FAQ: Recruitment

Find answers to common questions about our recruitment process.

A Round Table at the MSF fistula project in Chad

CHAD 2013 © Elisabeth Grâce Brya/MSF

Below, we have answered some common questions about working in the field with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). 

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Recruitment FAQs

Recruitment

We recruit doctors and other medical and non-medical staff. Examples include surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses, midwives, mental health professionals, finance and human resources specialists, logisticians, and specialists in construction, electricity, mechanics, or water-and-sanitation.

No. Due to extensive workloads, our field teams are unable to oversee unlicensed staff. All ancillary duties are filled by national staff, both increasing local capacity and maximizing donor contributions.

Yes, as long as applicants fulfill the other minimum requirements, i.e., completion of residency and appropriate licensure.

No. The traditional Physician Assistant role of primary health care provider is done by the national staff in the field. However, Physician Assistants with extensive international NGO experience can still be considered for coordinator level positions.

MSF has no prescribed limit, as physical condition is more important than age. As living conditions in the field can be basic, with hot and cold climate extremes, field staff must provide MSF with medical clearance from a health-care provider certifying fitness to lift and carry a reasonable amount of weight, and the ability to walk distances that one might not at home.

The essential criteria for working in the field are at least two years of professional experience in relevant fields, current professional credentials, relevant work experience in a low resource or humanitarian setting, and availability for at least nine months (with the exception of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and ob-gyns who may be accepted for shorter assignments). Assets that benefit applicants are flexibility, community service projects, adaptability to basic living conditions, and foreign language skills. See more on our essential requirements page.

All new recruits must make a commitment of 9 to 12 months.

The exception to this is surgeons, anesthesiologists, and ob-gyns, who can do assignments from 6-8 weeks.

  1. The applicant completes an online application form, including a current CV (resume) and a skills self-assessment form.
  2. A Field Human Resources Recruitment Officer screens the application and responds within four weeks of receipt of application.
  3. Positively screened applicants are invited to interview with a Recruitment Officer, either in the New York office, or online via Skype. (MSF does not cover expenses associated with the recruitment process)
  4. Following an interview, reference check and criminal background check, suitable applicants are invited to attend a three-day non-technical induction course called Information Days in New York (travel, meals, and lodging are paid for by MSF)
  5. Following completion of Information Days, successful applicants are accepted into the pool of active field staff
  6. Placement on a field assignment is entirely dependent on field needs, and can take several months from the point of acceptance into the active pool

Placement

No. All assignments for first-time field staff are unaccompanied. Assignment locations do not allow for friends or family members to visit volunteers. Accompanied assignments may be offered to experienced MSF staff, depending on field needs.

No. MSF places staff on assignment based on the needs in the field. Proposed field staff do have a final say in mission assignment, though the decision to accept or reject an assignment should not be taken lightly.

We welcome your interest in working for Doctors Without Borders in one of our U.S. offices. Search our current job listings, or learn about our internships and volunteering opportunities.

2-3 months before a volunteer's availability, MSF will start looking for field vacancies pertinent to professional experience.

  • Lists of vacant field positions are provided to MSF-USA by the five Operational Centers in Europe
  • Field human resource officers propose staff for appropriate vacancies
  • A final decision on placement is taken by the Operational Center after considering relevant candidates from all MSF sections for each vacancy

Most vacancies have 9 to 12 months duration, thus a field worker with more flexibility can be considered for more vacancies. Specifically, the minimum commitment for financial and human resources coordinators is 12 months; surgeons, anesthesiologists, and ob-gyns may be accepted for a minimum of 6 weeks in the field.

Once an assignment is confirmed, MSF will be responsible for all travel, visas, and  vaccinations. All field staff receive per diem while on assignment in the field.

MSF will provide staff with: 

  • Round trip air tickets from home to mission
  • Accommodation in NYC/Europe during briefing/debriefing
  • Monthly salary of approximately $2,039
  • Full medical, dental and vision insurance
  • Accommodation in the field (shared housing mostly with private rooms)
  • Per diem on assignment in local currency

In the field

Working with MSF is not reckless. MSF maintains extensive risk-management procedures and security guidelines for every mission. 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 protocols. Adherence to our field guidelines for personal and team conduct and safety is not negotiable.

MSF promotes a working environment free of harassment and abuse in countries where we operate. Our leadership has unequivocally committed to fight abuse and to reinforce mechanisms and procedures to prevent and address it. This includes enhancing grievance channels at all levels of the organization and supporting victims and complainants. Victims or witnesses in the communities where MSF works are likewise encouraged to report misconduct to us so that allegations can be properly addressed. Read more about our commitment to fighting abuse, exploitation, and harassment.

MSF provides medical insurance, including coverage for medical evacuation if necessary. In addition, a clinician in each team is responsible for treating minor injuries or illness, and has the capacity to refer to a higher level of care, if necessary.

Duties in the field depend on the project and situation of the mission country. Generally physicians are involved in clinical activities, supervision, and training of national medical personnel, with some administrative duties. This is similar for other medical professions, like nurses, midwives, and other health specialists.