Australia vs New Zealand: Which is better for doctor jobs?

Australia vs NZ which is better for doctors

Are you looking for doctor jobs in New Zealand and Australia? Look no further. Medrecruit is a medical recruitment company based in Australia and New Zealand with more jobs than you can shake a visa at.

But to narrow down your job search, you’ll first need to choose: Australia or New Zealand? Often lumped together on the world stage (including this awkward moment when New Zealand's Prime Minister  was mistakenly placed before the Australian flag), the two countries are actually quite different in terms of lifestyle and the kind of doctor jobs you’ll come across.

Choosing the best place to live depends on what sort of doctor job you’re after, what kind of lifestyle you want and how much you’d like to get paid.   So, where should you focus your job search?

The low down on Australia:

Australia is bigger, a lot bigger, than New Zealand. Physically, it’s a whopping 7.6 million km2 with a population of 24.6 million, however, much of the population lives along the coastlines. This means Australia has a greater number and range of doctor job opportunities. From the major cities like Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to rural towns, the kind of doctor job you get could vary wildly, even within the same specialty.

Find out everything you need to know about moving to Australia or New Zealand in our free IMG Guide.
Download now

While the big city jobs may be comparable (and therefore more attractive) to doctor jobs in countries like the UK, quotas mean that you’ll probably have to work in a rural community or regional area first (this is known as a DWS area).


Doctors looking for a better lifestyle is one of the most common reasons we see overseas trained doctors looking for jobs in Australia. There’s long sandy beaches, great surf, hot summer days and vibrant cities balanced with incredible wildlife and natural beauty… there’s a lot to like about Aussie!

However, you’re more likely to get a doctor job in a rural or regional area first. This means that you might not get to spend weekends at Bondi and evenings at the Sydney Opera House at first. But there’s a lot on offer from these smaller communities. We’ve worked with loads of doctors who’ve loved travelling off the beaten path, working with rural communities and discovering a different side to Australia. Check out our interview with Dr Kodali, who uses quieter rural airports to fly small planes on his weekends.


Remuneration in both New Zealand and Australia is relatively good. On average, pay is higher in Australia than New Zealand (and the cost of living is higher in New Zealand), but most doctors find the pay in both countries suitable.

Compared to New Zealand, Australia’s healthcare system operates more like a private healthcare system. Pay and career opportunities here are higher, but some doctors don’t like the fact that patient access to care has more financial barriers.

In Australia the overall average doctor's salary is around AU$180,000, however, what a doctor can earn depends on many factors, including their grade, and their specialty. If you are a doctor-in-training or junior doctor in Australia you will earn around AUD$70,000 – $95,000, whereas a top-level consultant can be earning an average of AUD$310,000.

Pathways to Australia:

There are three pathways for medical graduates intending to practice in Australia. These are:

  • Competent Authority Pathway
  • Standard Pathway
  • Specialist Pathway

The low down on New Zealand:

New Zealand is far smaller, it’s roughly the same size as the UK, but with a population of just 4.6 million (compare that to 66 million in the UK). There’s fewer doctor jobs overall, but the range of opportunities is surprising: New Zealand has one of the highest proportions within the OECD of international medical graduates in its medical workforce (around 43%). New Zealand’s health system relies on overseas trained doctors, so while the training systems between NZ and Australia are relatively similar, it could be argued that getting a job in NZ is easier (and there’s no rural area quota).


In New Zealand, there’s only a few major cities (think Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch…). While city life in New Zealand is great, like Australia, you’d be wise to widen your doctor job search to rural areas. Medrecruit doctor Dr Dolores del Estal spent a year travelling New Zealand’s rural areas and tourist hotspots with her Great Dane dog while taking on locum work. Arguably, Australia has the edge when it comes to traditional arts and cultural offerings, but if you love the great outdoors, you’d be a fool not to consider New Zealand’s rugged beauty. Cruise Milford Sound, take up paragliding or tackle the Coast-to-Coast multisport race… game on!


In New Zealand, the average salary for a doctor varies widely depending on their specialty, experience, and whether they work in the public or private sector. General Practitioners (GPs) typically earn between NZD$125,000 and NZD $250,000 per year, while Specialists can command salaries ranging from NZD$150,000 to over NZD$600,000 annually. Registrars and residents, usually have lower earnings, starting around NZD$70,000 to NZD$175,000 per year. These figures can be influenced by factors such as overtime, on-call stipends, and geographic location, with rural practices often offering higher remuneration to attract and retain medical professionals.

Despite New Zealand’s health care system being more socially-driven, it has fewer operating pressures than the UK’s NHS (the smaller, healthier population helps too).

Pathways to New Zealand:

There are several pathways for overseas trained doctors to come and work in New Zealand. The choice of pathways differs for junior and senior doctors, but all pathways take into account a combination of qualifications and experience. The key pathways we work with are:


  • Competent Authority
  • Comparable Healthcare System pathway


  • Locum Tenens

  • Vocational

Which country makes more sense for you?

Ultimately, the decision to move to New Zealand or Australia comes down to what kind of lifestyle you want; do you want good money and the luxuries of the city, or do you want to work fewer hours so you can spend more time mountain biking? If you’re still not sure, talk to a member of our team – we’ve got offices on the Gold Coast, Australia and Queenstown, New Zealand.

How to get started?

Relocating overseas to pursue a medical career is a significant undertaking, and the backing of a medical recruitment agency can be helpful. Medrecruit features a specialised IMG team, comprised of individuals who've personally navigated moving to New Zealand, ready to provide authentic advice on transitioning to life "Down Under." What's more our service is completely free for doctors. To find out more about working as an IMG in Australia or New Zealand, register, and one of our IMG team will be in touch to discuss opportunities and set you up for a successful relocation.

Bethany Rogers
09 November 2023Article by Bethany RogersMedrecruit Editor