Job Prospects... At a glance
The job market for dentists in New Zealand is getting more competitive. In recent years, there has been a relative increase in the number of dentists; some dentists, for example, have returned to New Zealand because of limited opportunities overseas. Countering this is that only a limited number of people are accepted into dental school each year.
But, there are opportunities in provincial areas where there is a particular need for dentists. Looking out further, New Zealand’s ageing population is likely to increase future demand for dentists.
Dentists treat problems (including diseases and injuries) with teeth, mouth, gums and jaw. They also educate patients on how to avoid oral health problems.
Dental assistants help dental practitioners and therapists by preparing patients and assisting them in the care for patients.
Their tasks may include:
To become a dentist, you need to have a Bachelor of Dental Surgery or an equivalent overseas qualification that is recognised by the New Zealand Dental Council.
Dental Council, Dentistry Scope of Practice: www.dcnz.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Scopes-of-Practice/Scope-of-practice-dentists.pdf
You need to have NCEA Level 3 to begin relevant tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths with calculus and/or statistics, chemistry, physics, biology and English.
Entry requirements to the Bachelor of Dental Surgery are high, with only a limited number of people accepted each year.
Entry into the dentistry degree is based on:
There are no formal entry requirements to work as a dental assistant. Once employed, dental assistants can complete the New Zealand Dental Association Certificate in Dental Assisting.
In order to be an orthodontic auxiliary, dental therapist, dental hygienist or dental technician you need to complete the required qualification and hold an annual practising certificate from the Dental Council of New Zealand.
|Bachelor of Dental Surgery|
|$70,000 over five years|
Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for fees-free
tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to feesfree.govt.nz. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.
Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.
The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.
The University of Otago is the only institution in New Zealand that offers the Bachelor of Dental Surgery.
The New Zealand Dental Association Certificate in Dental Assisting can be completed as on-the-job training from anywhere in New Zealand.
University of Otago, Bachelor of Dental Surgery: www.otago.ac.nz/courses/qualifications/bds.html
NZDA, dental assisting courses: www.nzda.org.nz/pub/index.php?id=16
Dentists, dental therapists, dental hygienists, dental technicians and orthodontic auxiliaries need to be registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
Dental Council, Registration: http://www.dcnz.org.nz/Information on registration
Dental Council, Annual Practising Certificate: http://www.dcnz.org.nz/i-practise-in-new-zealand
The number of students who completed a bachelor’s degree in dental studies has been between 150 and 200 in recent years.
Qualification completions chart
Source: Ministry of Education
Dentists’ income varies depending on experience, location, and size of their practice. Dentists with one to two years' experience usually earn between $65,000 and $80,000. Those with three to five years' experience have incomes ranging between $80,000 and $120,000. Dentists with more than five years' experience have incomes of up to $150,000.
Qualified dental specialists working for a district health board have incomes ranging between $150,000 and $212,000.
Sources: Emigrate New Zealand; Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), '2013 to 2016 National DHB Collective Agreement (MECA)', 2013.
In 2019, the average income for dentists and dental assistants was estimated to be around $62,400. The average income for dentists is much higher than for dental assistants.
|Estimated Average Income|
Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index
Dentists and dental assistants’ employment
Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category of "Health Therapy Professionals”.
The number of dentists and dental assistants grew about 2% per year between 2006 and 2013. The number of dentists and dental assistants is projected to grow by around 2.2% per year until 2023, and 1.2% out to 2028. Employment growth in this occupation depends on the demand for the services offered by dentists and the supply of dentists.
Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections
The job of dentist appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list (for the regions Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Central North Island, Wellington, Canterbury/ Upper South Island, Otago/Southland), which means the government is actively encouraging skilled and experienced dentists from overseas to work in New Zealand. There is a particular need for dentists in the provincial areas of New Zealand.
The occupation dental technician is also on the immediate skill shortage list (all regions).
Immigration NZ, skill shortage list: skillshortages.immigration.govt.nz
Dentist vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Seek, and Kiwi Health Jobs websites, and through the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA - the professional association representing most dentists in New Zealand).
Many dentists start their own practice once their training is complete. As dentists gain experience and seniority, they may be given managerial responsibility, or be responsible for more difficult procedures.
Dentists may specialise in a range of specialties, such as orthodontists, periodontists, and endodontists, which require further postgraduate training. To specialise in an area, you need to complete postgraduate study at the University of Otago. You will also need to be registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand.
Dental assistants get qualifications and become orthodontist auxiliaries.
The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level dentists and dental assistants.
More information on dentists and dental assistants is available on the websites of Careers New Zealand and the Dental Council and through the "Just the Job" video.
The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.
The occupation of dentists and dental assistants has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:
2523 – Dental Practitioners
4112 – Dental Hygienists, Technicians and Therapists
4232 – Dental Assistants