When making such a big decision, like choosing the career path you want to take, there are always lots of questions you will have. Listed here are some of the most frequently asked ones - you can also filter them by category. 

If these don’t answer your query then give us a call on 0800 1 FORCE and we will be happy to help.

Do women have equal opportunities to gain promotions and access courses?

Promotions are based upon performance and qualifications gained. Selection for courses is based on performance and the availability of course positions.

How does the Defence Force prevent discrimination, harassment and bullying?

Service and employment in the Defence Force is based on the principles of trust and respect in everything that we do. This allows us to maintain our operational effectiveness, and to manage and protect the well-being of our personnel.

We are committed to ensuring that our workplaces are safe and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying, and we have a robust framework and support processes in place to deal with any alleged incidents. This enables our leaders to deal with allegations fairly and efficiently - quickly, appropriately and sensitively, without being unnecessarily elevated.

It is important to note that all servicemen and women are expected to act responsibly and consistently apply the principles of self-discipline, self-management, comradeship and integrity. 

What kinds of jobs are available to women?

All Defence Force jobs are accessible to women. Some roles are more popular with women such as Communications and Logistics. Some combat roles (NZSAS, Commando and Diver) have extremely high selection and training standards that are both physically and mentally challenging. The standards are set the same for men and women, making it very difficult for women and many men to access these trades.

Do I get a choice of where I will be posted?

Although your posting preferences (role and location) will be met wherever possible, this must be balanced with organisational needs, so you may be required to fill an urgent, specialist or operational role regardless of your preference. Each Service has a career management branch through which your posting preferences, longer term career prospects and personal situation will be taken into consideration.

The posting cycle is generally every 2-3 years and you must be prepared to change jobs and/or location. Due to operational and administrative issues, there are times when postings will be cut short.

Depending on the length and location of the posting and your personal situation, you may choose not to move your family. If you post to a job away from your family in most circumstances the military will pay for you to travel home periodically.

Do men and women have to do the same fitness tests?

Yes, men and women do complete the same basic fitness test for enlistment and must continue to pass a fitness test annually. However, the required standards differ depending on age, gender and role.

Although fitness tests vary for each service in terms of requirements and approach, they are set up in a considered way in order to be fair, equitable and achievable.

Find out more on our Navy, Army, and Air Force fitness requirements pages. 

Will I need to carry big backpacks?

Yes, sometimes. While carrying a pack can be challenging, it is by no means an unachievable task. The physical training that is conducted during your initial recruit course is designed to gradually prepare you for carrying your equipment. You will be instructed on how to correctly set-up and wear your pack to minimise the risk of injury, and there are guidelines for personnel regarding lifting and carrying weights.
The requirement to carry packs or loads differs between the services.

As a general rule, a pack is not worn in the work environment. Packs or heavy loads may be incorporated into some aspects of initial recruit training, emergency drills, physical fitness or adventure training.

There is a requirement to carry loads, such as packs, at certain times during your recruit and ongoing unit training. Depending on your career path, and your location of posting, you may be required to carry packs for short periods of time during activities such as training exercises, physical fitness training and on operations.

Air Force
During stages of your recruit and unit training you will be required to carry a pack.

How can I wear my hair when I’m in my uniform?

Each service has clear guidelines and policy on appropriate hairstyles. In general hair is to be natural, neat and tidy. Fringes should not fall below the eyebrows, and hair length should not extend below the lower edge of a button-up shirt collar. Long hair should be tied back in a bun up off the collar, and when you’re in the field your hair can be worn in a single plait.

You can wear plain hair-ties, hair-pins, and hair-nets similar to your hair colour. Brightly coloured hair ornaments such as ribbons, headbands or scrunchies are not permitted.

Hair colour should be complementary to your natural colouring, so extreme colouring – bright, contrasting or multiple colours - is not permitted.

Can I wear jewellery and make-up when I’m in my uniform?

Make-up can be worn provided it is appropriate for a military environment. Each service has clear guidelines for what is appropriate, but in general, make-up should be light and natural. Foundation and minimal eye make-up can be worn when in the office, but it is of course impractical to wear any in the field environment.

You are allowed to wear a plain signet ring, engagement ring and/or wedding ring. Only women are allowed to wear earrings, which should be one pair of plain studs or sleepers only.

You can wear a wristwatch, and it is recommended that you get a sturdy, waterproof watch for work.

Can I have tattoos and piercings?

Tattoos are acceptable provided they are appropriate for a military environment and are complementary to the Defence Force’s values and image. Each service has clear guidelines regarding this. Cultural tattoos are permitted, however highly visible tattoos with inappropriate or offensive content are not acceptable.

Women are allowed to have their ears pierced. Only one piercing in each ear is acceptable, and all other visible piercings are not permitted.

What options are available to me for maternity leave?

The Defence Force is family friendly and offers generous leave policies to support working parents. If you are planning a family you can take parental leave and we provide you with support to reintegrate into working life, including getting fit again. You may also be eligible to receive a return to work incentive payment, which is equivalent to six weeks salary and payable six months after your return from parental leave.

You can continue to breast-feed if you choose. Nursing mothers may be able to make arrangements with their commanders and managers to establish an appropriate location for breast-feeding and expressing milk. However, personal needs must always be balanced with high priority Unit or operational activities.

There is also an annual leave allowance to use at your discretion. This is an important time in your life and we recognise that. In the Defence Force you can enjoy family life like everyone else. 

There is flexibility around leave for school holidays or if you need to care for a sick child.

How do I take care of personal hygiene when I’m in the field?

It is important to maintain high hygiene standards for your health and well-being.

When you are in the field and don’t have access to bathroom facilities, you will be taught during initial recruit training how to tactically, safely and appropriately take care of all personal hygiene matters – and you will always be able to maintain your privacy and discretion. Most women carry wet-wipes, and enough spare socks and underwear.

When you are conducting high intensity training, or if your team is on the move, you will have to improvise and take the opportunity to go to the toilet during rest breaks. On longer and larger training exercises, involving combat service support, there may be proper toilet areas (port-a-loos) and field showers set up.

On operational deployments, regardless of what service you are in, the accommodation, ablution and shop/canteen facilities are established to a comfortable and hygienic standard. Depending on the location and situation this can vary from military or local suppliers, and from military tents to a hotel room or a locally rented property. 

Can I attend evening social events off base after work?

We believe passionately in providing an excellent work/life balance, and the hours you work will be similar to any role in civilian life, with most of your weekends free. Of course if you’re on exercise, on operations, or responding to a critical situation, then you will need to be flexible about this.

Downtime can be spent however you wish. You might want to socialise on base with your friends, and you can invite your civilian friends on base as long as they are escorted at all times. You might just want to get away from the base and visit family, or go into town for a night out.

There are gyms and swimming pools for exercise and recreation, and bars to relax in. If you need a bit of peace and quiet for study or reading, there’s a well-stocked library. There is a shop and café, hobby huts and many clubs for you to join. This could be anything from cycling to ski-ing to Kapa Haka.

As an enlisted service member it is important that your personal conduct both on and off duty is responsible, respectful and appropriate. If you are likely to be consuming alcohol, we encourage our personnel to drink responsibly, organise safe and sober travel home after a night out, and to look out for each other’s safety and well-being. 

Can I change jobs once I’m in the Defence Force?

Initial Service and trade selection is really important, and it pays to do your homework so that you make an informed decision as both you and the Defence Force will be investing a lot of time, energy and money over the course of your career.

Due to career progression and regular posting cycles, 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.

In some circumstances it is possible to change trade once you’re in the Defence Force. However, trade and Service changes can be a lengthy process and will depend on a number of factors, so it is not guaranteed.

You can resign from the Defence Force and typically we require three months notice. However, during times of increased operational activity, or if you are required to complete a Return of Service Obligation, you may be required to continue serving until you have completed your required duties or service period.

Can I keep studying outside the Defence Force?

Yes. You can choose what to do with your free time and if you want to pursue further education you can. If the study is related to your trade, the Defence Force may pay for it or subsidise your course fees. You may even be allowed to spend some work time studying, depending on the course and the demands of your job.

Find out more on our University Study and Education and Training pages, or look up education and training, in the lifestyle and salary section for each Service.

Do I need to wear my uniform if I go to University?

Depending on which scheme you are studying under, if you are an enlisted Regular Force member of the Defence Force you may have to wear uniform when attending lectures, tutorials and other formal occasions like graduation.

At any point in your career, if you are attending workshops, courses or lectures in a professional capacity then you will most likely be expected to wear uniform, but this will be up to command or personal discretion. 

Will I be allowed to keep in touch with my family and friends?

Family, friends and partners are very important. It’s entirely up to you whether you maintain your existing relationships or socialise mainly with your military friends and colleagues.

When you are deployed overseas, we make sure that you can keep in regular contact with family and friends and are kept up-to-date with national news and events, especially if you are in remote areas.

During your initial recruit training you will have limited access to your mobile phone and pay telephone, and regular access to mail.

How Many women are there in the Defence Force

There are currently over 1300 women enlisted as Regular Force within our Defence Force. Of a total of about 8,800 service personnel, women make up just over 15% of the work force.

Is the Defence Force a fair and diverse place to work?

The Defence Force is committed to ensuring a balanced workforce and an inclusive culture. This means that all members are able to participate, compete and be rewarded fairly regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, age, beliefs/opinions, or family circumstances.

Our personnel are treated in a transparent, fair and equitable, and legislatively compliant manner. From an individual perspective, this means that your initial selection and career development opportunities will be based on merit and performance.

Our commanders and managers at all levels are responsible for applying equity and diversity principles to all strategies, policies and processes, and to set appropriate standards of behaviour and practice.