Wool classers sort wool into categories. They ensure wool is clean, identified and documented for sale.
Wool classers are paid per fleece and usually earn
$50-$60 per hour
Source: NZWCA and MPI, 2019.
Pay for wool classers varies depending on skills, experience and the type of wool classing.
- Wool classers are usually paid per fleece, and earn between $50 and $60 an hour, or about $400 per day.
Sources: New Zealand Wool Classers Association, 2019; and Ministry for Primary Industries, 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Wool classers may do some or all of the following:
- sort wool into groups that have uniform colour, length, fault, and fibre diameter, and keep wool breeds separate
- ensure wool is free from contamination
- operate and maintain sampling, wool-weighing and wool-blending machinery
- supervise the pressing and branding of wool bales
- keep records of wool bales pressed
- be responsible for woolshed management.
Skills and knowledge
Wool classers need to have knowledge of:
- different wool grades and sheep breeds
- wool-handling and woolshed procedures
- operating wool presses and other machinery
- market requirements for wool, and wool industry standards.
- work from 7am to 5pm weekdays and fine weekends in the main shearing season
- work mainly in shearing sheds or in wool stores and wool-cleaning factories
- work in conditions that may be dirty, dusty, noisy and greasy
- may travel long distances to farms.
What's the job really like?
Merino wool is Diane's passion. "I just love working with the fibre, being involved in wool growth and development, working as part of a team in a woolshed, and understanding the process of yarn through to garment manufacture."
Wool classing demanding but also rewarding
Diane has worked in the wool industry for 25 years and has been a wool classer for most of that time.
"Classing in a woolshed is a great life. It's hard work mentally and physically, but immensely satisfying.
"We start work early, when it's still dark, doing two-hour-long runs before stopping to rest and refuel. We continue like that until it's time to go home, usually in the dark. We do that every day for as long as the season lasts – it gets pretty challenging."
Satisfaction comes from helping farmers get top dollar for their wool
"I get a real sense of achievement when the client earns top price at the wool market for their wool clip, and I know that I've played a major part in that outcome. That is really what the job is – maximising your clients' income through your knowledge and skills."
Wool classer video
Trish Moki Ludlow talks about what it's like to be a wool classer – 3.33mins.
I've had 25 years as an all-breeds wool handler in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, so I understand the job itself. So I've gone from a wool handler, and I've stepped up, and I've done a 2 year course and now I'm a classer and I enjoy it. I can't thing of anything else better to do.
An important focus as a wool classer is to have good communication with your whole team. You need this because you're preparing wool for commercial sale. You're trying to make good returns for the farmer. You're putting out a thousand sheep a day. You want consistently prepared, even wool lines. So I need to have good communication with everyone. My wool presser – he's the one that puts the wool in the packs behind me. He is just the glue to the team. The wool handling team are there to prepare all the wool. It's a very physical job, and as long as you can communicate with them and respect them because they contribute immensely to the end product and to the wool bales.
It's so satisfying at the end of the day for everyone. You know you've done a good job and when I check off my last bale in the documentation book – the wool bale log – I'm just relieved and satisfied we've done a great job. You know, you get paid to do what you love. I couldn't want more than that. I love the team environment and the team spirit. I like to think I get up and I work with my family. You just thrive on getting out there.
There are no specific requirements to become a wool classer. However, to be a fine wool classer you need to complete a New Zealand Certificate in Wool Technology (Level 4).
A driver's licence is also useful.
- Southern Institute of Technology website - information about the New Zealand Certificate in Wool Technology (Level 4)
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but agricultural and horticultural science to at least NCEA Level 2 is useful.
Wool classers need to be:
- practical and fast
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- good at communicating and leading teams
- well organised and good at record-keeping.
Useful experience for wool classers includes any work with a shearing gang, such as woolhandling or pressing.
Wool classers need to:
- be reasonably fit
- have good eyesight
- have a good sense of touch.
Registration with the New Zealand Wool Classer Association (NZWCA) is preferred by employers. Wool classers who aren't financially registered can't use the NZWCA stamp on bales.
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- 0800 208020 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Opportunities for wool classers small
Chances of getting a job as a wool classer are average because the occupation is small and people usually stay in the job for a long time.
According to the Census, 138 wool classers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Getting a qualification can increase your chances
To work on fine wool sheep farms you need to complete a National Certificate in Wool Technology (Level 4) from the Southern Institute of Technology.
Wool classers usually only work for six months during the peak shearing season from June to November.
Self-employment common among wool classers
Many wool classers work as independent contractors.
Others may work as permanent employees or on annual contracts for:
- bulk wool stores
- wool merchants
- freezing works
- wool scours.
The New Zealand Wool Classers Association estimates that 90% of wool classers are employed in the South Island.
- Abbott, B, executive officer, New Zealand Wool Classers Association, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019.
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Situation and outlook for primary industries, March 2019', accessed May 2019, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Stats NZ, 'Agricultural Production Statistics', June 2018, (www.stats.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Wool classers may move into management roles in:
- wool-buying companies
- wool-exporting companies
- large-scale wool product manufacturers.
Wool classers may specialise in classing fine wool or crossbred wool.
Last updated 22 May 2020