Learning and working in the primary industries

Find out about standards, opportunities and careers

What's the work like?

What kind of careers are found along this pathway?

If you like spending time in nature and looking after living things then this could be the industry pathway for you. 

You could work outdoors, in some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. You may work alone, sometimes in isolated places, or with a like-minded team. There are a huge variety of jobs in this environmentally-friendly sector, with a diverse range of experiences and opportunities to be had.

This sector includes agriculture, horticulture, dairy manufacture, forestry, mining, the seafood industry, landscaping, equine industries and animal care.

Here's just a small selection of the type of work you could do and the roles you could end up in:

  • analysing hydrology data
  • caring for and rearing animals, fruit and vegetable production, dairy farming
  • seed technologist, landscaper, looking after or measuring trees
  • machines and equipment operator or servicer, heavy vehicle driver, supervising factory operations
  • processing food or seafood, supply chain logistics
  • providing policy advice to government, research worker or scientist
  • aquaculture diver, marine farm worker, deckhand, vessel manager or marine engineer.

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Where might you end up?

There are a huge variety of roles in this industry from working on the land to working in an office, working alone or as part of a team. If you’re not working directly on the land you may be a visiting advisor to a part of the industry, such as arboriculture. Or maybe you are an accountant, mechanic or vet.

Further from the farm, you could be in a processing plant, working with high-tech equipment to turn primary produce into value-added goods for sale and export.

You might work in a big city office, organising shipping, or developing government policy. If you’re into science and technology, you’re valued in this sector, whether you’re analysing data or contributing to the next world-leading agricultural breakthrough.

What's great about this industry?

And why is it important to New Zealand?

There’s a broad range and diversity of jobs from hands-on farm work to science or business roles and there are many opportunities to learn new skills and move into different areas of each industry. There’s always something new as technology and equipment change constantly.

If you care about the Earth and the environment it’s a good place to be. Whether you’re from a rural background or a townie, there’s something here for you.

Why is this sector important?

New Zealand’s primary industries are a predominant source of wealth for the country and generate billions of dollars each year from exports. People working in these industries help feed, shelter, and clothe the world.

It’s a big sector for Māori with a large proportion of New Zealand’s forests, fisheries, and dairy farms now Māori-owned and operated. No matter what part of the sector you choose to work in, you’re contributing to an important and sustainable sector that’s one of New Zealand’s biggest employers exporters.

Yep, this is me. How do I follow this pathway?

Plan a course and track standards for careers in this sector.

You’ll need NCEA level 2 as a minimum for entry level jobs or apprenticeships. This will give you a good foundation in the skills and knowledge needed to progress in a career in the primary industries. For other roles you will need to further your education after school by undertaking tertiary study, or on-the-job training.

Assessment Standards tool

If you think this might be the industry for you then use our handy tool to identify the standards needed to create a pathway into the primary industries. Filter by NCEA level, the industry pathway, and standards type.

assessment standards tool

Each standard describes what a learner knows, and can do. Achievement standards carry a number of credits, when achieved these are recorded on the centrally managed Record of Achievement.

All standards included in particular Vocational Pathways are recommended. A sub-set of these recommended standards are also identified as sector-related, you can use the filter to see these. You don’t need to do all of the standards listed in the results. However, if you gain enough credits from the standards we recommend, then you are gaining the skills, knowledge, and competencies that are most important to employers in this industry.

If these are the subjects you enjoy, and these are the sorts of standards that you tend to do well in, then you should definitely consider roles in the primary industries as a possible career option. There are lots of opportunities and a wide range of jobs at many different levels.

If your NCEA level 2 includes 60 credits from recommended standards, including at least 20 credits from sector-related standards, you can have primary industries recognised as your Vocational Pathway.

Vocational Pathways Award

Learners can work towards the Vocational Pathways Award too, which is recorded on their Record of Achievement (NZQA).

Vocational Pathways Award

Record of Achievement