Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects are good for shearers during the peak of the shearing season. However, it can be difficult to get work throughout the year, particularly for inexperienced workers. All in all, wage levels are average but employment is projected to grow for the next few years.

How to become a shearer

What they do

Shearers remove wool from sheep, using electric or manual clippers. Sometimes they also shear other animals such as goats and alpacas.

Their tasks include:

  • selecting and preparing shearing equipment
  • catching and positioning animals for shearing
  • shearing and removing wool and hair from animals
  • identifying contaminated fibre and injured, infected and diseased animals
  • treating skin cuts
  • returning shorn animals to let-out pens for counting and checking
  • service, maintenance and repair of shearing equipment
  • shearing stud animals with hand shears or special combs.


There are no entry requirements to work as a shearer. Most skills are learned on the job. Formal qualifications are becoming more common in the industry and there are certificates available.

Shearers who want a formal qualification can become apprentices and complete the New Zealand Certificate in Shearing (Blade/Crossbred/Fine). This certificate is available at Levels 3 and 4, and each level takes about 9-10 months to complete. This certificate is managed by the Primary ITO.

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.

Primary ITO:

Cost of study

New Zealand Certificate in Shearing (Level 3 & 4, Apprenticeship)

There is a fee of $390 for each level of the certificate.  First time students may be eligible for fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

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 shearers is the Primary ITO. It arranges apprenticeship training nationwide.

Primary ITO:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a Level 4 certificate in the broader category Agriculture has mostly been between 200 and 250 in recent years, but fell to about 100 in 2015 and 2016.

Qualification completions chart


Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for shearers is estimated to be around $45,700. Shearers are usually paid per sheep, which means that skilled and experienced shearers can earn considerably more than inexperienced shearers.

Estimated Average Income

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

Employment and skill shortages

Shearers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2021 2026
2,052 1,581 1,980 2,240
  -3.7% 3.8% 2.1%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the category “Animal Attendants and Trainers, and Shearers”.

The number of shearers in employment fell by almost a quarter from 2006 to 2013. This trend is projected to reverse, and employment is projected to increase out to 2028.

Shearers are usually employed on a casual basis. Their work is concentrated in the shearing season. This means that it can be hard to find work during less busy times of the year.

Employment chart


Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
6% 28% 2% 78% $51,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission 
*Three years after completion of L4 Certificate - Agriculture.

Three years after completing a Level 4 Certificate in Agriculture, most graduates were either in employment or further study. The median salary two years after completion was around $51,000.

Shearers are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Shearing 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

There is no clear career path for shearers. One option is go into another farming-related occupation, for example, farm management. This usually requires further 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 shearers.

  • Farm Manager
  • Farm Worker
  • Farmer
  • Wool Classer

Other information


More information on shearers is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Sheep and Beef Farming
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Wool Harvesting


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

The occupation of shearers has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for their purpose of this report:

3612 – Shearers