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SurgeonAlternative titles

Rata Hāparapara

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Plastic or Reconstructive Surgeon
General Surgeon

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

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733

Entry requirements

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
  • 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. 

Secondary education

To enter tertiary training you need to have NCEA Level 3. Useful subjects include maths with calculus and/or statistics, chemistry, physics, biology and English.

Personal requirements

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.


"I like using my hands and constructing and building things and that’s what we do. You have to be practically oriented because you’re using saws and hammers and screwdrivers and drills."

Dr Richard Keddell - Orthopaedic Surgeon

Useful experience

Useful experience for surgeons includes:

  • work in hospitals or other health-related work, such as in a clinic
  • work caring for people.

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.


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

Related courses

View information on courses in the course database

Find out more about training

Health Careers
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS)
(04) 385 8247 - college.nz@surgeons.org
Medical Council of New Zealand
0800 286 801 - www.mcnz.org.nz


years of training required

Richard Keddell watching a colleague examine a foot in plaster

You need to complete general and specialised medical training to become a surgeon

A surgical team operating on a person

Surgeons need to be able to work well under pressure

Updated 11 Dec 2014