Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

People who complete medical training have very strong employment prospects, as demand continues to grow for doctors in New Zealand and internationally.

In New Zealand, demand for general and specialist medical care will continue to grow because of the ageing population, and because about one-third of doctors in general practice are retiring over the next decade.

On the other hand, it is hard to get into medical school due to high entry requirements, with only a limited number of people being accepted each year.

How to become a doctor

What they do

Doctors work to prevent, diagnose and treat disease, and physical or mental illness. They may also do research, teach, or work in medical management roles. They can specialise in a vast range of areas and may work in hospitals, clinics, medical surgeries, or research and tertiary institutes.

Their tasks may include:

  • examining patients to establish the nature of their complaints, and performing and ordering tests, X-rays and other diagnostic procedures
  • determining diagnosis based on examination and results of tests
  • selecting and administering appropriate treatments and therapies, and advising patients of further treatment options and preventative and therapeutic measures
  • prescribing, administering, preparing and dispensing medication and prosthetic and corrective devices
  • monitoring patients' progress and response to treatment
  • recording patients' illnesses, treatment given and patients' responses and progress
  • advising on diet, exercise and other measures to prevent and aid treatment of diseases and disorders.

Qualifications needed

To begin relevant tertiary training, University Entrance is required. Useful subjects include maths with calculus and/or statistic s, chemistry, physics, biology, and English.

To become a doctor you need to:

  • complete the first year of the Bachelor of Health Sciences, or the first year of the Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biomedical Science
  • achieve good grades at the end of this first year, then sit a test and have an interview to gain entry into a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB), which takes five years to complete.

In the sixth year of MBChB, students are based in hospital as trainee interns.

Cost of study

Undergraduate Health SciencesMedical School
$8,000 first year $77,000 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 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.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

Undergraduate health science and medical training is only available at the University of Otago or the University of Auckland.

University of Otago:
University of Auckland:


Practising doctors must be registered. The Medical Council of New Zealand regulates the medical profession and maintains a register of practising medical practitioners, including general practitioners, house officers (also called house surgeons), registrars and specialists.

Medical Council of New Zealand:

Completed qualifications

The number of students who completed medical studies with a bachelor’s degree increased fluctuates from year to year.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


Doctors’ incomes vary depending on the specialty/area, location, number of patients and work done. House officers’ salaries at a district health board (DHB) range between $70,000 and $102,000 (depending on seniority and working hours) a year.

Registrars’ incomes range between $70,000 and $175,000. Senior doctors earn even more, with incomes ranging from $112,000 to $212,000. Senior doctors can also work in private practice where rates of pay vary.

In 2019, the average income for doctors is estimated to be around $149,000.

Estimated Average Income

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

Employment and skill shortages

Doctors’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
10,470 12,948 14,630 15,620
  3.1% 2.1% 1.1%

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

The number of practising doctors increased quickly from 2006 to 2013. In the next few years, a continued increase in employment is projected, But there are concerns that there will not be enough doctors to meet demand.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
6% 20% 2% 93% $107,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission.
*Three years after completion of Postgraduate / Honours - Medical Studies.

Most graduates with a postgraduate or honours degree in medical studies were in employment three years after completing the qualification, and a few had gone overseas. The median salary was $107,000 at that point.

If a job appears on Immigration New Zealand’s immediate or long-term skill shortage list, it means the government is actively encouraging skilled people in the role to come and work in New Zealand. There are several medical specialties on the long-term skill shortage list, including:

  • general practitioner
  • anaesthetist
  • renal medicine specialist
  • specialist physicians nec
  • psychiatrist
  • surgeon
  • obstetrician and gynaecologist
  • pathologist
  • diagnostic and interventional radiologist

The following occupations are on the immediate skill shortage list:

  • resident medical officer
  • specialist physician
  • cardiologist
  • paediatrician
  • specialist physicians nec
  • emergency medicine specialist
  • ophthalmologist
  • medical practitioners nec

The long-term skill shortage list applies for all regions. The specific occupations on the immediate skill shortage list that are mentioned here also apply for all regions.

A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job advertisements for generalist medical practitioners increased continually until 2015, and after a decrease for the next three years has started to pick up again.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Doctors’ vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Seek, and Kiwi Health Jobs websites.

Trade Me Jobs:
Kiwi Health Jobs:

Career path

Upon graduating, people then become employed by a DHB as a house officer (also known as house surgeon). House officers do two years of rotations through different parts of the hospital. These are called clinical attachments and last three months each (in a wide range of medical and surgical matters). Doctors usually decide on what they want to specialise in during clinical attachments.

After successfully completing two years as a house officer, doctors can apply for a job as a registrar and enter into a training programme. Further details about specialisations are available via the KiwiHealth website:

Registrar training programmes last a minimum of three to seven years. During training, registrars work towards vocational (specialist) qualifications. Registrars need to complete exams. In the training programme a registrar can work either in a hospital or in the community (for example, in a general practice). On completion, a person can become a specialist, surgeon, physician or general practitioner. Many doctors start their own practice once their training is complete. As doctors gain experience and seniority, they may be given managerial responsibility, or be responsible for more difficult procedures.

The Health Careers website provides assistance for those looking to become a doctor.

Health Careers:

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 doctors.

  • Anaesthetist
  • Diagnostic Radiologist
  • General Practitioner
  • Gynaecologist/Obstetrician
  • Pathologist
  • Physician
  • Psychiatrist
  • Radiation Oncologist
  • Surgeon

Other information

The Ministry of Health runs a voluntary bonding scheme, with additional payments to help repay student loans. This is aimed at recruiting more graduate doctors to work in hard-to-staff locations (such as rural areas) and in hard-to-staff specialist roles.


More information on doctors is available on the Careers NZ website and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers NZ:
National Māori Health Workforce Development Organisation:
Just the Job video clip: A Career as A General Practitioner and Medical Lab Scientist
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Ophthalmology with The Eye Institute
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Public Health Doctor


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

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

253 – Medical Practitioners