispensary position, even if it is part-time. Working as a cashier or in stocking shelves, for instance, would put you close enough to budtending that you could watch the budtender in action. 

This way, you would have a foot in the dispensary door and would be among the first to hear about a job opening for a budtender.  

budtender training

Is Certification or Licensing Needed?  

As of now, no certification or licensing is required to be a budtender, but with the increase in legalization, certification standards could always come later.   

Having completed cannabis training would only help your prospects for budtender employment, and reputable training programs such as Cannabis Trainers, the Cannabis Training Institute, and Green CultureED are available.   

Training programs range in price from just over $100 to about $300, making them an affordable option.   

If you are interested in getting certification as a budtender, first do your research. Ask budtenders in your area if they are certified and what courses they took.

Ask training organizations about their graduates’ rate of employment as budtenders. This will ensure you get into a reputable program and one that will be likely to help you become a budtender.  

learning about cannabis

Best Ways to Learn About Cannabis  

There is a growing body of cannabis knowledge that has come with the legalization of medical marijuana. That so much information is shared now, for free, on the internet makes it an exciting time to learn more about cannabis and its capabilities. 

In fact, Herb CEO has authored a complete guide purely dedicated to the “how” of learning about cannabis where we cover best-selling books, most active online forums, and even full-fledged training courses via licensed institutions like Trichome Institute and Cannabis Training University to name a few.

You should also learn more in person by talking with budtenders. The best budtenders are happy to share their knowledge of cannabis with others.  

Visit dispensaries in your area to learn about the business operations and also to see the many varieties of cannabis available now. Learning about the cannabinoids and terpenes in each strain and the taste, smell, and effects of different varieties is fascinating, and it will be valuable to you as an aspiring budtender.  

You should also learn about the symptoms and conditions that medical marijuana can help. If you become a budtender, this knowledge will help you assist customers and build a loyal clientele.   

Products such as edibles, vaping liquid, oils, and other topical options are myriad, as are their effects. Some bring higher THC concentrations, the natural compound in cannabis that brings a high, and others are higher in CBD, the active ingredient in cannabis that can bring relief to conditions including anxiety and pain.  

You should also learn about the symptoms and conditions that marijuana can help. If you become a budtender, this knowledge will help you assist customers and build a loyal clientele.  

You’ll need to learn about the different consumption methods and which would be best for your clients. Some may prefer vaping, while others like gummies or other edibles. Transdermal patches may bring relief to other patients.   

Pros of Being a Budtender  

Budtending isn’t for everyone, but for some, being a budtender is a dream job. Here are a few of the perks of budtending:  

  • If your passion is learning more about cannabis, budtending is a way to do what you love every day.  
  • The science behind cannabis is fascinating. 
  • Helping customers overcome symptoms such as pain or anxiety can be fulfilling.  
  • Working in the growing cannabis industry can be exciting and full of possibilities.  

Cons of Being a Budtender  

Budtending does have its downsides, depending on your preferences. Among them are:  

  • Customer service and working with others as part of the dispensary team is a must. If working with people is not something you enjoy, budtending may not be for you.   
  • Budtending isn’t just about the buds. Administrative duties, mundane but necessary for running a dispensary, are part of the job.   
  • Budtenders make about $16 an hour on average, so it is not among the cannabis industry’s higher-paid positions.   

The Skinny on Budtending  

Just as a bartender can direct you to the best IPA or mix a mean Margarita, a budtender is a cannabis expert. The budtender is there to help guide clients through choices in marijuana strains and cannabis products.   

Budtenders listen to their clients before and after making a sale to find the best cannabis products for each individual.   

Learning about the conditions and symptoms that marijuana can help and then seeing your customers get relief from pain or anxiety through your recommendations is a gratifying experience for budtenders.  

The growing cannabis industry is resulting in lots of new jobs, with budtending being one of the more visible ones.  This profession is very gender equal, as seen within cannabis industries as a whole, making it a great opportunity for cannabis queens to flex their herbal knowledge.

Budtending requires specialized knowledge of cannabis, its many strains and products, and the benefits it can bring to customers. As more states legalize medical marijuana, the need for skilled budtenders will rise.   


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