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Agricultural Technician

Kaihangarau Ahuwhenua

Alternative titles for this job

Agricultural technicians perform tests and experiments, and provide technical support to assist agricultural scientists in areas such as research, production, servicing and marketing.

Pay

Agricultural technicians with up to five years' experience usually earn

$45K-$65K per year

Senior agricultural technicians with five or more years' experience usually earn

$55K-$85K per year

Source: AgResearch, 2016.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an agricultural technician are average due to good demand for their services, but high competition for jobs.

Pay

Pay for agricultural technicians varies depending on experience and qualifications.

  • Agricultural technicians with one to five years' experience usually earn between $45,000 and $65,000 a year.
  • Those with five or more years' experience can earn between $55,000 and $85,000.
  • Senior technicians in supervisory or team leader roles may earn more than $80,000.

Source: AgResearch, 2016.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Agricultural technicians may do some or all of the following:

  • examine topographical, soil and other physical characteristics of farmland to determine its most effective use
  • assist in developing new and efficient methods of planting, fertilising, harvesting and processing crops
  • identify insects, parasites, fungi and weeds harmful to crops and livestock, and come up with methods of controlling them
  • analyse produce and livestock, and set and maintain standards of quality
  • assist in controlled breeding and artificial insemination to develop improved crop and livestock strains
  • arrange the supply of drugs, vaccines and other chemicals to farmers and farm managers, and give advice on their use
  • collect and collate data for research
  • plan slaughtering, harvesting and other aspects of farming production processes
  • advise farmers on farming techniques and management.

Skills and knowledge

Agricultural technicians need to have knowledge of:

  • different livestock breeds
  • livestock anatomy and biology
  • animal-handling
  • how to perform experiments and operate scientific equipment.

Working conditions

Agricultural technicians:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may also work evenings and weekends, and may be on call. Some agricultural technicians work long hours during peak farming seasons
  • work in laboratories at universities, research institutes and factories, in glasshouses, forests and offices, or on farms
  • may travel regionally or nationally for work.

What's the job really like?

Rebecca Silcock

Rebecca Silcock

Artificial Breeding Technician

"Either you've got it, or you don't"

Rebecca Silcock says you find out pretty quickly if you're cut out to be an artificial breeding technician.

"It's a case of either you've got it, or you don't," she says. Rebecca obviously does have it, because she can artificially inseminate a cow in under 15 seconds, which is much quicker than the two or three minutes it can take a novice.

"But I don't think getting the semen into a cow is the hardest part of the job. In the first couple of years, the hardest thing is managing your run and being at farms on time and dealing with your customers."

Job led to training role

Rebecca has been a technician for 11 years and now teaches others how to do the job. "I like the pressure of the work and working with animals plus I've always been an outside person. I'm not happy being in an office, so that side of things is appealing because I'm always out and on the road. I really enjoy it."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become an agricultural technician. However, most employers prefer you to have a tertiary qualification such as a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Science (Technology), or Masters, majoring in the specific area of agriculture you wish to work in.

Most employers also prefer candidates who have some hands-on work experience in agriculture or horticulture such as work on a farm, work with plants or animals, or at a research facility.

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter tertiary training. NCEA Level 2 science and maths is recommended.

Personal requirements

Agricultural technicians need to be:

  • good at problem-solving
  • well organised, with good planning skills
  • good at written and verbal communication
  • skilled at research
  • good at analysing and interpreting information.

Useful experience

Useful experience for agricultural technicians includes:

  • work in farming, agriculture or horticulture
  • work with plants or animals
  • research work
  • other science or laboratory work.

Find out more about training

Primary ITO
0800 691 111 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

High competition for agricultural technician jobs, but range of factors can increase your chances 

Competition for agricultural technician vacancies is strong. This is because high numbers of people are graduating with qualifications in agricultural research.

However, your chances of finding work as an agricultural technician are better if you have:

  • relevant experience – for example, work on a farm, or work as a summer student with plants or animals at a research facility
  • a good understanding of farming as a whole system – for example, the way pest, insect and disease control impacts on the environment
  • a tertiary qualification in agricultural science or science technology
  • computer and maths skills, as there are some opportunities in analysis and computer modelling.

Your chances are also higher if you focus on getting into the livestock farming sector, as the Government is investing in making this sector more productive. In 2015, government announced it would spend $7.3 million over five years on an agricultural research initiative to improve pasture grasses by increasing their nutritional content and drought resistance.

Types of employers varied

Agricultural technicians can work for a range of businesses and organisations such as:

  • Crown research institutes
  • universities and polytechnics
  • private sector companies such as private research institutes or processing laboratories.

Sources

  • Burton, K, human resource adviser, AgResearch, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2016.
  • Guy, N, and Joyce, S, '7.3m for Agricultural Research Partnership', Scoop, July 2015, (www.scoop.co.nz). 
  • Hooker, S, human resource adviser, DairyNZ, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2012.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Rotherham, F, 'AgResearch Confirms 83 Layoffs, Hires 27 for New Roles, as Research Demand Changes', Scoop, September 2015, (www.scoop.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

With three to five years' experience, an agricultural technician may become a senior or lead science technician.

Those with a Bachelor's degree who gain more experience or further qualifications, such as a Masters or Doctorate, may go on to work as research scientists.

Agricultural technicians usually specialise in a particular area, such as:

Artificial Breeding Technician
Artificial breeding technicians artificially inseminate livestock.
Herd Tester
Herd testers test the health of dairy stock, as well as the quality of milk that they produce.
Research Technician
Research technicians help scientists carry out research, testing and experiments in a particular area of importance to agriculture. This can include forage crops, pasture, soils, weeds, pests, nutrition, reproduction, animal behaviour, and plant breeding.
Two agricultural technicians tending to potted plants in a greenhouse

Agricultural technicians help agricultural scientists study plants and animals (Photo: AgResearch)

Last updated 25 September 2018