Physician Rata

Physicians are medical specialists who provide non-surgical advice and treatment to patients referred to them by other doctors.

Physicians need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Physicians may do some or all of the following:

  • examine patients and investigate and identify complex medical problems
  • consult with other medical professionals about patient care and treatment
  • advise on medical treatment and discuss this with patients or their caregivers
  • provide medical treatment, check patients' progress and provide follow-up care
  • keep medical records and send final reports to general practitioners
  • care for emergency referral patients, such as patients with critical illnesses
  • teach medical students and trainee physicians
  • carry out research.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for physicians includes:

  • work in hospitals or other health-related work, such as in a clinic
  • work involving caring for people.

Personal Qualities

Physicians need to be:

  • motivated and disciplined
  • able to work well under pressure
  • able to make good decisions, and solve problems
  • good time managers 
  • excellent at analysis and interpretation
  • good at report writing
  • good at communicating and inspiring confidence in others
  • understanding of other cultures' attitudes to medical treatment.


Physicians need to have knowledge of:

  • anatomy and how the human body works
  • different diseases and illnesses
  • medicines and treatments
  • diagnostic skills
  • research, treatments and practices
  • medical ethics and law.

Physicians also need skills and knowledge specific to their area of specialisation. For instance, cardiologists need skills and knowledge related to treating diseases of the heart.



  • often work long and irregular hours, including evenings, nights and weekends 
  • work in hospitals, clinics and private practices
  • work in conditions that may be stressful, as they deal with seriously ill patients
  • may travel locally to visit hospitals in their region or overseas to attend conferences.

Physicians can earn around $86K-$197K per year.

Chances of getting a job as a Physician are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for physicians and registrars (those in training) varies depending on seniority, hours, location and how often they provide on-call or emergency cover.

  • Registrars working for Te Whatu Ora Health NZ (previously DHBs) usually earn between $86,000 and $197,000 a year.

  • Qualified physicians working for Te Whatu Ora can earn between $164,000 and $244,000 a year.

  • Physicians working in the private sector can earn more than this.

Sources: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), 'New Zealand District Health Boards Senior Medical and Dental Officers Collective Agreement, 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021'; and Resident Doctors' Association, 'RDA and 20 District Health Boards Multi Employer Collective Agreement 17 March 2021 to 31 March 2024'.

Physicians may progress to teach students and trainee physicians at larger hospitals. They can also become senior consultants responsible for their department, or clinical directors, combining an administrative role with a physician role.

Physicians can specialise in a number of areas, including:

Cardiologists specialise in diseases of the heart.
General and Acute Care Physician
General and acute care physicians diagnose and manage conditions that may be complex, difficult to diagnose, or involve multiple organs and systems of the body.
Intensive Care Physician
Intensive care physicians diagnose and treat patients with acute, severe and life-threatening disorders of internal vital systems.
Medical Oncologist
Medical oncologists specialise in the treatment of cancer.
Neurologists specialise in diseases of the nervous system, including the brain.
Paediatricians specialise in the medical care of infants, children and adolescents.

Years Of Training

14 years of training required.

To become a physician you need to:

  • complete the Health Sciences First Year programme at University of Otago, or the first year of either the Bachelor of Health Sciences or Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science at Auckland University
  • complete a five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree at Otago or Auckland
  • work for two years as a house officer (supervised junior doctor) in a hospital
  • complete another six years of specialist training and examinations to become a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

You also need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.