Careers advice

Science jobs in the Crown Research Institutes

Want to be involved in research that will advance the country?

Last updated: 6 October 2023

If you’re looking for science jobs in Aotearoa New Zealand, we can almost guarantee that at some point in your career or studies you’ll have heard someone say, “there aren’t many jobs in science”. Well, we’re here to show you just how wrong that statement is.

In this article, we’re going to be exploring New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) – who they are, what they do and the types of jobs they offer. These seven organisations each play key roles in supporting the country’s ability to innovate and grow.

Importantly, these seven CRIs don’t include major science employers such as the Department of Conservation or independent research organisations like the Cawthron Institute – a fact which further underlines the variety of science jobs open to Kiwi. However, we figured they’d be a good place to start.


If you’re looking for environmental science jobs, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is definitely worth checking out.

One of NIWA’s core areas of research is climate science. Working in this field gives you the opportunity to become an integral part of the team responsible for studying climate patterns, deciphering the complexities of climate change, and making projections that guide our nation's plans for preparedness.

Alternatively, you might find your passion in the depths of marine and freshwater research, which is part of its remit, immersing yourself in the study of oceans, rivers, and lakes. You could explore marine life, investigate water quality, and contribute to the protection of our invaluable aquatic and marine ecosystems.

Perhaps you're more inclined toward atmospheric research, where you'll have the opportunity to analyse weather patterns, study air quality, and delve into atmospheric chemistry. Your work could aid in predicting weather events and mitigating the effects of air pollution on public health and the environment.

Want to shape environmental policies and practices? Careers in environmental management could be your calling. NIWA has collaborations with government agencies and industries to develop sustainable solutions for complex environmental challenges, such as water resource management and biodiversity conservation.

Alternatively, if you like hands-on work, consider roles in engineering and technical fields. At NIWA, you'll be at the forefront of maintaining and enhancing its research equipment and technology, ensuring that it remains at the cutting edge of scientific exploration.

If science communication is your thing, there's an avenue you can go down in communication and outreach. In this role, you'll bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public, making scientific discoveries accessible and engaging to a wider audience.

Many of the Crown Research Institutes provide opportunities to get outside.

2. AgResearch

Agriculture has been a cornerstone of life and livelihoods in Aotearoa New Zealand for generations. And it wasn’t luck that propelled our small nation into the global food market, it was our world-leading agricultural research, know-how and desire to innovate.

Today, AgResearch is at the forefront of these advances, enhancing the profitability and productivity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s agri-food, pastoral and agrotechnology sector.

Among AgResearch’s areas of exploration are animal health, crop improvement, and sustainable farming practices. For example, you might find yourself involved in livestock research, where you could play a pivotal role in enhancing animal health, welfare, and productivity. This field is essential for ensuring the well-being of livestock and the economic sustainability of farming practices.

Again, there are environmental science jobs available at AgResearch. For example, exploring sustainable land management, biodiversity conservation, and the mitigation of agricultural impacts on natural ecosystems, all of which make valuable contributions to sustainable agriculture.

It’s also a hub for food science and technology, where you can delve into the realms of food safety, product development, and innovative food processing techniques. Your work in this field will help shape the future of New Zealand's food industry.

Aotearoa New Zealand didn't become a world-leader in agricultural produce by accident.

3. Landcare Research/Manaaki Whenua

Landcare Research/Manaaki Whenua is the CRI responsible for Aotearoa New Zealand’’s biodiversity and terrestrial environment. The organisation is intimately involved in research on biodiversity, the environment and sustainability.

Our country is home to a wide variety of rare and endemic species (animals and plants only found in Aotearaoa New Zealand). As you’ll probably know, many native creatures are threatened by a number of things, ranging from introduced predators to habitat destruction. To help counter these threats, conservation ecology is an important part of Landcare Research’s remit, covering everything from pest management to habitat restoration.

Science knowledge transfer is another key aspect of Landcare Research’s operations. All of that research is no good if it only makes sense to those who conducted it. Know how to clearly impart scientific knowledge to stakeholders and the wider community? This role was made for you.

Alternatively, your passion might be in environmental management, where you'll collaborate with government agencies and industries to develop sustainable environmental policies and practices. Careers in this field involve finding solutions to complex environmental challenges, such as land use planning and biodiversity conservation.

4 GNS Science/Te Pū Ao

Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)/Te Pū Ao is the CRI responsible for monitoring and exploring the country’s resources, environment and geological hazards.

Imagine immersing yourself in the captivating world of geological research. At GNS Science, you can be at the forefront of understanding Aotearoa New Zealand's geological context, studying volcanic activity, earthquake processes, and landform evolution. Your work could directly contribute to mitigating geological hazards and ensuring public safety.

If you’re passionate about unlocking the mysteries of the Earth's interior, there are opportunities in geophysics and seismology. In this role, you'll explore seismic activity, monitor ground movements, and develop cutting-edge technologies to detect and analyse earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

On a related note, you might also consider roles involved in natural hazard assessment and mitigation, where you'll be instrumental in assessing the risks associated with geological hazards such as landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Your expertise will aid in developing strategies to protect communities and infrastructure.

If you have a strong foundation in mathematical modelling and computational sciences, GNS Science offers positions that will make great use of these skills. Your work will involve creating predictive models for geophysical phenomena, providing critical insights for hazard assessment and resource management.

For those passionate about environmental stewardship, careers in geochemistry and environmental science may be your calling. In this capacity, you'll investigate soil and water quality, assess contamination, and develop strategies for environmental remediation.

5. Institute of Environmental Science Research (ESR)

ESR specialises in science relating to the people and communities of Aotearoa New Zealand. This broad scope means there are plenty of exciting opportunities for scientists from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.

One of ESR’s most important roles is in public health research. The institute played a crucial role in the fight against COVID-19, involved in everything from sequencing the virus to wastewater testing.

For those with an interest in forensic science, ESR provides opportunities in forensic research and analysis. In this role, you'll investigate crimes, analyse evidence, and provide expert testimony in court.

Alternatively, consider careers in environmental health and safety, where you'll play a pivotal role in assessing and managing environmental risks to public health. Your work will involve monitoring air and water quality, assessing chemical hazards, and developing strategies to protect communities.

If you have a strong foundation in laboratory sciences, ESR offers positions in scientific analysis and testing. Your work will provide critical data for research and forensic investigations.


SCION is Aotearoa’s New Zealand's foremost forestry research institute, specialising in sustainable forestry, wood-based innovation, and bio-based materials. The institute conducts cutting-edge research to enhance forest management, develop innovative wood products, and create sustainable biomaterials. SCION's work contributes to the conservation of the country’s forests, promotes environmentally responsible practices in the forestry industry, and drives advancements in bio-based materials, promoting a more sustainable and economically viable future.

At SCION, you can be at the forefront of studies focused on tree breeding, forest management, and ecosystem conservation. Your work will directly contribute to sustainable forestry practices and the conservation of Aotearoa New Zealand's ngahere (forests).

For those passionate about innovation and technology, there are opportunities in wood science and technology. In this role, you'll explore the development of new wood-based products, advanced manufacturing techniques, and uses for sustainable wood resources.

Alternatively, consider careers in bio-based materials and biotechnology, where you'll be instrumental in researching and developing sustainable materials derived from biomass. Your expertise will help create bio-based alternatives for various industries, reducing environmental impacts.

If you have a strong foundation in data analysis and modelling, SCION offers positions in forest data science and analysis. Your work will involve collecting and analysing data related to forest ecosystems, contributing to forestry management.

Want to use your science skills to benefit the country's food industries?

7. Plant & Food Research

Plant & Food Research uses best-in-class science to improve the way their partners grow, fish, harvest, prepare and share food. They conduct cutting-edge research to enhance crop genetics, promote sustainable farming practices, improve food safety, and drive innovation in the agriculture and food sectors. Plant & Food Research focuses on developing resilient plant varieties, reducing environmental impacts, ensuring food quality and safety, and collaborating with industry partners to bring research innovations to market. By bridging the gap between scientific discoveries and practical applications, Plant & Food Research contributes to the sustainability, productivity, and competitiveness of Aotearoa New Zealand's agriculture and food industries.

One of the institute's primary areas of research is in crop genetics and breeding. This aims to help develop new plant varieties that are more resilient, disease-resistant, and better suited to local growing conditions. Your work would directly impact crop yields, food quality and the agricultural industry's sustainability.

For those passionate about sustainable agriculture, Plant and Food Research offers opportunities in advancing sustainable farming practices. In this role, you'll delve into research on environmentally friendly farming techniques, such as optimising resource utilisation and promoting soil health, to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in New Zealand.

Alternatively, consider careers in food safety and quality assurance, where you'll play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and quality of food products. You'll investigate foodborne pathogens, contaminants, and preservation methods to enhance food safety while improving the taste, nutritional value, and shelf life of food.

If you have a knack for translating scientific discoveries into practical applications, roles in innovation and commercialization may be your calling. Here, you'll collaborate with industry partners to bring new technologies, products, and innovations to the market, driving economic growth and competitiveness in the agriculture and food sectors.

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Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.