Surgeon Rata Hāparapara

Surgeons consult with patients and operate on people to treat and manage disease and injuries.

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

Surgeons may do some or all of the following:

  • examine patients and decide whether operations are needed
  • consult with other medical professionals about patient care and treatment
  • perform and manage operations
  • instruct and manage patients' post-operative care
  • check on patients' progress while they are in hospital
  • keep medical records and send final reports to general practitioners
  • provide follow-up care for patients
  • teach medical students and trainee surgeons
  • carry out research.

Physical Requirements

Surgeons need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination. They also need to have steady hands.

Surgeons must have a good level of stamina as some surgery can take many hours.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for surgeons includes:

  • work in hospitals or health clinics
  • work caring for people.

Personal Qualities

Surgeons need to be:

  • accurate and careful, with an eye for detail
  • motivated and disciplined
  • quick and efficient
  • 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.


Surgeons need to have:

  • knowledge of anatomy and how the human body works
  • surgical skills and knowledge 
  • 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 research, treatments and practices
  • knowledge of medical ethics and law.

Surgeons need to have some knowledge of other medical specialities such as oncology, radiology and pathology.



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

Surgeons can earn around $81K-$197K per year.

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

Pay varies for surgeons and for registrars (those in training), depending on seniority, hours, location and frequency of on-call or emergency cover.

  • Registrars working 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 surgeons working for a DHB usually earn between $164,000 and $244,000.
  • Surgeons working in the private sector may 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';   Resident Doctors' Association, 'RDA and 20 District Health Boards Multi Employer Collective Agreement 17 March 2021 to 31 March 2024'.

Surgeons may progress to teach students and trainee surgeons at larger hospitals. Surgeons can also become clinical directors, combining an administrative role with a surgical one.

Surgeons can specialise in a number of roles including:

Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Cardiothoracic surgeons treat diseases and injuries of the heart, lungs and chest wall.
General Surgeon
General surgeons treat diseases and injuries of the abdomen, breast and endocrine (glandular) organs.
Neurosurgeons diagnose and treat patients with disorders of the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous system including their supportive structures and blood supply.
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Orthopaedic surgeons treat diseases and injuries of the bones, joints, muscles and soft tissue.
Otolaryngologists treat diseases and injuries of the head and neck.
Paediatric Surgeon
Paediatric surgeons diagnose and treat children who may require surgery. This includes the management of congenital abnormalities both ante-natally and in the neonatal period and the management of major trauma in children.
Plastic or Reconstructive Surgeon
Plastic or reconstructive surgeons correct or restore body function or appearance for aesthetic or therapeutic reasons.
Urologists diagnose and treat disorders of the urinary tracts in males and females, and male genital organs. It also includes the management of trauma to these organs and the management of male sterilisation, infertility and sexual dysfunction.
Vascular surgeon
Vascular surgeons diagnose and treat patients with disorders of the blood vessels (arteries and veins outside the heart and brain) and the lymphatic system.

Years Of Training

13-15 years of training required.

To become a surgeon 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 five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree at Otago or Auckland Universities
  • work for several years as a supervised junior doctor in a hospital
  • complete another five to seven years of specialist training and examinations to become a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

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.