Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs in New Zealand

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of various professionals such us a doctor, a pilot, a construction workers, a chef, a nurse, a photographer and an astronaut standing next to each other with the New Zealand flag behind them and a city skyline as a backdrop

Whether you’ve travelled to New Zealand on business, booked an adventure sports tour there for your gap year, or just admired those breathtaking backdrops in The Lord of the Rings, you know just how spectacular the island country’s natural landscapes are. The chance to regularly go on safari, glacier tours and whale-watching boat rides is an alluring motivator when considering working abroad.

The natural wonders aren’t the only reasons New Zealand is considered one of the best countries to work in. The residents are friendly and welcoming, and most employers promote a healthy work-life balance. While some imported goods come at a high price, basic living expenses are more affordable than similar accommodations in the US and UK, and salaries are competitive.

Since you’re here, we know you’re hoping for the perfect combination of outdoors adventure and lucrative career opportunity waiting for you in your field. Keep reading, because we’ve utilised some helpful careers data from the local government and put together a handy list of the highest-paying jobs in New Zealand.

10. Health services manager

Average annual salary: NZ$185,000 (£97,500 / $133,100)

Healthcare is one of the top five industries contributing to New Zealand’s yearly GDP, and health services managers are high in demand. You can land the role with various backgrounds, including medical, business, accounting or human resources. However, hospitals and large clinics often require a postgraduate qualification, such as a master’s diploma in health management or an MBA.

Like many other management positions, you’ll need top-notch organisational and time management skills. Health care managers must be expert accountants, communicators and negotiators as they handle budgets, funding, government policy requirements and public health education. If you remain open to various health care specialities, your education and experience can lead to increasingly lucrative job opportunities.

9. Physician

Average annual salary: NZ$187,000 (£98,600 / $134,500)

If you are a physician, you have one of the best healthcare jobs in the world no matter where you decide to hang your hat, or stethoscope. Working for a district health board (DHB) is already one of the top-paying jobs in New Zealand, but physicians in the private sector can make even more – up to around $600,000. Before moving to NZ, be sure to get a qualifications assessment and registration with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Physicians require a complex combination of skills, from technical medical knowledge to strong interpersonal communication and empathy. Working in a medical office or hospital and dealing with serious health issues can be extremely stressful. This is where New Zealand’s laid-back environment and plenty of options to decompress during your time off can really come in handy.

8. Ship’s master

Average annual salary: NZ$187,500 (£98,800 / $134,900)

It’s no surprise that maritime jobs are some of the highest-paying ones in New Zealand. A sailing career also offers many opportunities for career progression based on experience. Even the top role as ship’s master, with full responsibility for the ship, crew, passengers and cargo, can begin on smaller vessels as seasonal or part-time work. After a few years, an experienced ship’s master can move on to tug master or harbour pilot jobs for increased salary and stability.

There is typically no formal education requirement, although you’ll need to pass fitness, eyesight and colour vision tests. You’ll also need to have qualifications in first aid, firefighting and survival tactics. A certificate of competency is required through Maritime New Zealand.

This is one of the best careers for those looking for adventure and incomparable experiences every day on the job. However, depending on your assignment, be prepared for long hours, extreme and sometimes dangerous conditions, and potentially spending months away from home.

7. Ophthalmologist

Average annual salary: NZ$196,000 (£103,300 / $141,000)

The highest-paying jobs in the medical field also require a substantial investment and commitment. Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat eye conditions, including eye surgery. The role requires a Bachelor of Health Sciences or Biomedical Science degree and two years as a supervised junior doctor. Five more years and additional testing are required to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.

If you’re planning to relocate to New Zealand, be aware that you may qualify for more than one type of work visa as a skilled ophthalmologist. Those with their own businesses typically bring home the largest salaries, so you may want to consider permanent residency. Check with the Medical Council of New Zealand to verify your credentials and register to practice.

6. Pathologist

Average annual salary: NZ$204,500 (£107,800 / $147,200)

You’ll have to work your way up the food chain as a pathologist, but even trainees, working for a DHB, start at nearly $100,000 per year. You’ll begin work after a 5-year medical degree, but you may need additional schooling if you hope to specialise in a specific area. As with the aforementioned health careers, you’ll need to qualify and register with the Medical Council.

Pathologists analyse samples taken from patients and diagnose disease. They are an integral part of patient care and may also take part in research for treatment and cures and guide public health policy. It’s essential to have a passion for extremely detail-oriented work and excellent data analysis and critical thinking skills.

Getting a top salary job as an experienced pathologist is promising for those looking to work abroad in New Zealand. The growing population means there’s a high demand for specialists in the field, including forensic pathologists.

5. Fishing skipper

Average annual salary: NZ$205,000 (£108,000 / $147,500)

Work on a fishing vessel isn’t for the faint of heart, as it’s one of the most difficult and dangerous professions in the world. Thus, aside from expertise in navigation, marine life and fishing regulations, a fishing skipper must know how to prioritise and assure the crew’s safety. Like a ship’s master, you must have several first aid and survival qualifications, but previous experience with a fishing vessel’s hazardous machinery is also required.

While this may be an alluring draw as one of the highest-paying jobs in New Zealand, this isn’t an easy role to land. With only limited openings that require a lot of experience, a fishing skipper job is more feasible as a future career goal. You will likely have better luck applying for a deckhand or other crew position on board a fishing vessel, then working your way up.

3. Radiation oncologist (tie)

Average annual salary: NZ$387,500 (£204,200 / $278,800)

Two essential skills for doctors are communication and emotional intelligence. This is especially true for radiation oncologists, who interact with seriously ill patients who often require difficult treatment regimens. While it is a challenging role, it can be extremely fulfilling to see patients recover and contribute to ongoing research for better outcomes.

As the population grows and ages, the demand for radiation oncologists is increasing. Those who hope to work abroad may find their specialised skills are very welcome in New Zealand. You can use the Medical Council’s self-assessment tool to determine your path to registration and work in the country’s health services.

While the pay range varies by experience, location and hours worked, it can be extremely lucrative. Qualified oncologists at the top level can earn upwards of $600,000.

3. Diagnostic radiologist (tie)

Average annual salary: NZ$387,500 (£204,200 / $278,800)

A job as a diagnostic radiologist is more than just reading X-rays. Radiology also includes ultrasound, MRIs, nuclear medicine and other diagnostic tools. This role also requires medical procedures from IV insertion to taking internal or external biopsies. Diagnostic radiologists must have a five-year bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery degree and additional training in a hospital.

In addition to the high pay, this is a good job to take advantage of the positive work-life balance environment New Zealand offers. Diagnostic radiologists can take on different shifts or work part-time to better suit their lifestyle.

One of the tips to getting a top salary job abroad like this is to work with a professional placement service. Some specialise in international job openings in health services. You can also check our very own global job board here on CareerAddict.

2. Judge

Average annual salary: NZ$412,000 (£217,100 / $296,500)

Just shy of the top spot of the highest-paying jobs in New Zealand, this is also the most exclusive occupation on our list. There are a limited number of positions, only one employer, and people tend to retain the job for many years. Prospective judges must hold a bachelor of laws degree and have at least seven years of experience as a solicitor or barrister. You also need to apply or be nominated to the Attorney-General’s Judiciary Appointments Unit.

Making decisions on cases and passing sentences on those convicted requires an unparalleled knowledge of the law. Nominees who hope to be selected by the governor-general must also display impeccable reasoning, honesty, fairness and integrity in their work. A judgeship is a coveted honour and career goal for many in the legal profession, so competition is fierce.

1. Chief executive 

Average annual salary: NZ$560,000 (£295,200 / $403,000)

In addition to a positive work-life balance in New Zealand, companies also maintain less of a disparity between worker and chief executive salaries than elsewhere in the world. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, for example, found that the CEO pay at 350 top US firms averaged $17.2 million a year. In contrast, the biggest companies in NZ typically offer top executives between $2 and $4.5 million per year.

While it may not reach Jeff Bezos’ yearly income, the best-paid job in New Zealand will still offer you a financially comfortable lifestyle. You’ll have to work hard to land this role, however, and even more so to keep it. Gaining a variety of experience within your industry is an important step to becoming a CEO. While you may be able to work your way up through a single company, keep networking and keep your options open for any chance to progress in your career.


So, are you ready to apply for one of New Zealand’s highest-paying jobs? We can help you put together your CV with the help of our expert CV/résumé writers. And if you’re still not quite sure what the best career path is for you, we can also help you decide with our career-matching platform, CareerHunter!

Are you considering moving to New Zealand? What are some of the factors behind your decision? Share them with us in the comments section below! 


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 18 June 2015.

Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by on 3 February 2021.