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Kaiwhiwhi Rawa i Tāwāhi/​Kaituku Rawa Ki Tāwāhi

Alternative titles for this job

Importers/exporters plan, organise, direct and co-ordinate the operations of an importing or exporting business.


Importers/exporters usually earn

$47K-$75K per year

Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'Salary Guide', 2018.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an importer/exporter are average due to stable numbers of people in the role.


Pay for importers/exporters varies depending on qualifications, experience, employer and the exact role they perform. 

  • Entry-level importers/exporters usually start on minimum wage
  • Mid-level importers/exporters usually earn $50,000 a year.
  • Senior importers/exporters may earn up to $75,000.
  • Importers/exporters who run their own companies can earn more than this.

Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'Salary Guide', 2018.

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

What you will do

Importers/exporters may do some or all of the following:

  • identify local and overseas business opportunities
  • gather information on products and work out the cost of supplying them
  • work with local and overseas suppliers and distributors of goods
  • arrange the shipping of goods into and out of the country
  • negotiate customs, shipping and air freight of goods
  • develop promotional and marketing campaigns for products
  • keep up to date with exchange and financial market rates
  • communicate with government agencies such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Skills and knowledge

Importers/exporters need to have knowledge of:

  • the goods they are selling
  • customs legislation and export procedures
  • international banking methods
  • how to negotiate with clients
  • budgeting, business and marketing skills.

Being able to speak other languages can be an advantage.

Working conditions


  • usually work regular business hours, but may have to communicate with people in different time zones at other times
  • work in offices, but may spend time in warehouses and factories
  • often travel overseas to source products, attend conferences and visit markets and trade fairs.

What's the job really like?

Lee Retimana

Lee Retimana


Relationship management is crucial

According to Lee Retimana, the secret of being a good exporter is developing good relationships with clients.

"A lot of people think the main thing you're doing as an exporter is finding people to distribute your product. While that's the first challenge, it's often the easiest. The hardest part is developing your relationship with an organisation or person so they will be a good seller of your product."

Marketing is an important skill

At university, Lee did a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration, which included marketing papers. "I did as many marketing papers as I could, including international marketing, because I found that area particularly interesting."

This helped Lee get into the exporting business. "I decided that I'd prefer to work for a smaller company where I would have a broader range of responsibilities. I'm working for a company that exports orthotic insoles for the treatment of foot problems."

Challenging but rewarding

Lee says the job often comes with long hours and hard work. "It can be quite frustrating when you've put a lot of effort into a distributor and things are just not happening, but it's good when you achieve things, like the annual sales targets that you set for yourself."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become an importer/exporter.

However, employers often prefer you to have a tertiary qualification, such as a diploma or degree, in shipping and logistics, commerce, or business management majoring in international business.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become an importer/exporter. However, business studies and languages are useful.

Personal requirements

Importers/exporters need to be:

  • able to make good judgements
  • quick-thinking and able to work well under pressure
  • good at written and oral communication
  • good at time management
  • able to work well alone and as part of a team
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds.

Useful experience

Useful experience for importers/exporters includes work in:

  • overseas trading or exporting
  • manufacturing
  • shipping
  • marketing
  • a management position.

Overseas travel and experience of different cultures is also useful.


Registration is not required for importers/exporters. However, they can become members of Export New Zealand, which provides access to advice and information on exporting.

Find out more about training

New Zealand School of Export
06 356 5656 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Chances of getting a job as an importer/exporter average

Chances of getting a job as an importer/exporter are average due to stable numbers of people in the role.

Opportunities for importers/exporters largely depend on the strength of the economy in New Zealand, and in countries that New Zealand trades with. Depending on the level of growth, demand for importers/exporters can increase.

According to the Census, 1,077 importer/exporters worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Language skills and knowledge of target markets useful

You can increase your chances of getting work as an importer/exporter by:

  • being able to speak a second language
  • having a strong understanding of the culture of a business' target markets
  • having established contacts in a business' target markets.

Internet poses a challenge to importers

The growing popularity of international shopping sites, such as Amazon and AliExpress, poses a threat to New Zealand importers of the goods these websites sell.

This could reduce job opportunities in future.

Types of employers varied

Importers/exporters are often self-employed, or work for manufacturing or distribution companies.

They may also work for:

  • export collectives or co-operatives such as Fonterra
  • companies that export some of their goods
  • companies that export goods on behalf of manufacturers
  • retailers
  • distributors.


  • Bank of New Zealand, 'New Zealand Online Retail Sales', April 2018, (
  • ExportNZ, '2017 ExportNZ DHL Export Barometer', November 2017, (
  • Hey, P, administration manager, Direct Imports, interview, April 2018.
  • MacKinnon, S, executive officer, ExportNZ, interview, May 2018.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Stats NZ, 'Exports and Imports Hit New Highs in 2017', January 2018, (  
  • Vermeulen, A, director/manager, Southern Cross Merchants, interview, May 2018.

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

Progression and specialisations

Importers/exporters may move into managerial or consultant positions in the industry, or run their own business.

They may specialise in areas such as:

  • dairy
  • wool
  • textiles
  • machinery
  • electronics.

They may also specialise in roles such as:

Export Agent
Export agents help companies to sell their products to an overseas market (where the export agent is usually based). They are usually paid a sales commission.
Import Agent
Import agents calculate exchange rates and order foreign products. They ensure the legality of importing and selling products.
A woman speaking on the phone in an office

Importers/exporters work with local and overseas suppliers and distributors of goods

Last updated 4 April 2023