Teaching in New Zealand: What you need to know before applying

Andrew Lynch

Teaching in New Zealand: What you need to know before applying

If you’re looking to expand your horizons by teaching in a country far-away from the UK, then New Zealand should be on your list.

The country often tops global rankings as one of the best countries in the world to live and work in, not least because New Zealand offers a laid-back lifestyle surrounded by tranquil settings. Moreover, it also boasts one of the lowest crime-rates globally, and is often cited as having one of the most transparent political systems in existence.

If this sounds like something you want to explore further, then why not look into teaching in New Zealand?

Although minimum criteria levels are significantly more stringent in comparison to TEFL jobs over in Asia and South America, if teaching in New Zealand really is a dream of yours, then it’s highly feasible.

To help you along the way, our guide is going to tell you everything that you need to know to turn your dream of teaching in New Zealand into a reality. We’ll cover the most pertinent points such as visas, qualifications, salaries and more.

Let’s begin by exploring what visa you will need to teach in New Zealand.

Teaching in New Zealand: Visas

If you’re thinking about rocking up to New Zealand armed with a tourist visa and non-accredited TEFL certificate - then think again. Standards in New Zealand are considerably higher than other popular teaching destinations such as Thailand and Peru, so it’s important that you have a firm understanding of the visa situation.

Fortunately for you, UK citizens are accustomed to a Working Holiday Visa program that not only permits entry to New Zealand, but you also have the authorization to work.

New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

Much like in the case of its Australian counterpart, those from the UK can easily obtain a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. However, there are some clear differences that you need to be made aware of.


First and foremost, you need to be aged between 18 and 30, and if you're from the UK you'll get to spend up to 23-months in the country. If you opt for the full 23-months as opposed to just a year, you'll need to prove that you have enough money to pay for a return flight home.

Moreover, although you can live in the country for up to 23 months, you can only work for A duration of 12 months. As such, this will limit your ability to undertake longer-term teaching jobs such as those found within schools. However, you'll be perfectly suitable to teach in a language centre.

There's no quota to the amount of people eligible, so you can apply during any time of the year. In terms of fees, you’ll pay NZ$208 to apply, which at the time of writing amounts to about £107.

You can easily apply for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa online.

New Zealand points-based system

The second option available to you is to go through the standard immigration channel by applying for a work permit. This particular process is based on a similar points system to Australia, whereby those with skills that are in short supply get priority.

If you’re currently a school teacher in the UK with the required qualifications, you stand a really good chance of obtaining a work permit. This is because school teachers are officially listed as a skilled shortage in New Zealand.

In order to qualify, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have the required teaching experience, as well as a verifiable teaching diploma such as the UK’s PGCE.

Alternatively, if you’ve been offered a job directly by a government-backed school, then the institution can apply for your visa on your behalf.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to teach in New Zealand but you don’t hold an advanced teaching diploma (such as a PGCE), or you have little teaching experience, then the Working Holiday Visa is likely to be your best option.

At the very least, it will give you sufficient time to explore whether or not you want to teach in New Zealand long-term, which if you do, will allow you to go through the standard work permit application process.

So now that we’ve covered the most pertinent points surrounding visas, in the next part of our guide we are going to discuss qualifications.

What qualifications do I need to teach in New Zealand?

If you’re looking to teach in New Zealand, not only do you need to ensure that you are able to obtain the required visa, but you also need to be in possession of the right qualifications. Here’s a breakdown of what you’re going to need.


At an absolute minimum you are going to need to have a Bachelor's degree. If you’re looking to teach English at a language centre, then this can usually be in any discipline. However, if you’re looking to teach a specific subject such as History or Maths, then it’s possible that your employer will ask for a university degree in the respective field of study.

Although you can get onto the Working Holiday Visa program without a degree, most academic institutions will demand that you have a degree if you want to teach.

This will most certainly be a requirement if you’re looking to teach at a New Zealand university, which is also likely to warrant a Master’s Degree or Doctorate.

TEFL-related certificate

If your ambitions are centred on teaching English as a foreign language in New Zealand, then you are going to need to be in possession of a TEFL-related certificate. Unlike certain countries across Asia, South America or even Europe, it is highly unlikely that language centres will accept your application if you hold a generic TEFL certificate.

What we mean by this is a non-accredited TEFL course that did not consist of any in-class training. On the contrary, it is highly likely that language centres are going to demand an internationally recognized TEFL qualification that either meets or exceeds New Zealand standards.

In this respect, employers are going to be looking for a notable qualification such as DELTA, CELTA or TESOL. The aforementioned programs not only require you to spend ample time in-class, but they are also a lot more expensive that generic online TEFL courses. On the other hand, if teaching in New Zealand is really what you want to do, then it’s well worth spending the time and money obtaining one of these qualifications.

Alternatively, if you’ve already booked your tickets or you’re currently in New Zealand, you can actually take a TEFL course over there. There are heaps of in-class TEFL programs that you can take, most of which will be accredited by New Zealand institutions.

Teaching Diploma: PGCE or local equivalent

If you’ve got your heart set on teaching in a New Zealand school, you will most certainly need to be in possession of an advanced teaching diploma - regardless of how long you intend on staying. In the UK this is known as a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), which is a minimum requirement to pursue a career as a teacher.

You can only undergo the PGCE process if you already have a Bachelor's degree, meaning that it requires 4 years worth of higher education.

The good news for you is that if you currently hold a PGCE, or the equivalent in your native English speaking country, then you’re an excellent fit to teach in New Zealand.

Not only will you be able to apply for jobs across both language centres and primary/secondary schools, but you’ll also qualify for a long-term work permit.

So now that you have a firm grasp of what qualifications you’ll need to teach in New Zealand, we are now going to explore the different types of teaching roles available.

What teaching jobs can I get in New Zealand?

The types of teaching roles that you will be able to apply for will ultimately depend on your individual circumstances. This will take into account your visa situation, academic qualifications, and whether you have any prior teaching experience. Let’s break the main roles down in more detail.

English Language Centres

In the most populous cities of Auckland and Christchurch, there are a significant number of language centres that teach English to foreign students and migrants. As most of the students that visit language centres study or work full-time, most of the teaching slots are primarily held during the evenings or at the weekend.

One of the best things about teaching English at a language centre is that the requirements are a lot less stringent than teaching in a government-backed school. Furthermore, you’ll usually have the option of teaching adults, kids or a combination of both.

In terms of minimum requirements, English language centres in New Zealand often demand an internationally recognized TEFL-qualification, which as noted earlier, should be along the lines of DELTA, CELTA or TESOL.

You might get lucky and find an independent language centre that will accept you based on a generic TEFL certificate, however these are likely to be few and far between.

When it comes to pay, this will really vary depending on the language centre in question. However, salaries are generally a lot lower in the New Zealand in comparison to the UK - and much lower than Australia.


If you’re looking to kickstart a teaching career in New Zealand by teaching at a government school, then as noted above you will need to have an advanced education diploma such as a PGCE.

Much like in the case of Australia, the New Zealand school year usually runs from late January/early February, and finishes just before Christmas. As such, you will need to be able to commit to a full academic year and thus, a Working Holiday Visa will not suffice.

Not only is teaching within a New Zealand school highly rewarding, but you’ll also be accustomed to lengthy breaks in the academic year.

However, it is important to note that schools teachers in New Zealand are paid significantly less that those in Australia, which is why many Kiwis pack up sticks and move across the Tasman Sea.

For example, starting salaries for less experienced teachers will normally amount to around NZ$45,000 (£23,000), which generally increases on an incremental basis.

More experienced teachers that are employed in a more responsible role such as a head of department are likely to earn upwards of $70,000 (£37,000). As such, if you're looking to teach in New Zealand, it must be for reasons far and beyond just financial remuneration. 


If you want to teach at a New Zealand university, then you are going to need to be in possession of at least a Master’s Degree in combination with a PGCE, although Doctorate’s are preferred. Qualification wise, anything less than this and you are unlikely to succeed.

On the other hand, as university lecturing is at the top of the academic tree in New Zealand, if you do hold the required credentials then you are likely to have your visa obligations taken care of.

In terms of pay, once again salaries are lower in comparison to Australia, with lecturers earning an average of NZ$90,000, which amounts to about £46,000. 


A further option that you might want to consider if you’re looking to fulfill your dream of teaching in New Zealand is to tutor on a one-on-one basis. You can either go through a company that matches teachers with students, or alternatively, advertise your services online.

The great thing about tutoring is that you can monetize on your specific skills - whether its teaching English, History, Geography or any other field of expertise you might have.

On average, tutors get paid around $25 per hour (£13) in New Zealand, although you’ll need to factor in travelling expenses too. Qualification wise, this will depend on the company/individual in question, although you’ll likely to be expected to have at least a degree in your chosen field. 

Teaching in New Zealand: The Verdict

If you’ve taken the time to read our guide in its entirety, then we hope you now have a good idea as to what to expect when teaching in New Zealand. This covers important factors such as whether you should apply for a Working Holiday Visa or standard work permit, as well as what qualifications and academic credentials you are going to need.

The most important thing to remember is that although long-term school jobs will require a standard work permit, alongside a fully-fledged diploma such as a PGCE, there are still ample opportunities if you don’t meet this criterion.

On the contrary, by applying for the Working Holiday Visa, and obtaining an accredited TEFL-related qualification such as the DELTA or CELTA, then you have the chance to teach at a language centre.

Alternatively, if you’re already based over in New Zealand, then you can obtain the required qualifications via an in-class TEFL course. Not only will this fast-track your teaching endeavours, but the course is likely to be recognized by a New Zealand-based institution.

Finally, the only caveat to teaching in New Zealand is that the salaries are somewhat lower than its Australian counterpart. However, it’s likely that you’re looking to teach in New Zealand for the chance of an amazing quality of life, rather than to make your fortunes!

Related blog posts: 

Teaching English Abroad Programs: TEFL Programs & Certification
TEFL, TESL & TESOL for Teaching English Abroad
CELTA or TEFL: How do they compare?
Which Country Pays The Most for Teaching Abroad?

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