General Practitioner Rata Hauora

General practitioners care for, diagnose and treat the health problems of individuals and families in the community. 

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

General practitioners may do some or all of the following:

  • consult with and examine patients, and diagnose their problems
  • treat individuals and families over extended periods
  • advise on health care and prevention of illness
  • perform minor surgery
  • prescribe and administer medicines
  • keep medical records
  • refer patients to other health services when necessary
  • liaise with ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) over accident and injury claims
  • train and supervise doctors working towards their general practitioner exams
  • screen at-risk groups for diseases such as cervical cancer and diabetes.

Physical Requirements

General practitioners need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hearing.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for general practitioners includes:

  • work in hospitals or other health-related work, such as in a clinic
  • work in a pharmacy
  • work with community groups that involves a wide variety of people.

Personal Qualities

General practitioners need to be:

  • patient and concerned for others
  • able to work well under pressure and remain calm in emergencies
  • able to make good decisions, and solve problems
  • good at time management 
  • able to keep information confidential
  • able to show empathy and compassion, and relate to people from various cultures and backgrounds
  • understanding of other cultures' attitudes to medical treatment.


General practitioners need to have:

  • excellent communication and people skills 
  • knowledge of anatomy and how the human body works
  • knowledge of different diseases, illnesses and injuries
  • knowledge of medicines and treatments, and the effect these have on patients
  • diagnostic skills
  • up-to-date knowledge of new research, treatments and practices
  • knowledge of medical ethics and law
  • cultural competency to work with people of different ethnicities.


General practitioners:

  • usually work regular business hours and may be on call for some patients
  • work in clinics and health centres
  • often come into contact with diseases and bodily fluids
  • may travel to other towns or countries for conferences. Rural general practitioners and those who make house calls travel locally.

General Practitioners can earn around $145K-$210K per year.

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

Pay for general practitioners varies depending on experience, hours, location and the number of patients they see.

  • Registrars (in training) who work for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $81,000 and $192,000 a year. In 2023 this will increase to between $86,000 and $197,000.
  • Qualified general practitioners usually earn between $145,000 and $210,000 a year, for a 40-hour week.
  • Senior general practitioners and those who own private practices can earn more than $200,000.

Sources: Resident Doctors' Association, 'RDA and 20 District Health Boards Multi Employer Collective Agreement 17 March 2021 to 31 March 2024' and Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, 'Workforce Survey 2020'. 

General practitioners may progress to teach students. They may also own their own practice, often with other general practitioners.

General practitioners can further develop their skills in areas such as:

  • emergency medicine
  • sports medicine
  • obstetrics (childbirth)
  • geriatric medicine (working with the elderly)
  • paediatrics (working with children)
  • palliative care (lessening pain).

Years Of Training

12 years of training required.

To become a general practitioner you need to:

  • complete the Health Sciences First Year programme at Otago University, or the first year of either the Bachelor of Health Sciences or Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science at Auckland University
  • complete a six-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 three years of specialist training and examinations to become a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

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.

General Practitioner