How to Become a Medical Doctor in New Zealand (7 Steps)

New Zealand is an island country in the Pacific Ocean, about 2.000 kilometers east off the Australian coast. Due to their remoteness, the New Zealand islands were the last to be inhabited by humans, which happened around the 13th century. Famous for their prowess in rugby and the traditional war dance “haka”, New Zealanders are a multi-ethnic group of people, who are very welcoming to foreigners and different cultures.

Today, New Zealand is a very developed country and is among the world leaders when it comes to quality of life, social and economic liberty, education, government transparency, and more. This has made it a very attractive place for people from all over the world to come and work there. In this article, we will talk about how one can become a doctor in New Zealand.

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1. Be Proficient in English

One of the three official languages in New Zealand is English, the other two being Maori and NZ Sign Language. English is also the most predominantly spoken language in the country and is used in government, educational institutions, and other official entities. New Zealand English is very similar to Australian English, and it can be very difficult to tell the two apart. This is great news for anyone who is looking to move there, as English is among the most popular languages and is taught in schools all over the world. English is also the most popular language in language-learning schools, where you can expand on your knowledge prior to moving to New Zealand.

If English is not your native tongue, you are required to take and pass either the IELTS exam or the Occupational English Test (OET) before applying to become a doctor in New Zealand.

2. Study in New Zealand Medical Schools if Possible

There are two Medical faculties in New Zealand. One is with the University of Auckland, and the other with the University of Otago. Both of these schools are very highly regarded, and attract a large number of international students each year. That being said, internationals need to have completed relevant courses in health science or similar fields before applying, on top of registering for the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) like all other students. Studying at these schools will definitely help you become a doctor in New Zealand.

Medical degrees in New Zealand typically take 6 years to complete. The first two years are entirely focused on medical theory, while the third year also comes with limited clinical exposure. Starting from year 4, there is a 2-year clinical period that ends with a final exam at the end of year 5. Your performance on the final exam will determine whether you can progress to the final year, which gives you the position of a trainee intern in a hospital and moves you closer to the junior doctor status.

3. Complete the Medical Tests and Residency Requirements

As part of your registration process to become a licensed doctor in New Zealand, you will be asked to provide proof of your qualifications (degree and other documents). You also have to prove to the Medical Council that you meet the English language requirements to start working in New Zealand. Depending on a few factors, you also might be required to take the NZREX Clinical registration exam. This exam will prove to the Medical Council that you possess satisfactory levels of knowledge and skill in medicine, to be allowed to practice as a professional in the country. A pass in the exam is valid for 5 years, after which you need to take the exam again.

Residency starts when you become a house officer immediately after graduation. This lasts for 2 years, after which you have to complete a chosen training program, lasting for an additional 3-5 years. Placements in these training programs can be limited, depending on the field you want to apply for.

4. Obtain a medical license to become a doctor in New Zealand

The Medical Council of New Zealand is the registering body of all medical professionals who wish to practice in the country. Registering with them is the final step in your journey to becoming a licensed doctor in New Zealand. There are many different pathways to get registered, depending on your qualifications, experience, the field of expertise, country of origin, and many other factors. The best thing you can do to learn more about the process of registering as a doctor in New Zealand is to try the self-assessment tool, which will help you determine which pathway is best for you to take.

5. Getting Permission to Work

The work visa you need to apply for as an aspiring medical professional in New Zealand is the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa. In order to apply for this visa, you first need to have found employment in a New Zealand based hospital or health center. This visa is dedicated to anyone who wishes to live in New Zealand and has skills that can contribute to the country’s economy. New Zealand has a shortage of medical professionals at the moment, so your chances of obtaining the visa are very high if you can prove your qualifications and have a solid grasp on the English language.

The process of getting the visa starts with filling out a form called the Expression of Interest (EOI), that you need to send to immigration New Zealand. This form notifies them of your interest and if they are happy with what you have to offer they will invite you for a visa interview. The form is free of charge and takes around 2 hours to complete.

6.Finding Jobs in New Zealand

Medical professionals of many kinds are on the official Shortages list in New Zealand, which means that there is a huge demand for skilled medical staff in the country. In fact, over 40% of the medical staff in the country are foreign nationals, which is second in the world only to Israel. There are plenty of positions available, in different medical fields, and in both rural and urban areas of New Zealand. The highest demand is for nurses and specialists. The government supported website called Kiwi Health Jobs is a great resource in your search for a job in New Zealand.

In New Zealand’s free economy, starting your own practice shouldn’t be too difficult, if you have the required qualifications and funding to support the move. Since there is a shortage of medical professionals, private practices are also a welcomed addition to New Zealand’s healthcare system.

7. How foreign-trained doctors can practice in New Zealand

The first step that foreign-trained doctors need to take to start the process of moving and working in New Zealand, is to find employment in a New Zealand hospital or health center. This is especially true for non-specialists, while specialists can apply for a visa even before finding employment. Upon the approval of the visa and their arrival to New Zealand, doctors also have to apply for registration and are issued a practicing certificate. The registration process varies from case to case, as there are many different pathways you can take to become registered. After the practicing certificate is issued, doctors are free to start working as a doctor in New Zealand.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Australia Scholarships Page.