From flexibility and availability to language skills and stress management, find out if you are ready.
This is a general overview of the minimum requirements for working with MSF. These requirements can change without prior notice in response to organisational and field project needs.
Availability for a minimum of 9 to 12 months
With the exception of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and ob-gyns who may be accepted for shorter assignments of two to three months.
The level of commitment is a requirement because of the degree of responsibility that you are expected to assume in your missions as an MSF field worker, the time needed to become acclimatised to the projects, and the need for continuity among field staff for the benefit of both our national staff and patients.
Some MSF projects are launched in response to sudden crises, whether natural or anthropogenic, requiring field workers who are available at short notice.
Ability to live and work as a team
MSF field workers live and work together. The hours are long and the living conditions may be basic and offer little privacy. You need to be tolerant and flexible and possess solid interpersonal skills.
The ability and willingness to interact with people of different nationalities and cultures is essential.
Experience in multicultural environment
Since MSF works mostly in developing countries, previous work or volunteering experience in developing countries or a multicultural setting outside home state is desirable. The ability to train others, to act independently and to organise, are prerequisites for satisfactory job performance during a project.
Ability to manage stress
Many MSF projects are located in or near conflict areas. The environment is often chaotic and volatile, and the target populations are large and in distress.
Even in more stable areas, sizeable workloads and team living may cause stress. You must be able to cope in a difficult and unpredictable environment. MSF offers support to field staff in managing stress before, during and after missions.
Field missions can involve both physical and mental stress including long working hours and strenuous travel. Candidates should reflect upon their ability to handle the same. After the interview process, candidates shall be requested to undergo and share a basic medical assessment before they are matched for a field mission.
Situations and activities can change quickly in the field. To reflect changing needs, job descriptions change accordingly. Team composition and working environments may also change during assignments. Your ability to be flexible and adaptable is critical to your success in an MSF project.
Language skills are a strong asset. The ability to speak French, Spanish, Russian or Arabic as well as English allows for more opportunities for placement.
Due to the high demand for field workers in French-speaking missions, preference will be given to candidates who are fluent in French.
Take time to reflect on the reason why you are making this decision.
MSF is often associated with images of staff risking their lives while working in dangerous contexts. Providing primary healthcare to populations in complex emergencies is undoubtedly difficult and challenging, but it may not always be as spectacular and heroic as people imagine.
Before you fill in an application to work overseas with MSF you should take time to reflect on the reasons why you are making this important decision.
- Do you have romanticised notions of what this work entails?
- Are you making an informed choice?
- Are your motivations and values a good match for the mission and mandate of MSF?
- Are you prepared to have your expectations and ideas challenged?
This exercise is not a psychological test. It is designed to help you assess your motivation, professional aspirations and emotional well-being.
Before you apply
Please consider the following information carefully before you submit your application.
By applying to work with MSF you should be aware that the organisation strives to provide access to healthcare for the most vulnerable populations in countries where:
- blatant human rights abuses may take place.
- homosexuality may be punishable by law.
- women, children and men, depending on their social, ethnic or tribal origin, may not enjoy rights commonly accepted and recognised in our societies.
- rape may be used as a weapon of war.
- Infectious diseases and epidemics are common.
- people may not have access to essential drugs.
MSF is looking for field workers with personal, technical and professional skills that allow them to easily adapt to different cultures, difficult living conditions and stressful environments.
Flexibility and adaptability are two essential qualities for work in the field. MSF needs individuals who thrive in constantly changing environments.
Willingness to work in high-security contexts
MSF works in all contexts including conflict settings, therefore MSF field workers should be willing to be assigned on missions in high-security contexts.
Ask yourself how important is material comfort to you?
Going overseas with MSF will require you to adjust to unfamiliar food, living quarters, pace of life, forms of entertainment, languages and companions. It will be a different lifestyle in different weather conditions.
Ability to manage stress
Field workers must be able to cope with a difficult and unpredictable environment and adapt to the local culture, living conditions, security regulations and team dynamics.
Are you comfortable in leaving your loved ones behind?
Working overseas means being away from your loved ones. Give some thought to the impact of putting your personal life on hold for up to a year.
Being tolerant of people who do not act or think like you is of utmost importance. Reflect on your capacity to live closely with, and show respect to, people with beliefs and cultures that differ from yours.
The issues mentioned above are meant to be a reality check on what working in foreign environments sometimes entails. We hope that you have given them serious thought.
Thousands of people who have worked with MSF over the years have found their experiences in the field to be challenging and rewarding. For many, going on a mission has been a life-changing event.
Working for MSF is about making a gesture rather than just seeking adventure or wanting a job. By becoming a field worker you are acting in solidarity with populations in need.
Your presence alongside these men, women and children in times of trouble sends a deeply meaningful message to them: "You have not been forgotten."