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Life in the NZDF

No two days the same

Whether you're waking up on an Army base in New Zealand, on a Navy warship somewhere near Antarctica, or in South Korea as part of an Air Force deployment, each day in the Defence Force has the potential to bring something new and exciting.

We're committed to helping you enjoy a diverse and rewarding career. Much of this job satisfaction will come from the things you do and the people you work with. Colleagues become mates. Raw potential turns into achievement. Qualifications are gained and experiences savoured. Put it this way – if someone asks you what you did today, you'll always have a good answer.

Life on base

Your life on base is whatever you want to make of it. There’s usually gym facilities to help you keep fit, which you can use for free. There's also time at night to watch movies, play an instrument, hang with your mates, or socialise in the bar – whatever you enjoy!

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Training and career development


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 over the course of your career. You’re not signing up for life. Like any other job you can resign. Typically we ask for three months notice, with the exception of those who are required to complete a Return of Service Obligation. People leave the Defence Force for many different reasons, and many apply to re-enlist later on. We respect and value our re-enlisted personnel because their diverse experiences and knowledge contribute to our success as an agile, flexible, and highly-skilled organisation.

Initial basic training for all recruits is 12-18 weeks long – a very short period of time in relation to your full working career. Although physically and mentally challenging, most people feel a huge sense of pride and achievement when they successfully complete their recruit course.

Officer training involves a further three (Navy, Air Force) to nine (Army) months of specialist training, but by this time you'll have earned a few more privileges, and the intensity decreases to allow more down-time and leave, and more personal responsibility.

You’ll be paid right from your first day as a recruit, and your expenses will be minimal as you’ll be provided with meals and accommodation. After you graduate your salary jumps to wages comparable to that in the civilian world, and it keeps climbing. Some trades earn more than others, but they are all competitive. 

Our military training staff are motivated for you to succeed. Although they may be very hard on you at times, this is to ensure that you gain the required skills in an efficient and safe manner. There is so much variety that some things are exciting and exhilarating, and some things are tough. And you are not alone. At every step of your journey there will be many others experiencing exactly the same emotions and challenges as you, and through these shared experiences you will make some very close friendships.

You will also train for combat. Given the role of our organisation, you will be required to learn combat skills. These vary between the different services, but you'll receive training in weapon handling, first aid, and general military skills (how to take care of yourself and conduct tasks successfully in a tactical environment). This, alongside ongoing specialist training in your chosen trade and the role of your wider unit (Ship/Battalion/Squadron), prepares you well for exercises and operational deployments.

We'll equip you with what you need. If you’re concerned about the riskier aspects of training, be assured that our expert trainers have your safety at the absolute heart of everything they do. You'll be given clear guidance and great tools to help you achieve the standards and skills needed, and if you don’t pass something the first time round you'll have opportunities to try again.


Choose from over 80 trades in the Navy, Army and Air Force. In the Defence Force we call our wide variety of roles ‘trades’. This encompasses all jobs from technical and service trades, through to specialist Officer roles. We have a reputation for providing world-class training. This means you don’t have to know everything now. As long as you meet the minimum entry requirements, get selected to join, and have a 'can-do' attitude, we can teach you what you need to know.

We have a career management section that looks at your individual career development and pay progression, and because of this, your rank and also pay can increase regularly.

The career managers plan your postings and courses to ensure you continue to progress and develop your skills, balancing your preferences and organisational requirements.

Learning is ongoing. You’re constantly learning and gaining valuable skills, through both on-the-job and formal education. You may gain NZQA qualifications, be granted funding to study, and there are many courses and training exercises available to you.

Whilst you’re gaining a wealth of transferable skills and experience, sometimes your training incurs a Return of Service Obligation (ROSO), which generally means once you’ve completed your training you must remain in the Defence Force for a period of time afterwards. Check out the job pages to see if your trade or a course option carries a ROSO.

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Daily life

After you graduate from recruit course, you’ll be posted to a Unit, and then begin your role-specific training, which includes both trade and promotion courses. It's at this point you can make your own decisions about where you live and what you do with your spare time. You'll work more regular hours, and unit activities involve a good balance of core business, training exercises, sports and social activities.

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

We make sure that our deployed personnel have good opportunities to keep in regular contact with friends and family, and are kept up to date with national news and events.

There are many sports and cultural teams that you can join, whether you want to participate at Unit level or represent the New Zealand Defence Force. And if you're a competitor in your sport or another extra-curricular activity at top level, you may be able to access time off to compete. This extends to those who are active at national or international level in the cultural or arts sectors – for example if you're a member of an orchestra or cultural group.

Working hours and work-life balance

Being in the military is not like a regular job. Maintaining operational readiness is crucial to the success of the Defence Force, and when on exercises or deployments you may need to work at high intensity for extended periods.

You won’t be deployed all the time, so when you’re home on base you’ll work regular hours, usually 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Should you be selected for a deployment, prior to leaving there is planning and preparation that takes into account both personal and professional matters.

Leave and benefits in the military are designed to keep you happy, healthy and rested so that you can give your best.

It's important to remember that your commitment when joining means that your individual needs always have to be balanced with organisational needs, particularly if you're required for urgent or specialist operational duties.

Leave and time out

Whether you’re deployed or at home, there are always opportunities for rest and leave. Importantly, you'll receive additional leave after a long deployment so you can take time out to travel or to spend time catching up with family and friends.

You'll be entitled to 25 annual leave days (that’s five more than most civilian organisations), and there are opportunities for Leave Without Pay if you want to take some time out to travel or study.

We recognise that because you'll be required to sometimes operate in difficult circumstances, it's crucial we support you in maintaining good physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. There are a variety of support mechanisms available to you as military personnel, such as excellent medical facilities, gyms and physical training instructors, unlimited sick leave, counselling and chaplaincy services.

The Defence Force is very family friendly. If you're planning a family you can take maternity leave and we offer you support to reintegrate back into working life. There is flexibility around leave for school holidays or if you need to care for a sick child.

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