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FAQ working for MSF

MSF often receives questions on work opportunities in headquarters or abroad. We have gathered some here about working in the field, so please have a look at the list of answers here or read the job page of the website thoroughly before you contact us with your question.

Recruitment process (9)
Profiles we need (6)
Volunteering and internships at MSF (2)
Life in the field (11)
Career opportunities (2)

Recruitment process

I am not a Belgian resident. Can I still apply on the Belgian website?

Recruitment responsibility is shared among different MSF offices across the world. Find out here where you can apply according to your residence. If you are already working for MSF as national staff, you can apply directly to your Operational Center.

Do I need to be fluent in French and English?

MSF Belgium requires fluency in French or English and a minimum working ability in the other language (B1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). This gives you more opportunity for placement in different projects and enhances our operational flexibility. It will help us to respond to emergency needs and allow you to develop better within MSF. Working ability in Arabic and Spanish is a plus.

Does MSF organize events where I might be able to find out more and talk to recruiters and field staff?

Yes, we organize recruitment information sessions in Brussels and online about 9 times per year. You can register here.

How long does the recruitment process take?

From the moment you apply, the recruitment process can take on average 1 to 3 months, depending on operational needs and your availability.

When I am hired and placed in the ‘pool’, how long do I have to wait for my first mission?

It depends on various factors such as your availability, the needs of the field, the kind of mission, etc. It can be within a week for urgently needed profiles, but it can also take several months.

Are there age restrictions to working internationally for MSF?

There is no maximum age for participation in MSF projects, although there are other criteria that you must fulfill. The most important are that you are healthy and have a minimum of 2 years of relevant professional experience. Please note that a few countries where we work have age limits for work permits.

What is the diploma in Tropical Medicine and how do I get it?

The Diploma in Tropical Medicine is a strong asset for those wishing to work for MSF as a doctor, midwife or nurse, as well as one year of relevant clinical experience in a tropical context. The diploma can be obtained from different accredited institutions.

Do you recommend any courses that applicants can take to improve their chances of being selected?

We do not recommend any particular courses. Please check the different profiles and the general and specific criteria requested per profile. We do always ask for 2 years of relevant professional experience as we expect a high level of expertise and autonomy from our international staff, on top of responsibilities such as managing a team. Experience working abroad with an NGO is an asset.

What are the MSF recruitment criteria?

  • Commitment to the values of the MSF charter
  • Have at least 2 years of relevant professional experience
  • To be available for at least 6 months and be able to commit to a two-year assignment if needed (with the exception of surgeons, anesthesiologists, gynecologists and psychiatrists who may be accepted for shorter assignments)
  • Available to leave on mission without your partner and/or family
  • Available to work in an unstable environment or conflict areas
  • Good French and English language skills
  • Being in good health

Profiles we need

For medical and paramedical profiles, what medical areas are of particular interest to MSF?

Areas that are of particular interest to MSF today are:

  • Malaria, chronic infections (Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C)
  • Infectious diseases
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Infection prevention and control/outbreak response
  • Emergency medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Obstetrics/gynecology/maternal health
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Anesthesiology
  • Mental health (Psychology/Psychiatry)

A degree, training or expertise in these areas is highly desirable. Please note that these needs are subject to change.

MSF requires at least two years of professional experience. Does this include the specialty training for my medical profile?

There are different types of diplomas that will be checked upon application. For medical doctors with a specialization in general or family medicine, internal medicine, infectious diseases, pediatrics and emergency care, the time of the specialty training can be recognized as professional experience.

Also, for gynecologists and anesthesiologists, the time of their specialty training can be recognized as work experience, as it is two years of training. Meaning these profiles can leave straight after graduating.  For (orthopedic) surgeons and general surgeons, 2 years of clinical experience after specialization are required.

For psychiatrists, residents are accepted after a minimum of 6 validated semesters of residency in the field of psychiatry.

For the other profiles, internships and volunteering are not counted as relevant experience.

I do not have a (para)medical profile. Can I still work for MSF?

Yes! Over 40% of our staff members are non-medical. You can find the profiles here. We need finance and human resources specialists, logisticians, and specialists in supply chain, construction, biomedical engineering, electricity, mechanics, and water-and-sanitation.

We have a few positions for communication officers and humanitarian affairs officers (advocacy) per year. Occasionally, we open vacancies for coordination profiles such as heads of missions.

Do you recruit dentists and physiotherapists?

No, we do not currently recruit these profiles.

Do you recruit A2 nurses?

No, we do not. We accept only applications from A1 nurses. The recruitment criteria for nurses are available on the profile. People management and a specialization in pediatrics, neonatology, or infection prevention and control (IPC) are an asset.

Do you recruit country managers, head of missions or other coordination profiles?

Usually, MSF experience is required to grow towards these positions but relevant experience with other humanitarian NGOs in similar contexts can be considered. The coordination profiles are listed here.

Volunteering and internships at MSF

Can I volunteer for MSF in the field?

No, for administrative and legal reasons we do not have positions for volunteers or interns in our projects.

Can I volunteer for MSF in offices in Brussels?

Yes, we accept a number of volunteers and interns in our headquarters office in Brussels. Visit the volunteers and internships page for more details. Our humanitarian procurement agency, MSF Supply also accepts interns.

Life in the field

Can couples apply to work together on the same project?

Individuals are matched to specific vacancies across the world, based on their skills and on the operational needs. It is not possible to leave with a partner on your first mission(s). It can however be considered for more experienced MSF colleagues.

Can my partner and/or family accompany me on a mission?

Living conditions in the field (security, housing, etc.) often make it difficult for field staff to be accompanied by children or partners who are not participating in the mission. Most locations also do not allow for friends or family members to visit. However for some coordination profiles or in rare occasions, it is possible.

How long is a mission?

The length of a first mission is between six and twelve months for all professions, except anesthesiologists, gynecologists and surgeons who are placed in projects for a minimum of six weeks. Psychiatrists are asked to serve for a minimum of three months.   

What are the working hours in the field?

Working hours vary considerably depending on the project with, on average, one day off per week. Work can be hectic and you may be required to put in longer hours. However, time is normally set aside for rest and relaxation.

How does MSF manage safety and security in the field?

MSF provides extensive risk management procedures and security guidelines for every project. Field workers are briefed on the country security situation before going to the field, and upon arriving at the project site are given specific security briefings and protocols. Security is the responsibility of every staff member and adherence to our field guidelines for personal, team conduct and safety is mandatory.

Does international field staff get paid?

Yes. International field staff members receive an indemnity/starter salary the first year in the field, currently 1611,19 gross per month for Belgian residents. After one year of field experience, an expatriate will enter a salary grid, where salary depends on responsibility involved in the field position, expertise and previous experience.

All expats (including the first year) receive:

  • A fixed-term contract
  • Monthly pay
  • Medical coverage
  • Payment of all mission-related expenses (transport, accommodation)
  • A daily allowance (per diem) during the mission
  • Pension contribution
  • The opportunity to work and quickly take on responsibilities in humanitarian situations and varied (medical) programs
  • Personalized career development, with access to different levels of training throughout several missions, in order to grow within the organization

What expenses does MSF cover?

MSF covers the following expenses:

  • Round-trip/return economy air travel for the most direct and cost-effective route between the place of residence and the project. This may include a stopover for briefing and debriefing in Europe.
  • Accommodation in the mission
  • Reimbursement for the cost of obtaining necessary visas (typically these are paid directly by MSF when organizing your visa)
  • Vaccinations
  • Per diem based on the cost of living in your project country.
  • All training costs if you are placed on one of our preparation courses and other training during your career with MSF.
  • Health insurance, including medical evacuations and repatriation, while on mission and for up to three months after return.

MSF does not cover expenses for:

  • Passport
  • Travel for holidays.

Do I get annual leave while working overseas?

When your mission is 6 months or longer, you receive one week of paid leave for each 3 months worked.

Is there any health screening before you go to the field?

You will be required to undertake a pre-departure health check with your GP, who will assess your health prior to going on mission. All medical information is treated confidentially and will not be shared without your consent. If you have a specific condition, it will be discussed with our Staff Health Unit to evaluate the possibility of working in the field.

Am I covered by health insurance while I am in the field with MSF?

MSF will arrange for and cover your health insurance while on mission. This will continue for up to three months after the end of your labor contract (only ambulatory care and hospitalization, not disability/sick leave).

In the event of a medical emergency needing an evacuation, repatriation is also covered (this coverage stops the last day of your labor contract).

What is life in the field like?

Discover some stories of fieldworkers here.

Career opportunities

What are the career opportunities for MSF fieldworkers?

MSF has numerous options for fieldworkers to build a career within the organization as there are many positions in the project and country coordination teams.

What if I don't want a 'career' but I do want to continue being a fieldworker?

We are generally looking for colleagues to grow within our organization, however some of our fieldworkers also choose to undertake regular field placements throughout their careers. They combine a domestic career with regular fieldwork, advising us of their field availability as personal or domestic commitments permit. Read the story of gynecologist Karthika, who has her own domestic practice but goes to the field with MSF once a year.