Training and career development


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.