Using your qualifications and skills in New Zealand

For some jobs, your qualifications and experience will be useful wherever you work in the world because the job is the same. For other jobs your experience might not be enough, because the job could be different in New Zealand.

For some jobs, your qualifications and experience will be useful wherever you work in the world because the job is the same. For other jobs your experience might not be enough, because the job could be different in New Zealand. 

New Zealand employers do not always recognise or understand foreign qualifications. You may need to add to your qualifications or start at a slightly lower level in your industry. But most migrants find they catch up quite quickly.

What skills are needed in New Zealand?

If there is a shortage of workers in a job, it will be put on a skill shortage list. This means that the Government is actively encouraging skilled workers from overseas to work in these jobs.

Immigration New Zealand has two lists that describe jobs where there is a shortage of skilled workers.  However, there is no guarantee that a vacancy will be available when you are looking for a job.

How do I know if my qualifications can be used in NZ?

A man reads through a newspaper

Local newspapers run ads for training courses

  • You can get your qualifications assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). They will tell how your qualification fits into New Zealand levels. You can then pass this information on to potential employers.
  • Check if there is a business organisation in New Zealand for people in your industry. It may be able to advise you on what qualifications will be recognised, or if your qualifications are needed in New Zealand.

In some cases, you may find that your qualifications are not what is needed in New Zealand. However, you may be able to take certain courses or earn qualifications that will help you into work.

I had to go to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. They check your skills, your work experience, your education, and they try to identify which level you are at in New Zealand. Then I could be more confident as I had a report saying what level of mechanical engineer I am.

Pedro Romero

Pedro Romero

Mechanical Engineer

What if my qualification is too general?

You may have a general qualification that does not relate to one specific area of work. However, you may find that the skills you have from the qualification and previous jobs means you work in other jobs.

  • Work out what skills you have, and how they can be used in other jobs. You can use our Skill Matcher tool to get ideas.
  • Get your qualifications assessed by NZQA, so you know what level they are.
  • Speak to one of our career advisers. They can help you work out your skills and how you can use them in different roles.

Will my previous job experience be helpful?

You can use our website to find out if your job experience will be useful in New Zealand.

  • Search your job title in our jobs database. This will give you details about the skills needed for jobs that interest you. 
  • Read the stories of people doing this job. This will help you to see if the job is like what you were doing back home.
  • Jobs in New Zealand may have different titles than in your country. You may want to look at jobs within an industry, to see the ranges of jobs available.

What if I don't have the skills and qualifications needed in New Zealand?

If you want to stay in the same field, you should talk to employers and find out what skills and qualifications they actually need.

  • Industry organisations may also be able to give advice about what you will need to do to be qualified or registered to work in New Zealand.
  • If you need more qualifications to do your job, find out what study options are available. For example, you may be able to find a part-time course, which means you can work while studying.

What if my work is too specialised to do in New Zealand?

A man at work as a mechanic

Your skills may be transferable to a job in New Zealand

Because many New Zealand businesses are small, workers here often have to do a wider range of tasks to get the work done. This differs from larger countries, where businesses are big, and roles are more specialised.

This may mean your job does not exist in New Zealand, or that it is part of a wider role. You may have to take a lower-level job when starting out here.

If your job is quite specialised, maybe you can:

  • use your qualifications to work in a more general job
  • do course or training that would mean you could work in a similar job
  • do a different job altogether. For some jobs you could train as you work
  • start your own business.

How important are English language skills?

English, Māori and NZ sign language are the official languages of New Zealand, but English is used most. The level of English needed varies for different jobs, but having some knowledge is necessary for many parts of your life, including work.

Immigration New Zealand requires migrants to have a certain standard of English.

Once you are in New Zealand, there are many courses available to help you improve your English.

Work Connect

Are you a skilled migrant, partner of a skilled migrant, or an international student graduate (level 7 and above) looking for work? 

Work Connect is a free programme to help you prepare for the New Zealand job market.

Work Connect supports you with 10 hours of group workshops, coaching and mentoring to help you find a job that suits your skills, experience and qualifications.

Updated 27 Sep 2018