How To Become an Extraction Technician

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 14, 2022 | Published March 22, 2021

Updated June 14, 2022

Published March 22, 2021

The cannabis industry is a fast-growing industry with a variety of job opportunities. The industry includes many entry-level jobs that offer the possibility of career advancement. A career within the cannabis industry may allow you to apply your existing scientific skills in a new and exciting way. In this article, we discuss what an extraction technician is, what they do, how to become an extraction technician and important skills for an extraction technician to have.

Related: 15 Medical Marijuana Industry Jobs for You To Explore

What is an extraction technician?

An extraction technician is a person who works in the cannabis industry. Also called an organic extraction technician, these technicians safely separate cannabis chemical compounds called cannabinoid-rich trichomes from cannabis flowers. They purify these compounds for companies to use in a variety of cannabis products.

Extraction technicians often work for medical marijuana dispensaries, but they may work for other cannabis-related companies. The national average base salary for an extraction technician is $40,326 per year. Factors like experience, responsibilities and location may affect salary.

It's important to remember the cannabis industry is a growing and changing industry. This may provide the potential for future job opportunities. However, this may also limit current opportunities to regions where cannabis products are legal.

Related: Top 10 Jobs in the Fast-Growing Cannabis Industry

What does an extraction technician do?

An extraction technician works in a lab environment. They use lab equipment, heat, pressure and solvents to separate cannabis chemical compounds from cannabis plants. This involves the extraction technician working closely with flammable, explosive and dangerous substances like butane, ethanol and carbon dioxide.

Extraction technicians are also responsible for ensuring the compounds are as pure as possible. This involves testing the compounds and processing and refining them. Extraction technicians may also collect a variety of samples from different plants, test the potency and record and analyze data.

Extraction technicians are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment. This includes properly using, cleaning and storing all lab equipment. It's also important for extraction technicians to work in accordance with local regulations and safety regulations. 

Related: What Is a Budtender?

How to become an extraction technician

Working as an extraction technician is a fairly new career path in the growing cannabis industry. The path for becoming an extraction technician may vary for each person. For example, some companies may hire and train candidates who only have a high school diploma, whereas another company may require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. However, all extraction technicians must be at least 21 years old.

Here are some steps you might  follow to become an extraction technician:

1. Earn a college degree

It may be possible to become an extraction technician with only a high school diploma. However, many employers prefer candidates with a college degree. The cannabis industry includes extraction technicians with all levels of degrees, but a bachelor's degree is often satisfactory. Consider earning a bachelor's degree in a field like:

  • Biology

  • Biochemistry

  • Chemistry

  • Chemical engineering

  • Ecology

  • Laboratory technology

  • Physics

  • Phytobiology

Consider looking for a program with an emphasis on lab work. This may help you develop skills you need to work as an extraction technician. Also, as the cannabis industry is fairly new, it may be difficult for you to gain job experience. Many technicians pursue additional degrees or education experience, such as a master's degree, a doctorate degree or a training program, to supplement a lack of job experience.

2. Gain experience working in a laboratory setting

Look for opportunities to work in a laboratory while you earn your degree or after you graduate. Even if the position is outside of the cannabis industry, working in any laboratory may help you become more familiar with lab procedures, data systems and equipment. Try to find opportunities to work with a variety of substances to become more familiar with dangerous substances or hazardous materials like those you work with as an extraction technician.

3. Obtain necessary licenses

Many states require you to earn a license or agent card to work as an extraction technician or to register with the state. This often requires you to complete paperwork, and it may also require you to complete a background check. Requirements vary by state.

4. Pass a background check

An important step in how to become an extraction technician is undergoing a background check. Becoming an extraction technician requires you to pass a criminal background check. A company will often complete this background check before they hire you.

Read more:Q&A: What's Included in an Employment Background Check?

5. Keep up with new techniques

As the cannabis industry continues to change, it's important for you to continue to learn more about new techniques. For example, some companies are looking to switch to extraction techniques that do not use solvents. You might explore training programs to keep up with new techniques and practices. Consider pursuing a higher or new degree to expand your options for working within the cannabis industry, such as earning a graduate degree or pursuing a business degree.

6. Network

Networking is an important part of working as an extraction technician. This allows you to create important connections with others in your field. This may be important as this is a growing field and there may not be many opportunities if you currently live somewhere where cannabis products are not currently legal. Take advantage of online networking sites or special interest groups.

Read more: The Complete Guide to Networking

Skills for extraction technician

Extraction technicians work in fast-paced, high-risk lab settings and use hazardous materials to complete their daily tasks. It's important for them to be comfortable performing repetitive tasks with precision. Extraction technicians may work independently or as part of a team.

Here are some skills beneficial for an extraction technician to have or develop:

  • Laboratory skills

  • Solvent extraction skills

  • Ability to work independently

  • Ability to work as part of a team

  • Attention to detail

  • Ability to work with caution

  • Research skills

  • Comfortable working with flammable or dangerous materials

  • Ability to work quickly and efficiently

  • Bookkeeping and inventory tracking skills

This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your state laws for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Explore more articles