When making such a big decision, like choosing the career path you want to take, there are always lots of questions you will have. Listed here are some of the most frequently asked ones - you can also filter them by category. 

If these don’t answer your query then give us a call on 0800 1 FORCE and we will be happy to help.

Can I wear jewellery and make-up when I’m in my uniform?

Make-up can be worn provided it is appropriate for a military environment. Each service has clear guidelines for what is appropriate, but in general, make-up should be light and natural. Foundation and minimal eye make-up can be worn when in the office, but it is of course impractical to wear any in the field environment.

You are allowed to wear a plain signet ring, engagement ring and/or wedding ring. Only women are allowed to wear earrings, which should be one pair of plain studs or sleepers only.

You can wear a wristwatch, and it is recommended that you get a sturdy, waterproof watch for work.

Can I have tattoos and piercings?

Tattoos are acceptable provided they are appropriate for a military environment and are complementary to the Defence Force’s values and image. Each service has clear guidelines regarding this. Cultural tattoos are permitted, however highly visible tattoos with inappropriate or offensive content are not acceptable.

Women are allowed to have their ears pierced. Only one piercing in each ear is acceptable, and all other visible piercings are not permitted.

What options are available to me for maternity leave?

The Defence Force is family friendly and offers generous leave policies to support working parents. If you are planning a family you can take parental leave and we provide you with support to reintegrate into working life, including getting fit again. You may also be eligible to receive a return to work incentive payment, which is equivalent to six weeks salary and payable six months after your return from parental leave.

You can continue to breast-feed if you choose. Nursing mothers may be able to make arrangements with their commanders and managers to establish an appropriate location for breast-feeding and expressing milk. However, personal needs must always be balanced with high priority Unit or operational activities.

There is also an annual leave allowance to use at your discretion. This is an important time in your life and we recognise that. In the Defence Force you can enjoy family life like everyone else. 

There is flexibility around leave for school holidays or if you need to care for a sick child.

How do I take care of personal hygiene when I’m in the field?

It is important to maintain high hygiene standards for your health and well-being.

When you are in the field and don’t have access to bathroom facilities, you will be taught during initial recruit training how to tactically, safely and appropriately take care of all personal hygiene matters – and you will always be able to maintain your privacy and discretion. Most women carry wet-wipes, and enough spare socks and underwear.

When you are conducting high intensity training, or if your team is on the move, you will have to improvise and take the opportunity to go to the toilet during rest breaks. On longer and larger training exercises, involving combat service support, there may be proper toilet areas (port-a-loos) and field showers set up.

On operational deployments, regardless of what service you are in, the accommodation, ablution and shop/canteen facilities are established to a comfortable and hygienic standard. Depending on the location and situation this can vary from military or local suppliers, and from military tents to a hotel room or a locally rented property. 

Can I attend evening social events off base after work?

We believe passionately in providing an excellent work/life balance, and the hours you work will be similar to any role in civilian life, with most of your weekends free. Of course if you’re on exercise, on operations, or responding to a critical situation, then you will need to be flexible about this.

Downtime can be spent however you wish. You might want to socialise on base with your friends, and you can invite your civilian friends on base as long as they are escorted at all times. You might just want to get away from the base and visit family, or go into town for a night out.

There are gyms and swimming pools for exercise and recreation, and bars to relax in. If you need a bit of peace and quiet for study or reading, there’s a well-stocked library. There is a shop and café, hobby huts and many clubs for you to join. This could be anything from cycling to ski-ing to Kapa Haka.

As an enlisted service member it is important that your personal conduct both on and off duty is responsible, respectful and appropriate. If you are likely to be consuming alcohol, we encourage our personnel to drink responsibly, organise safe and sober travel home after a night out, and to look out for each other’s safety and well-being. 

Can I change jobs once I’m in the Defence Force?

Initial Service and trade selection is really important, and it pays to do your homework so that you make an informed decision as both you and the Defence Force will be investing a lot of time, energy and money over the course of your career.

Due to career progression and regular posting cycles, you will be changing jobs every couple of years so there are always opportunities for new challenges, to gain new skills, and to live and work in different places with different people.

In some circumstances it is possible to change trade once you’re in the Defence Force. However, trade and Service changes can be a lengthy process and will depend on a number of factors, so it is not guaranteed.

You can resign from the Defence Force and typically we require three months notice. However, during times of increased operational activity, or if you are required to complete a Return of Service Obligation, you may be required to continue serving until you have completed your required duties or service period.

Can I keep studying outside the Defence Force?

Yes. You can choose what to do with your free time and if you want to pursue further education you can. If the study is related to your trade, the Defence Force may pay for it or subsidise your course fees. You may even be allowed to spend some work time studying, depending on the course and the demands of your job.

Find out more on our University Study and Education and Training pages, or look up education and training, in the lifestyle and salary section for each Service.

Do I need to wear my uniform if I go to University?

Depending on which scheme you are studying under, if you are an enlisted Regular Force member of the Defence Force you may have to wear uniform when attending lectures, tutorials and other formal occasions like graduation.

At any point in your career, if you are attending workshops, courses or lectures in a professional capacity then you will most likely be expected to wear uniform, but this will be up to command or personal discretion. 

Will I be allowed to keep in touch with my family and friends?

Family, friends and partners are very important. It’s entirely up to you whether you maintain your existing relationships or socialise mainly with your military friends and colleagues.

When you are deployed overseas, we make sure that you can keep in regular contact with family and friends and are kept up-to-date with national news and events, especially if you are in remote areas.

During your initial recruit training you will have limited access to your mobile phone and pay telephone, and regular access to mail.

How Many women are there in the Defence Force

There are currently over 1300 women enlisted as Regular Force within our Defence Force. Of a total of about 8,800 service personnel, women make up just over 15% of the work force.

Is the Defence Force a fair and diverse place to work?

The Defence Force is committed to ensuring a balanced workforce and an inclusive culture. This means that all members are able to participate, compete and be rewarded fairly regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, age, beliefs/opinions, or family circumstances.

Our personnel are treated in a transparent, fair and equitable, and legislatively compliant manner. From an individual perspective, this means that your initial selection and career development opportunities will be based on merit and performance.

Our commanders and managers at all levels are responsible for applying equity and diversity principles to all strategies, policies and processes, and to set appropriate standards of behaviour and practice. 

Do women have equal opportunities to gain promotions and access courses?

Promotions are based upon performance and qualifications gained. Selection for courses is based on performance and the availability of course positions.

How does the Defence Force prevent discrimination, harassment and bullying?

Service and employment in the Defence Force is based on the principles of trust and respect in everything that we do. This allows us to maintain our operational effectiveness, and to manage and protect the well-being of our personnel.

We are committed to ensuring that our workplaces are safe and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying, and we have a robust framework and support processes in place to deal with any alleged incidents. This enables our leaders to deal with allegations fairly and efficiently - quickly, appropriately and sensitively, without being unnecessarily elevated.

It is important to note that all servicemen and women are expected to act responsibly and consistently apply the principles of self-discipline, self-management, comradeship and integrity. 

What kinds of jobs are available to women?

All Defence Force jobs are accessible to women. Some roles are more popular with women such as Communications and Logistics. Some combat roles (NZSAS, Commando and Diver) have extremely high selection and training standards that are both physically and mentally challenging. The standards are set the same for men and women, making it very difficult for women and many men to access these trades.

What age can I be employed until in the NZDF?

The NZDF has no upper age limits. Continued service is determined by vacancies, your performance and your health and fitness.

How fit do I have to be to join?

Throughout the Defence Force, physical fitness is important and maintained at a high level. You need to be fit to do your job well and you need the energy reserves to respond to any emergency situations. This doesn’t just mean being physically strong – we need total fitness. As part of your application you will have to undertake fitness tests. These tests vary depending on the role you are applying for, visit Navy, Army or Air Force to see what tests apply for your chosen Service.

Before you undertake basic training, it's essential that you are reasonably fit and free of injuries and medical problems. Prior to joining, concentrate on cardiovascular work such as running and circuit training; to give yourself a head start, you should aim to achieve the minimum standard of fitness required for the job you wish to apply for

What is the minimum standard of fitness for the Defence Force?
The minimum standard of fitness will depend on your chosen Service and may also depend on your gender and age. In addition some jobs will require higher standards of fitness due to the nature of the work involved, Navy Diver is one such example.
What age do I have to be to apply to join the New Zealand Defence Force?

Although minimum age is 17, you can start the application process before turning 17. Some careers in the Defence Force have a higher age limit, but we can advise you about that if it applies. You can call us on 0800 1FORCE for further clarification.

I play sport at a competitive level. Can I keep playing while I'm in the Defence Force?

If you're playing top-level sports of any kind, we will usually be able to ensure you get the opportunity to compete. We have sportsmen and women who compete at national and international level, as well as fulfilling their regular duties.  The drive to win and teamwork are core to the Defence Force and so we encourage all personnel to get involved in team sports whenever they can.

How much time do I spend in uniform?

You will be required to wear uniform during the normal working day and if you are required for duty. You are not required to wear uniform out of hours.

I have a mobile phone. Will I be able to use it in the Defence Force?

Mobile phones are allowed in the New Zealand Defence Force, but you are not permitted to use them sometimes, like when on operations or exercise or during parts of your initial training.

Will I be able to stay in touch with family and friends during my training?

While you're undertaking your training, you will be given plenty of time to remain in contact with family and friends by mail or pay telephone. 

Does the NZDF recognise a relationship if a couple is not married?

Yes. A service member who is in a relationship with another person and living as a couple will be entitled to have that relationship recorded as a recognised relationship.

Official recognition of such a relationship renders a service member eligible for the same entitlements available to married service members.

Relationships will be recognised for NZDF purposes only. There are no set criteria for the recognition of a relationship and each case will considered on its own merits.

Once you sign the offer of service, are you bound to serve for the whole engagement?

No, signing the OOS places you under no obligation. However, once you enlist (attest), you become liable to serve the period of your engagement. However, you have the right to apply for release at any time during your engagement.

The normal notice period for release is three months.

Will the move date be a negotiated one, or advised?

Enlistment dates will be agreed once an OOS is made and we have a clearer idea of the time frame (e.g. NZ Residence class visa, release etc).

Please be aware that you are expected to enlist within 18 months from the time you submit your application to NZDF and that you are required to give as much information as possible about when you will be able to join.