Train for an exciting future in the primary industries

There are many doors to an exciting career in the primary industries, so it’s important to explore study and scholarship options that are best for you.


Study and doors will open

The primary industries need you. There’s a huge range of career paths and roles to suit every talent, and if you’re passionate and keen to work in a dynamic environment you can look forward to a bright future. Across the primary industries, many roles will require a greater level of skill, so aim for a higher qualification and advance your career.

It’s estimated that nearly two out of three people working in the primary industries will need a formal, post-school qualification by 2025. While parts of the primary industries will continue to require people without formal qualifications, it’s the skilled roles, especially in science, technology and engineering, where most of the growth will be.

Challenges like complex global trading requirements and biosecurity issues, and consumer demands for safe, high-quality products and standards of animal and human welfare, mean there’ll also be a need for people with qualifications in areas like marketing and human relations.

Plan ahead when choosing subjects

Because there are many pathways to choose from in the primary industries, it’s important to think about your career options as early as possible so you take the right subjects at school.

Useful secondary school subjects include: 

  • agricultural and horticultural science
  • biology
  • business studies
  • chemistry
  • English
  • maths
  • physics
  • science.

Degrees can get good jobs and so can diplomas and certificates

The benefits of getting a tertiary qualification are widely recognised. Research shows tertiary-educated people generally earn more than those who don’t have a qualification. In 2016, people with a Level 4-6 diploma or certificate earned on average 28 percent more an hour than those with no qualifications.

A degree can definitely boost your chances of a highly skilled career in the primary industries, but many of the study options available at universities, polytechnics, private training providers or industry training organisations can also lead to rewarding careers.

You might be suited to a diploma, apprenticeship or certificate where a larger part of the learning can be gained through in-work training. Diplomas for instance, are a useful qualification as they provide valuable technical expertise and hands-on skills, which are in high demand.

Many employers looking for science technicians for example, find that graduates who’ve completed a diploma like the New Zealand Diploma in Applied Science are work ready, gaining workplace experience and practical skills while studying. Demand in the primary industries is equally high for graduates with other applied skills, such as those with engineering diplomas.

Get familiar with diverse study options

It’s important to explore different pathways before starting your tertiary journey. For some roles it doesn’t matter where you begin though, as you can advance your qualifications as you go.

Here are some of the study pathways available:

  • Certificate in Agriculture – Level 4
    A one-year, full-time course combining theory, technical skills and practical farm work.
  • New Zealand Diploma in Agribusiness Management – Level 5
    One year of full-time study. This qualification is designed for managers and owners in agricultural businesses, and those who have relevant industry experience and are ready to move into management roles.
  • New Zealand Diploma in Applied Science – Level 5
    A one-year, full-time course combining theory and technical skills.
  • Bachelor of Information Technology – Level 7
    Three years of full-time study combining theory and practical applications of computer technology.
  • Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology – Level 7
    Three years of full-time study covering theory of wine science, pest and disease management and practical work in a commercial vineyard or winery.
  • Bachelor of Agriculture – Level 7
    Three years of full-time study, including practical work. Specialities include dairy, meat and wool production science, and farm management analysis and planning.
  • Bachelor of Science (Food Science) – Level 7
    Three years of full-time study and on-the-job training. Specialties include production, product development, quality assurance, sales, policy and standards.
  • Bachelor of Food Technology with Honours – Level 8
    Four years of full-time study combining food science, food engineering and food business.

Take the 'green' pathway!

If you have your sights set on an environmentally sustainable career – one related to the protection of the natural environment – there are a growing number of exciting pathways. It’s a good idea to research providers you’re interested in, and, for example, find out what environmental science and sustainability papers or qualifications they offer.

Here are some environmental qualifications available at tertiary providers around the country:

Discover your own pathway

Now you’re aware of the study pathways available in the primary industries, you’ll need to find one that’s right for you. To learn more, you can check out our other primary industries articles and videos for inspiration. You might also like to visit these websites:

Check out scholarships available

If you’re wondering how to fund your studies, take a look at GrowingNZ’s scholarships website. They have up-to-date scholarships, grants and awards you can apply for in areas like agriculture, business, management, engineering, technology, viticulture and oenology (wine making).   

Whether you’re looking for funding for a summer internship, apprenticeship or degree, from a university, polytechnic or other education provider, you’re sure to find something to suit.  


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Next steps

If you need help with your career decision making, you can contact us for expert career advice between 8am and 6pm every week day, for free.

  • Call us on 0800 601 301
  • Chat online with us
  • Talk to your teachers, whānau, ˈāiga and parents about ideas and subject choices
  • Talk to your career adviser about work experience or Gateway placement

Updated 9 Oct 2019