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Defence Force Roles

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Entry into the New Zealand Defence Force is competitive and the training can be demanding, but once you are in, there is a 15-year period of guaranteed service. You get paid while training and wages are generally above average.

How to enter the defence forces

What they do

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has personnel within over 80 trades (the NZDF calls its roles ‘trades’). This encompasses all jobs from technical and service trades, through to specialist officer and combat trades.

The specific duties vary widely between the different trades. Many of the trades are non-combat, but they all ultimately help the NZDF towards their goal of keeping New Zealand safe.


To join the Navy, Army, or Air Force you are required to be medically and physically fit, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, have no criminal convictions, and be at least 17-years-old. You also need at least 10 credits at Level 1 in NZCEA English and maths, as well as additional requirements for some trades within the NZDF.

Entry into the NZDF is competitive, so only the best candidates will be selected.

The Defence Force provides information on specific requirements on 0800 1FORCE.

There is training in the NZDF at all levels, including university. Trade-specific training (especially in the technical trades) can sometimes begin with attending courses at civilian institutions, before you progress to the skills you need to perform your role within the military operational environment. The qualifications you will gain through the NZDF are industry standard.

Cost of study

Defence Force Training

Getting qualifications through the NZDF is free, new recruits are paid during training, and food and accommodation is provided on base.

Where to study

Where you'll do your initial training depends on your chosen trade and Service – on the North Shore in Auckland, if you join the Navy; in Waiouru, in the central North Island, if you join the Army; and in Woodbourne, near Blenheim, if you join the Air Force. Specialist training can happen in any number of bases and places in New Zealand or overseas.

Income and employment prospects


In 2016, the average annual income for NZDF trades is estimated to be around $59,000.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Defence role employment

2006 2013
4,176 3,555

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.

The number of people employed in NZDF roles declined by more than 2% per year between 2006 and 2013. Employment numbers depend on NZDF needs, and NZDF is generally moving towards fewer, more highly trained and specialised servicemen and servicewomen.

If you join the NZDF on a standard engagement, the guaranteed period of service is 15 years, provided you maintain your medical grading and service efficiency.

Where to find job vacancies

Defence force members are recruited directly by the NZDF. See their website for current vacancies.

NZDF, careers:

Career path

The Defence Force has two main career streams: Officers, and Other Ranks (Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen and Airwomen). Both are available within the main job categories: Combat and Security, Aviation, Officers and Management, Medical and Health, Engineering, Intelligence, IT and Communications, Hospitality, and Logistics and Administration. The Regular Force within the Navy, Army and Air Force are the full-time components of the Defence Force. Normally, you will work the same hours as in a civilian career, except when you’re deployed on missions, when you can expect increased intensity for extended periods. In addition, there is the Navy and Army Reserve Forces, which require a much reduced time commitment – usually training and courses occur over weekends and holiday periods. This allows you to continue developing your civilian career whilst gaining Defence Force experience.

Initial Service and trade selection is really important, and it pays to do your homework so that you make an informed decision and find the right fit for you. In some circumstances it is possible to change trade once you’re in the Defence Force, but it can be a lengthy process and it is not always guaranteed.

Due to career progression and regular posting cycles (normally 2-3 years), you will be changing jobs every couple of years so there are always opportunities for new challenges, to gain new skills, and to live and work in different places with different people.

Some jobs and some training incurs a Return of Service Obligation, which generally means once you’ve completed your training you must remain in the Defence Force for a period of time afterwards.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level NZDF roles.

  • Air Force Airman/Airwoman
  • Air Force Officer
  • Army Officer
  • Army Soldier
  • Navy Officer
  • Navy Sailor

Other information


More information on defence force roles is available on the Careers New Zealand website, through the "Just the Job" videos and on NZDF’s own career website.

Careers New Zealand:
NZDF, careers:
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Avionics Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career with the RNZAF - Air Security Specialist
Just the Job video clip: A Career with the RNZAF - Air Warfare Specialist
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a NZ Army Electronics Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Communications with the NZ Defence Force
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZ Navy Marine Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career as an Officer in the NZ Defence Force
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Aircraft Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career in RNZAF Avionics
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Communication and Information Systems Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Engineering Officer
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Pilot
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Pilot (Training)
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a RNZAF Safety and Surface Technician
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Technician with The NZ Defence Force


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of defence force roles has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

4411 – Defence Force Members - Other Ranks