Frequently asked questions about working in the field.



In the Field

Do you recruit only doctors?
MSF recruits doctors and other medical and non-medical staff. Examples include surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, registered nurses, midwives, mental health professionals, finance and human resources specialists, logisticians, and specialists in construction, electricity, mechanics, or water-and-sanitation.

What are MSF's recruitment criteria?
The general criteria for working in the field are at least 2 years of professional experience in relevant fields, current professional credentials, relevant work or travel experience outside the U.S., and availability for at least nine months (with the exception of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, 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.


Does MSF accept medical students as field staff?
No. Due to extensive workloads, MSF field teams are unable to oversee unlicensed staff. All ancillary duties are filled by national staff, both increasing local capacity and maximizing donor contributions.

Does MSF recruit Physician Assistants?
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.

Does MSF consider Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine?
Yes, as long as applicants fulfill the other minimum requirements, i.e. completion of residency and appropriate licensure.

Is there an age limit for going to the field with MSF?
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 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.

What is the recruitment process?

  • Applicant completes an online application form, a motivation letter, and a current CV (resume).
  • Field Human Resources Officer (HRO) screens the application and responds within four weeks of receipt of application.
  • Positively screened applicants are invited to interview with a Field HRO, either in the New York office, or during recruitment visits that are scheduled throughout the year in various U.S. cities. (MSF cannot cover expenses associated with the recruitment process)
  • Following an interview and reference check, suitable applicants are invited to attend Information Days in New York (travel, meals and lodging are paid for by MSF).
  • Following completion of Information Days, successful applicants are accepted into the pool of active field staff.
  • Placement is entirely dependent on field needs, and may take from four weeks to six months.

How are mission assignments made?
About three 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 HROs propose staff for appropriate vacancies; final decision on placement is taken by the Operational Center after considering relevant candidates from all MSF sections for each vacancy.

What expenses are field staff expected to pay?
Once a mission is confirmed, MSF will be responsible for all travel, visas, and relevant vaccinations. Field workers should assume responsibility for routine health maintenance vaccinations.

MSF will provide staff with:

  • Round trip air tickets from home to mission
  • Accomodation in NYC/Europe during briefing/debriefing
  • Monthly salary of approximately $1498
  • Full medical insurance
  • Accommodation in the field (shared housing mostly with private rooms)
  • Per diem on mission in local currency

Can I volunteer in the NY office?
We accept a number of office volunteers and unpaid office interns in our US office. For more information on volunteering in our office, click here.

Can I decide where I want to be assigned?
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 a mission should be based on the security issues and the work of the project.


How long are missions?
Many specific vacancies have 9-12 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 one year; surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, and ob/gyns may be accepted for a minimum of six weeks in the field.

Can couples go on mission together?
No. All posts for first-time field staff are unaccompanied. Most mission locations do not allow for friends or family members to visit volunteers. Accompanied posts may be offered to experienced MSF staff, depending on field needs.

What can I expect to do as a physician on mission?
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.

How does MSF manage safety and security 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.

What if I am injured or become ill?
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.

I'd like to read more about some of the issues MSF addresses. What are some interesting books and papers you recommend?
MSF recommends a number of publications which explore the issues surrounding humanitarian aid. To view the list of recommended publications, click here. To find MSF publications on similar topics, click here.

From experience gained in more than 40 years in the field, MSF has also developed a series of guidelines and reference books. Many are available to download for free. Several are available in hard copy and may be purchased on our website.

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