Working in the field
Do you think you have what it takes to work overseas for MSF? We are always looking for qualified medical and non-medical staff who are willing to put their skills at the service of those most in need. You will find about 30 profiles on this page for which we accept spontaneous applications. If you are recruited - after a competencies based selection process - you are placed in what we call a 'pool' or a database of available aid workers. As soon as a project has a suitable position for you, we send you on mission. This means you have to be willing to leave according to humanitarian needs, to any country. In return, we guarantee a dynamic and stimulating work environment alongside multicultural colleagues and personal career development throughout several missions.
You can find the list of profiles further below on this page. Please familiarize yourself with our recruitment procedure and our requirements before applying. Some specific profiles are always urgently in demand, you can find these here:
Profiles that urgently need filling
Our human resources needs are constantly changing and can increase dramatically during an emergency. For this reason, we encourage you to visit this page regularly to keep up to date with the profiles we are actively seeking.
Seven essential questions to ask yourself before applying !
What is my motivation ?
Heading off on mission with Médecins Sans Frontières is no trivial matter. In addition to using your professional skills, you will need to demonstrate commitment to the populations at risk and respect the values described in the MSF Charter.
The values laid out in the Charter – neutrality, impartiality, non-discrimination, personal commitment, medical ethics and respect for human dignity – are lived and practiced daily, through decisions made by the organisation as a whole and by each of its members individually. We expect MSF staff to understand these values and make them their own.
Before taking the first steps to work with MSF abroad, you should understand the reasons behind your decision. Are you idealising our work, or making an informed decision? Do your motivations and values go hand in hand with MSF’s mission?
It is also important that you understand the day-to-day realities facing MSF employees who often live and work in unfamiliar surroundings, under difficult and stressful conditions. If you want to leave for an MSF mission, we recommend that you read through the sections below and answer the questions in our ‘test’. This will help you gain a better understanding of the implications of making this commitment.
What will I be faced with ?
When applying to MSF, you need to be aware that we work to improve access to healthcare for vulnerable populations in countries where the following factors can be in play:
- Flagrant abuses of human rights.
- Women, men and children, depending on their ethnic, social or tribal origins, may not be able to enjoy rights that are generally accepted and recognised in western societies.
- Homosexuality may be punished by the law.
- Rape may be used as a weapon of war.
- Infectious diseases and epidemics are common.
What about security ?
For MSF, the safety and security of staff is a priority. You may be asked to live and work in unstable countries where your life could be in danger. For all of our projects, handbooks have been created to limit risks as far as possible.
Working with MSF in the field means representing MSF day and night, every day of the week, even during your free time and on holiday. Everyone is responsible for their own safety and the safety of their team.
Following MSF’s security rules may limit your movements and interactions with the local population outside of working hours. However, it is essential that you understand that your actions, as a member of MSF’s staff, can have an impact not only on the people you are interacting with but also on the MSF project and, as a result, can directly impact upon beneficiaries. As such, it is vital that you follow the rules laid down by MSF. When your working day is over, you may have to observe a curfew and may have to remain within the MSF compound.
What are the living conditions like ?
When working abroad with MSF, you will have to adapt to many changes, including food, accommodation, daily routine, recreation and language. A new lifestyle is awaiting you, where free time and privacy can be in short supply. You may have to share your bedroom and bathroom. You need to be sure that you can do without normal creature comforts before applying to MSF.
MSF projects can take place in locations where the weather conditions are not always mild (extreme heat or cold, high humidity, heavy rainfall or desert climate). You will also be a long way from your friends and family for several months at a time. Communication can be difficult.
Working in the field requires you to be in good health and have a healthy lifestyle which ensures that you remain so. This is in fact the best way to avoid diseases and to be able to carry out all the tasks required of you. As such, appropriate vaccinations are also essential, as are certain preventive measures (against malaria, for example).
Can I handle stress ?
Working in the field with MSF can create a stressful environment. Many factors can contribute to this: completely changing environment, basic living conditions, local food, distance from friends and family, potential health issues, strained relationships between fellow team members, feeling unsafe, frequent project changes and relationships with the local authorities that can be difficult, etc.
Have you asked yourself the following questions ?
- How do you handle stress in your daily life?
- Being part of a field team means you need to be ready to offer solutions at any time. Have you previously lived and worked in a group of 3 to 10 people for extended periods?
- Are you a good communicator and leader?
- Can you put aside your personal problems so that you can carry out the work you are asked to do?
- What do you find stressful and how can you handle this within a team?
What will be the impact on my family and private life?
Working abroad means leaving your loved ones for a certain period of time, usually between 6 and 12 months. What impact will being away for up to a year have on your private life?
Also consider the impact a difficult working environment will have on your morale. Being assigned to a mission abroad is of course exciting, but the return home can be trying for both you and your family: working in the field leaves its marks.
Am I open to working with different cultures?
There are cultural differences and while they can be enriching, they can also lead to misunderstandings. Punctuality at work, relationships with superiors and between men and women can vary between countries.
Being tolerant of people who think and act differently than you is essential. Tolerance and mutual respect are key values within Médecins Sans Frontières.
The issues we have mentioned above are intended to give you an awareness of what working abroad entails. Thousands of people who have worked with MSF over the years have found their experience in the field demanding, but enriching. For many of them, leaving for a mission proved to be a turning point in their life.
Working for MSF is a commitment, rather than just an adventure or a job opportunity.
Embracing the values of the MSF Charter
MSF bases its humanitarian actions on the principles and values included in its Charter. These values, these ideals – neutrality, impartiality, non-discrimination, personal commitment, medical ethics and respect for human dignity – are lived and practiced daily, through decisions made by the organisation as a whole and by each of its members individually.
Commitment for two years
We are looking for people that want to commit to multiple missions. Hiring and training an employee is a major investment for MSF and we want to hire expats who want to grow within the organisation.
With at least two years of professional experience
Previous experience helps to ensure that skills are of a sufficient level and ensure credibility with local contacts. Internships are not recognised as professional experience.
Being willing to work in unstable political contexts and conflict areas
During conflicts and other violent situations, MSF teams offer healthcare services to the entire population, provide care to refugees and people who have become displaced within their own country.
Being willing to leave without your family
Given the nature of our mission and the contexts we operate in, we ask that our staff leave for missions without their family.
Having good English and French language skills
Applicants recruited by the Brussels headquarters must have good French and English language skills. These two languages are the most used on missions. Knowledge of Arabic (as well as Spanish or Portuguese) would be a major asset.
Being in good health
In order to leave with Médecins Sans Frontières, you must be in good health and have received the standard vaccinations (as a minimum, measles, yellow fever, DTP and polio). Depending on which country you are sent to, you may also need to receive additional vaccinations and take preventive measures to avoid certain diseases.
What profiles are we looking for?
Médecins sans Frontières medical staff work in conflict areas and emergency situations. They may be sent to provide assistance as part of relatively brief interventions but can also get involved in longer-term interventions.
We operate in hospitals, health centres and mobile clinics.
We also treat patients with endemic diseases such as malaria, chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, in addition to treating communities struck by epidemics such as cholera or measles.
Medical staff are responsible for applying MSF protocols and for the quality of care given to patients. They always work in close collaboration with local healthcare workers and provide training where needed.
Médecins sans Frontières paramedical staff often work in conflict areas and emergency situations. They may be sent to provide assistance either as part of relatively brief interventions or longer-term interventions.
We operate in hospitals, health centres and mobile clinics; to guarantee the quality of water, hygiene and sanitation of our health structures, we need specialists in this domain.
We provide assistance to victims of violence and natural disasters.
We also treat patients with endemic diseases such as malaria, as well as chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as treating communities struck by epidemics such as cholera or measles.
Our medical and paramedical staff often provide medical care in distant and remote areas, where they work in very close collaboration with local healthcare workers and provide training where needed.
Médecins Sans Frontières is an emergency medical organisation. In order to carry out our activities, we need the support of speedy and efficient administrative and logistics staff. Non-medical staff are the backbone of MSF’s entire aid programme.
In order to manage the human resources and the budget of a project, different profiles will be needed.
In all our projects, we require logistics staff. For certain logistics positions, technical qualifications and specific professional experience may be required. This may be the case for those in charge of supplies, vehicles, construction, maintenance of the biomedical equipment of our hospitals.
- Tactical logistician
- Energy specialist
- Telecom/ICT specialist
- Biomedical specialist
- Health facility management specialist
- Construction specialist
- Fleet and Maintenance specialist
- Flying operations specialist
You will find the profile "Water, hygiene and sanitation specialist" under the section Paramedical staff.
Supply has become a new identified “profession” within MSF. It can be defined as a sum of technical competencies that reflect the various technical fields it covers; e.g. warehousing technics, transport, customs, demand planning or procurement.
All these positions have the same purpose: to meet beneficiaries’ needs in a timely manner and at an acceptable level of cost.
Supply in MSF needs specific skills link to:
- The nature of the goods; i.e. we provide mainly drugs and specific non-medical items that require specific conditions (controlled temperature) all along the chain to guarantee the quality up to the beneficiaries.
- The diversity of the supply sources; i.e. local, regional or international
Therefore, we need in the field:
Each mission is managed by a coordination team. This team comprises a head of mission, technical coordinators (medical, logistics, financial and human resources) and project coordinators. These positions are held almost exclusively by people with extensive experience within MSF.
The head of mission is responsible for all projects in a country or for specific crisis areas, as well as for internal and external communication relating to our activities. Based on contextual analysis, the head of mission determines which strategies to implement in order to draw attention to the situations we are faced with. The head of mission is assisted by technical coordinators responsible for providing specific support to projects and project coordinators. The project or field coordinator is responsible for managing a project’s activities.
MSF as an employer
MSF is an association consisting of ‘volunteers’. Volunteering is an individual commitment and personal responsibility. It implies the idea of activism in humanitarian actions, rather than the idea of ‘unpaid work’. This is a fundamental principle of the association.
A volunteer is someone who is morally committed to humanitarian action, who accepts the risks of the mission they take part in and accepts that there is a certain degree of professional insecurity. A volunteer demonstrates flexibility in their work. However, they are not working on an unpaid basis: they receive ‘reasonable’ pay. Finally, the volunteer respects the MSF Charter as well as the Employee Charter, and must adopt a modest lifestyle during missions.
The management of MSF’s human resources is based on the concepts of volunteering, equity, transparency and recognition of the value of each individual.
MSF offers the opportunity to attend classes and training courses, organised internally or externally, relating to specific career development or individual growth. As an employer, MSF emphasises the possibility of development within the organisation and mobility between the headquarters and field projects.
Médecins Sans Frontières has put up mechanisms and procedures to fight abuse, exploitation and harassment in the work environment.
What we offer
- A fixed-term contract
- Monthly pay
- Medical coverage
- Payment of all mission-related expenses (transport, accommodation)
- A daily allowance (per diem) during the mission
- The opportunity to work and quickly take on responsibilities in humanitarian situations and varied medical programmes
- Personalised career development, with access to different levels of training, in order to grow within the organisation
Changing things is also a profession!
If you would like more information about expatriation with Médecins Sans Frontières, we strongly recommend that you attend one of our information sessions before applying.
These sessions are based on accounts from an MSF expat, who has returned from a mission. At these sessions, you will be given more information about Médecins Sans Frontières as a humanitarian organisation, about the various projects, working conditions, life and safety in the field and of course, the recruitment procedures.
You will also have the opportunity to ask questions to our recruiters.
Morning information sessions in Brussels
The morning information sessions are organised every four months, on Saturday morning from 9.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. They are given in French and Dutch and include a visit of the MSF training centre Espace Bruno Corbé (EBC), located close to Tours & Taxi, Avenue du port 104, 1000 Brussels.
- 06/10/2018 Information session from 09:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Register now!
‘Live & online’ information sessions
For those of you who are unable to attend one of our morning information sessions in Brussels or do not live in Belgium, we strongly recommend taking part in one of our ‘live & online’ information sessions!
These sessions, in English only, begin at 7 p.m. and typically last an hour and a half, including Q&As. Using a chat window, questions can be asked live and direct to our employees.
Applying to MSF
Would you like to head off on a Médecins Sans Frontières mission? Here are some of the steps in the recruitment procedures .
STEP 1: GATHERING INFORMATION
If you would like more information, you can attend one of our information sessions.
You can also contact one of our recruiters via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
STEP 2: APPLYING ONLINE
STEP 3: FIRST CONTACT
We will examine all applications and do our utmost to give a response within one month.
If you meet all of our recruitment criteria, we will contact you for an initial telephone conversation about your application. This discussion will be used as the basis for whether or not you are invited to proceed to the next step.
STEP 4: INTERVIEW
The interview will take place in our offices in Brussels, by telephone or by Skype.
We may also ask you to carry out an individual field practice drill.
STEP 5: TRAINING FOR A FIRST MISSION
If you are recruited, you will follow training for a first mission which will last one or two weeks, depending on your profile.
This training takes place in Brussels or in one of our partner sections and is fully paid for by MSF.
STEP 6: LEAVING FOR THE FIELD
When you are recruited, you will be added to a reserve pool for your profile. When a position matching your profile and skills is available, you will receive all of the information and briefings before leaving for the field.