Police officers work to prevent and solve crime, keep the peace, and respond to criminal activities and emergencies.
Police officers with one to four years’ experience usually earn
$55K-$60K per year
Police officers with more than four years' experience usually earn
$60K -$119K per year
Source: NZ Police, 2017.
Pay for police officers varies depending on their experience, the type of work they do, and what extra allowances they get.
- Trainee police officers on the 16-week new recruit course usually earn $1,442 a fortnight.
- Graduate police officers usually start on $55,000 a year.
- Police officers with one to four years' experience usually earn $55,000 to $60,000.
- Police officers with more than four years' experience usually earn $60,000 to $119,000.
Police officers may receive allowances for items such as travel, food and clothing, extra duties, overtime, and insurances.
Sources: New Zealand Police, 'New Zealand Police Constabulary Collective Employment Agreement 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018', 2017; New Cops website, accessed June 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Police officers may do some or all of the following:
- patrol selected areas on foot or by car
- help people in a wide range of emergencies
- investigate crimes, domestic disturbances, serious crashes and sudden deaths
- interview people and take statements
- search for and arrest suspected criminals
- write reports
- give evidence in court
- direct traffic and help drivers
- give talks at schools.
Skills and knowledge
Police officers need to have:
- knowledge of police policy and procedures, the legal system and community support services
- skills in observation
- skills in interviewing, problem solving and negotiation.
- usually work shifts, including nights and weekends
- work in a variety of locations, including offices, courts, urban streets and rural areas
- may be at risk of verbal or physical abuse
- may travel to different sites around the country and overseas to help investigate crimes and attend conferences.
What's the job really like?
Job variety puts end to clock-watching
When Nathalie started work as a police officer it was the first time she'd been in a job she loved getting up for in the morning.
"It's a bit of a cliché," she says, "but every day is different. The variety means you're never clock-watching like you might in an office job.
"Sure there's a bit of paperwork, but most of the time you're out and about talking to people. The other night we were walking the beat in Wellington at 2am, and saw a girl huddled in a corner crying. She looked so vulnerable. She wasn't actually that drunk, she'd just got separated from her friends, so we got her up, got her details and managed to join her up with her friends. It's moments like these that can give you a sense of achievement."
Supportive team culture in the job
Working closely with supportive colleagues is another big bonus of the job, Nathalie says. "For example, if we get an incident to attend at the end of a shift, it has to be reported on the night it happens, so you might be finishing late. I've never had a job before where the whole team, even if they were done for the day, would help you finish your work."
To become a police officer you need to complete the police training course, which involves:
- 16 weeks of training at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua
- two years of supervised police work, which gets assessed regularly
- a compulsory university distance learning course.
To enter police training you must:
- be at least 17 years old
- hold a full driver's licence
- be a New Zealand or Australian citizen or permanent resident
- pass psychological, maths and problem-solving tests
- pass physical fitness and eyesight tests
- attend an interview
- notify police of any convictions. Some convictions, such as for drink driving, violence, drugs and dishonesty offences, will see your application automatically rejected.
Police officers are also required to maintain skills and qualifications, including first aid and firearms training, and pass a physical competency fitness test every two years.
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.
There are no specific secondary educational requirements to become a police officer. However, NCEA Level 2 English and maths may be useful, as the police entrance exams test English and maths to this level. Physical education and social studies may also be useful.
Police officers need to be:
- good communicators
- able to relate to a wide range of people and cultures
- mature and responsible, and able to keep information private
- good at solving problems and making decisions
- patient and helpful
- disciplined and able to remain calm in emergencies
- good at written and verbal reports
- able to work as part of a team.
Useful experience for police officers includes:
- being part of a team such as a sports team
- working in security
- working with people from a diverse range of communities, ethnicities and backgrounds
- involvement in community-based activities such as coaching sports, mentoring young people and volunteering.
Police officers need to be fit, healthy and strong, with good hearing and eyesight. People who wear glasses or contact lenses, or who have colour blindness must contact the police recruitment office to arrange an eye test.
Find out more about training
- Police Recruitment
- 0800 639 2677 - www.newcops.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Regular police officer intakes, but strong competition for positions
New Zealand Police employs almost 10,000 police officers, and has multiple intakes every year, with 40 to 80 recruits per intake. In addition, more than 1,100 new police officer positions will be created by 2022. However, competition for positions is very high.
Opportunities for school leavers are limited, as people with life experience are preferred.
According to the Census, 9831 police officers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Demand for police officers higher in Auckland and rural areas
Demand for police officers is higher in remote rural regions where you may be the only police officer, and in Auckland City because of the large population.
Police officer turnover in Auckland is also higher than in other areas, which means jobs come up more regularly.
Police increasing diversity
The Police are actively recruiting more women and more people from minority ethnic groups.
One employer of police officers
All police officers are employed by New Zealand Police.
- Cowlishaw, S, 'Too Many Guns, Not Enough Cops', 22 June 2017, (www.newsroom.co.nz).
- Fyers, A and Price, R, 'Analysis: Police Numbers in the Political Crossfire', 11 August 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Kirk, S, 'Prime Minister Bill English Announces More Than 1100 Extra Police Staff', 2 February 2017, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Martin, R, 'Staff Crisis Affects Duties', December 2016, (www.policeassn.org.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission), accessed 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook', accessed June 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Police Association, 'Towards a Safer New Zealand 2017', June 2017, (www.policeassn.org.nz).
- Radio New Zealand, '$500m Pledge for More Police', 2 February 2017, (www.radionz.co.nz).
- Sachdeva, S, 'Government Hails Record Police Recruitment Figures as Part of Funding Package', 14 March 2017, (www.stuff.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
With at least two years of supervised frontline training, police officers can progress to leadership positions such as detective or sergeant.
Police officers may join a specialised police unit such as:
- armed offenders squad
- child protection team
- dog handling
- road policing
- search and rescue
- youth aid.
Last updated 12 August 2020