Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Registered Nurses

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

New Zealand has a growing nursing workforce. Most nursing graduates get a nursing job in New Zealand within one year of graduating. Prospects for employment are best in aged care, primary care and mental health and addictions.

Longer term, the prospects for this occupation are looking good, given the increased life expectancy of the general population and ageing nursing workforce in New Zealand..

How to become a registered nurse

What they do

Registered nurses use nursing knowledge and judgement to:

  • assess health needs
  • provide care for health consumers in a range of settings in peoples’ homes, communities and hospitals
  • advise and support people to manage their health.

Registered nurses work independently and in collaboration with other health professionals, families, whānau, Māori and Pacific health care providers, and communities. They practise in a wide range of places including peoples’ homes, communities, primary health organisations, aged residential care and in hospitals. They delegate to and direct enrolled nurses, healthcare assistants and others.

Registered nurses may practise in a variety of clinical contexts depending on their education and experience. They may also use this expertise to manage, teach, evaluate and research nursing practise. Registered nurses are accountable for ensuring that all the health services they provide are consistent with their education and assessed competence, meet legislative requirements, and are supported by appropriate standards.

There are three nursing scopes of practice: enrolled nurse, registered nurse, and nurse practitioner. For more information see career path.

Entry requirements

To study to become a registered nurse people need to meet university entrance requirements, and have a certain number of credits – usually in English, mathematics, and science (biology, physics or chemistry).

Qualifications needed

Entry to the nursing professions requires a Nursing Council-approved Bachelor in Nursing (NZQA Level 7 programme) from a polytechnic, institute of technology or university. To work as a registered nurse you also need to have:

  • registration with the Nursing Council of New Zealand
  • a current Annual Practising Certificate.

A bachelor’s degree in nursing takes three years of full-time study to complete, and it combines theory and clinical experience. Registered nurses are also required to take part in continuing professional development to maintain their competence.

Cost of study

Bachelor of Nursing
$20,000 over three 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 student levies, administrative fees, materials, textbooks, accommodation, clinical experience costs (including additional travel and accommodation, indemnity insurance, uniforms, and vaccinations), and Nursing Council state final exams.

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

There are 17 schools in New Zealand offering a bachelor’s degree in nursing. A list of providers can be found on the Ministry of Health website. 

Ministry of Health, nursing:

There are also schools with bachelor’s degrees in nursing designed for Māori and Pacific students (eg Whitireia Community Polytechnic, Manukau Institute of Technology, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi). Information on scholarships and support for Māori and Pacific students and current health workers wanting to develop a career in the health sector is available at:

Kia Ora Hauora:


Registered nurses need to be registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ) and have a current annual practising certificate.

The Nursing Council of New Zealand, registration:

Completed qualifications

The number of nursing graduates has been quite stable for several years.

Qualification completions chart


Source: Ministry of Education

In the year ending March 2017, 1,955 of 2,022 (97%) candidates with a bachelor’s degree in nursing passed the state final registration for the Registered Nurse Scope of Practice.[1]

Income and employment prospects


New graduate registered nurses in a district health board (DHB) start on a salary of $52,460 per year, and can earn up to $72,944 after five years. Designated senior registered nurses (Levels 1 to 8) can earn between $77,000 and $126,000, depending on position, seniority and experience.

Income outside of DHBs varies between the different institutions and can often be lower than in DHBs. Income also varies depending on the specialisation. For example, nurses in aged care typically earn less than average.

Income of registered nurses in DHBs with one to five years' experience
$52,460 to $72,944 Source: District Health Boards / NZNO Nursing and Midwifery Multi-Employer Collective Agreement 4 June 2018 - 31 July 2020

Voluntary bonding scheme

The Ministry of Health runs a voluntary bonding scheme for nursing graduates who agree to work in hard-to-staff communities and/ or specialities. Graduates who are part of the scheme are eligible for incentive payments for up to five years, intended to help them repay their student loans. For more information see:

Employment and skill shortages

Nursing employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
47,129 52,729 56,650 59,210
  1.6% 1.2% 0.7%

Source: Nursing Council of New Zealand Annual Reports 2014 and 2015, and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Midwifery and Nursing Professionals”.

From 2010 to 2015, the number of registered nurses rose by 2.3% annually to 52,729. The demand for registered nurses is likely to continue to grow, as older nurses retire and the New Zealand population increases and ages.

Annual practising certificate chart


Source: Nursing Council of New Zealand Annual Reports 2014  - 2018

According to the 2015 New Graduate Destinations Survey of Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector, of the 1,285 graduates in November 2015, 74% were employed as registered nurses by March 2016. Longer term, the prospects for this occupation are looking good, given the increased life expectancy of the general population and the ageing nursing workforce in New Zealand.

The supply of nursing graduates is expected to increase in response to increasing demand for healthcare, the ageing nursing workforce, and changes in the New Zealand population size and structure.

Internationally qualified nurses make up a substantial part of the New Zealand nursing workforce. Registered nurses specialising in aged care are on Immigration New Zealand's long term skill shortage list for all regions. If a job appears on the skill shortage lists, it means the government is actively encouraging skilled people in the role to come and work in New Zealand. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

New nursing graduates can apply for positions through the Advanced Choice of Employment (ACE) [1] system on the nursing entry practice (NETP) or mental health (NESP) programmes in public hospitals or community settings.

Nursing vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Kiwi health jobs and Seek websites. Positions are also advertised on individual DHB websites.

Trade Me Jobs:
Health vacancies

Career path

Scopes of Practice

There are 3 nursing scopes of practice: Enrolled nurse, Registered Nurse, and Nurse Practitioner. You can find more information of the Nursing Council website.

Nursing college:

Enrolled nurses

Enrolled nurses complete an 18 month diploma (level 5 NZQA qualification) offered at 7 Schools of Nursing. Enrolled nurses provide nursing care and health education across the life span to people in community, residential, or hospital settings under the direction or delegation of an RN or NP.

Ministry of Health, enrolled nurses:

Registered Nurses

There are many areas for registered nurses to specialise in. Examples include aged care, primary care, mental health and addiction, intensive care, and child and adolescent nursing. Registered nurses can also choose to develop careers in nursing practice, health management, research, and teaching.

Appropriately-qualified registered nurses, working in collaborative teams within primary health care and specialist services, are now able to prescribe for common and long-term conditions. Registered nurse prescribing is designed to improve patient access to health care and medicines and to meet the demand of growing numbers of New Zealanders with lifestyle and chronic health conditions

Nursing Council, registered nurse prescribing:

Experienced registered nurses may progress within an expanded scope of practices and to positions such as clinical nurse specialist or clinical nurse manager. There are also options to continue with postgraduate study up to and including doctorate level.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are expert nurses who work within a specific area of practice incorporating advanced knowledge and skills. Nurse Practitioners require at least four years’ experience in a specific area of practice and the completion of a clinically-focused master’s degree

They provide a wide range of assessment and treatment interventions, including differential diagnoses, ordering, conducting and interpreting diagnostic and laboratory tests, and administrating therapies for the management of potential or actual health needs. They work in partnership with individuals, families, whanau and communities across a range of settings.

Nurse practitioners prescribe medicines within their specific area of practice. Nurse practitioners also demonstrate leadership as consultants, educators, managers and researchers, and actively participate in professional activities, and in local and national policy development.

[1] The ACE scheme was developed to simplify the application processes for new graduates wanting to apply for their first positions within the 20 New Zealand District Health Boards (DHBs). The ACE scheme simplifies the recruitment process for graduates by using a centralised match process which simultaneously considers the applicant’s work place (DHB) preference as well as the DHB's preference of applicants.

Other information


More information on registered nursing professionals is available on the Careers New Zealand website, through the "Just the Job" videos and from various nursing specific sources.

Careers New Zealand:
Ministry of Health, studying nursing:
The Nursing Council:
Plunket Society:
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Health Protection Officer and a Public Health Nurse
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Hospital and Operating Theatre
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Nurse with Dept of Corrections
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Public Health Nurse


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

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

2544 – Registered Nurses