Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Farm and Forestry Workers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for farm and forestry workers are reasonably good for the next few years. Older workers are retiring from both industries, so employment is expected to be steady, which should translate into opportunities for younger people. However, wages for entry-level workers are low. Farm and forestry workers increasingly need to be more skilled as new technology is making the work more complex.

How to become a farm or forestry worker

What they do

Farm and forestry workers perform a wide range of tasks depending on where they work. They are generally involved in many tasks in the day-to-day running of the farm or forest. Tasks might include handling livestock; sowing, harvesting, handling, and taking care of crops; operating and maintaining machinery; maintaining fences and buildings; and planting or felling trees and preparing them for transport.

Their tasks may include:

  • planting and propagating trees, seeds, seedlings, bulbs and vines
  • pruning and thinning crops, vines and trees
  • monitoring the condition of crops and livestock and ensuring that they have adequate water and feed
  • harvesting, sorting and packing produce into containers
  • mustering and droving livestock
  • cultivating and maintaining natural and plantation forests and felling trees
  • managing and controlling pests and weeds species by applying chemicals and trapping and shooting animals.


There are no entry requirements to work in most farm and forestry jobs. For most positions, the best way to train is to learn on the job.

In some positions it might be possible to complete apprenticeships and gain a New Zealand Certificate. Most of the relevant certificates for farm and forestry workers are at levels 3 and 4. Having a qualification proves to employers that you are skilled and may make it easier to find work. Apprenticeships in farming are managed by the Primary ITO and apprenticeships in forestry are managed by Competenz.

Young people who are looking for work in the industry, and want to enhance their employability, can also do pre-employment programmes at a polytechnic.

One occupation where tertiary education normally is needed is for wool classers. They typically need to complete a certificate in Wool Technology. This is offered as a two-year part-time qualification from Lincoln University, and can be completed by distance.

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.

Competenz : 
Primary ITO :

Cost of study

Learning on the job

The least expensive way to train as a farm or forestry worker is to learn on the job. Completing qualifications through an apprenticeship is also relatively cheap.

Studying at a polytechnic may be more expensive, although some may have zero-fees schemes.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

The Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that looks after training for forestry workers is Competenz, and for farm workers it is the Primary ITO. Both arrange apprenticeship training nationwide.

Many polytechnics also offer courses in farm and forestry subjects.

Primary ITO:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a Level 1, 2, or 3 Certificate in Agriculture was just over 3000 in 2013-2015, but declined to 2,300 in 2016.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for farm and forestry workers is estimated to be around $36,300. Inexperienced workers and new apprentices are likely to start out at the minimum wage or the training wage.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Farm and forestry workers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
46,962 45,291 43,590 43,950
  -0.5% -0.6% 0.1%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the category “Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers”.

The number of farm and forestry workers in employment fell slightly from 2006 to 2013. This trend is expected to continue, and employment is projected to decrease a little  to 2023, and then move up slightly until 2028. 

The agriculture and forestry sectors have a high level of commitment to ensuring the health and safety of their workforce. This is because many of the jobs in the sector are in the outdoors, and often involve working with potentially dangerous machinery.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
7% 34% 5% 70% $46,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission.
*Three years after completion of L1, 2 or 3 Certificate - Agriculture.

Three years after completing a Level 1-3 Certificate in Agriculture, most graduates are either in employment or further study. Very few graduates were overseas two years after completion, but a fairly high percentage was receiving a benefit. The median salary two years after completion was around $46,000.

Farm and forestry workers are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Since 2013 the number of online job vacancies for livestock farm workers has increased at around the same rate as the average for all occupations. Getting a job as a livestock worker should, therefore, be comparatively easy.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Farm and forestry vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites. Employment in this industry can also be found by proactive job searching.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Some farm workers become farm owners or farm managers, and some forestry workers become business owners. This usually requires more education.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level farm and forestry workers.

  • Agricultural Consultant
  • Arborist
  • Farm Assistant
  • Farm Hand
  • Flower Harvester
  • Fruit or Nut Picker
  • Gardener
  • Groundsperson
  • Horticultural Worker
  • Landscape Gardener
  • Orchard Worker
  • Ranger
  • Shearer
  • Shepherd
  • Stablehand
  • Tree Faller/Feller
  • Wool Classer

Other information


More information on farm and forestry workers is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Forestry
Just the Job video clip: A Career with Auckland Council - Horticultural
Just the Job video clip: A Career with Treescape - Arborist
Just the Job video clip: A Career with Treescape - Land Clearing
Just the Job video clip: A Career with Treescape - Utility Arborist


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of farm and forestry workers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for their purpose of this report:

841 – Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers
399917 – Wool Classer