Life in the NZDF

Women in the NZDF

An organisation full of opportunity

When you join the Defence Force you join a huge team, dedicated to protecting New Zealand, our national interests and people, as well as assisting our military allies and emergency services during conflict or natural disaster.

Career development opportunities are abundant. With the right attitude and dedication you can achieve a career that will take you further than you thought possible. You will belong to an organisation that is trusted and respected by New Zealanders, and you will have access to training and travel opportunities, and work on high-tech equipment, that you just won’t find anywhere else.

Women are vital to the success of the Defence Force. They create a more flexible, diverse and inclusive work-force. All of our roles are open to women who are looking for a challenging and rewarding career – our organisation is full of opportunity for everybody, whatever your gender, ethnicity or interests.

Training is a core component of our business. All service personnel are required to train to a high level because we need capable, quick-thinking people who can operate effectively in often very challenging circumstances. We currently have many capable, successful women in the Defence Force, and we would like more to achieve an optimally balanced and diverse work-force.

Read other women’s stories

If you’d like to find out more about what you could experience in the Defence Force, take a look at the biographies of six of our women who come from a range of backgrounds and have their own unique experience of life and work in the Navy, Army and Air Force.

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Maintaining your identity

Being in the Defence Force doesn’t mean you have to change who you are as a woman. We embrace people of all genders and backgrounds with all types of personalities. In fact, because we offer so many different roles we actively seek a broad range of people. You won’t be treated as a number. Although discipline and drills are an important part of how we do business, you're still required to think for yourself and make good decisions.

Importantly, working with the guys doesn’t make you one. You don’t need to lose your femininity or act a certain way to be accepted. We have women in roles across all parts of the Defence Force, so you won’t be alone. And of course you’ll have the same protection that NZ Law provides all sectors of NZ society when it comes to equitable and fair treatment. The Defence Force is very serious about treating every individual fairly and with respect.

Training and career development
Your life on and Off Duty

Initial basic training for all recruits is 12-18 weeks long. This is 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 have earned a few more privileges, and the intensity decreases to allow more down-time and leave, and more personal responsibility.

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 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 will 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 will 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 will 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 will 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.


Pay is comparable. 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. Take a look here for further salary details in the Navy, Army, and Air Force

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 are 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 are 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.


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.


After you graduate from recruit course, you’ll be posted to a Unit and begin your role-specific training, which includes both trade and promotion courses. It is at this point you can make your own decisions about where you live and what you do with your spare time. You will 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 are 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 are a member of an orchestra or cultural group.


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


Whether you’re deployed or at home, there are always opportunities for rest and leave. Importantly, you will 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 will 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 will be required to sometimes operate in difficult circumstances, it is 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 are 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.

Your close family members are also considered valuable members of the Defence Force, so our support will extend to them when you are deployed overseas or if you have challenging personal circumstances.

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Match your passion to your career

Use this handy Passion Finder tool to see which careers could be perfect for you.

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