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Work in the Field

FAQ's

We have answered some common questions about working in the field with MSF below. Click on the questions that are relevant to you below. If you cannot find what you are looking for, please visit the main work in the field page for more information.

Work with Us

  • I have another question. Whom should I contact?

    For questions please email FHR-info@joburg.msf.org

    Responses will be sent within two weeks.

  • Are there career development opportunities?

    There are many long term career opportunities with MSF. Gaining more and varied MSF field experience makes you eligible for positions such as Logistical, Medical, or Project Coordinator, or Head of Mission.

    There are also courses in areas such as project management, medical management, and logistics. If you are interested in a career with MSF you are encouraged to discuss your options with your Human Resource Officer at interview.

  • Are there any learning and development opportunities in the field?

    MSF strongly encourages people to continue working for the organisation beyond their first mission as their experience is of huge value to the effectiveness of our work. As such we offer various career opportunities to our field staff. You can broaden your professional experience by working on a variety of different aid programmes, and have access to learning and development.

  • What if I am injured or become ill?

    MSF arranges insurance cover which care and, if necessary, repatriation for field staff.

  • Am I covered by Insurance while I am in the field with MSF?

    MSF will arrange and cover you for all health insurance while on mission. This will continue for up to three months once you return home. In the event of medical evacuations, repatriation is also covered.
     

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

    You will be required to complete a Health Declaration Form and if necessary undertake pre-departure health checks with a travel clinic. All medical information is confidential.
     

  • Do I get annual leave while working overseas for MSF?

    While you are working with MSF you are entitled to approximately days paid holiday per year pro rata.

  • Does MSF cover expenses?

    MSF covers the following expenses:

    • Return economy air travel for the most direct and cost-effective route to and from the project. This may include a stopover for briefing and debriefing in Europe.
    • Reimbursement for the cost of obtaining necessary visas (typically these are paid directly by MSF when organising your visa).
    • Vaccinations
    • Accommodation and transportation during your contract (including briefings and debriefings).
    • 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.
    • Health insurance, including medical evacuations and repatriation, whilst on mission and for up to three months after return home.
  • Do your volunteers or international field staff get paid?

    International field staff receive an indemnity salary, currently 930 Euro per month their bank account. After one year of field experience the field worker will enter a salary grid, where salary depends on responsibility involved in the field position and also the amount of previous experience. Meanwhile, all the costs in the field would be covered by MSF.

  • Can my family accompany me on a mission?

    No. Living conditions in the field (security, housing, etc) make it difficult for field staff to be accompanied by children or partners who are not participating in the mission.

  • How long does the acceptance and matching process take?

    The application process on average takes around four to six months.

  • Can I volunteer in the MSF office in South Africa?

    Yes, we accept a number of office volunteers and unpaid office interns in our Johannesburg please visit the [link] on our website for more details.

  • As a medical student, what more can I do to prepare myself to work for MSF?

    Please enquire at your university about Friends of MSF (FoMSF) Societies. FoMSF are student based societies in universities around South Africa and the UK. FoMSF is run on a voluntary basis.

    Individual groups engage in various activities, like inviting returned volunteers to speak, film screenings, and other fundraising and careers-focused events.

    All FoMSF groups share three main objectives:

    1) To raise awareness of MSF’s work and humanitarian issues

    2) To encourage students to consider working for organisations such as MSF

    3) To raise funds for MSF

    Currently, FoMSF runs at 5 South African Universities, WITS, TUKS, UCT, Stellenbosch and UKZN.

  • Do you take junior doctors?

    We have a minimum requirement of two year's experience registration. As we receive many applications, we look for as wide a range of experience as possible.

    This can be made up of different placements but obviously longer placements may better reflect in-depth experience in working in unstable/difficult situations.

    Experience is necessary as we expect a high level of autonomy from our medics in the field.

  • Do you take dental hygienists/therapists?

    MSF does not recruit dentists.

  • Would having a criminal record bar me from working with MSF?

    Having a criminal record will not necessarily bar you from working with us. This will depend on the nature of the position and the circumstances and background of your offences.

    As an organisation, we will obtain a copy of your criminal record during the recruitment process.

  • What kind of professions do you need?

    Follow the link for more information on who we need.

  • What kind of people work in the field for MSF?

    MSF recruits medical and non-medical staff to work in its projects. All of these people bring professional abilities, practical experience, as well as a commitment to and concern for the people they help.

    Our projects are manned by national staff with minimal international presence. On average, for every expatriate posted to a specific project there are seven local workers. They provide everything from technical and administrative assistance to nursing and medical skills.

  • What are the criteria to work for MSF?

    Detailed information about the selection criteria and role descriptions can be found on our website here.

    We can only accept applications from people who meet our strict requirements and applications must be made online.

Work in the field

  • Are there age restrictions to work internationally for MSF?

    There is no minimum or maximum age for participation in MSF projects, although there are other criteria that applicants must fulfill.
     

  • 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 frequently be hectic and you may be required to put in longer hours. However, time is normally set aside for rest and relaxation.

  • When is the best time to apply?

    You can apply as soon as you have definite dates of availability and normally around six months before you want to go.

  • How long is a mission or placement?

    The length of a first mission is between nine and 12 months for all professions, except anesthetists and surgeons and Gynaecologists who, due to the intensity of their work, are placed in projects from four weeks to three months.

  • Do I need to speak another language to work for MSF?

    English is the official MSF language. However, fluency in another language will enhance your application and the possibility of placement. At the moment demand is high for fluent French speakers.

  • Do you need to speak French to work for MSF?

    English is the official language of MSF. However, French speakers are in high demand and having French as a second language will help your application as you will then be able to work in French speaking countries where a large number of our projects are found.

  • Can couples apply to work together on the same project?

    MSF placements are for a minimum of nine months. Due to the nature of these placements we are unable to place couples together; individuals are matched to specific roles within an international picture. It is therefore highly unlikely that two people would simultaneously be matched to two jobs in the same place at the same time.

  • Do you provide gap year placements?

    We can only take on people who meet our strict criteria and do not provide gap year placements.

  • Do you facilitate elective placements for medical students?

    Unfortunately we cannot offer elective placements for medical students. Many of the places we work in are unstable and we try to maintain a minimum international presence.

    Equally, a major part of any role with MSF involves working autonomously and training local staff, therefore it is important medics are at a stage of their career where they feel comfortable with this.

  • Does MSF recruit paramedics?

    Please note that MSF does not currently recruit paramedics. We do not require staff with this profile because we do not run ambulance services in our projects in the field. When patient transfers take place, these are often done in MSF vehicles, and patients are accompanied by MSF nurses and/or medical doctors.

  • Does MSF recruit people from the military?

    MSF policy is that those who have been employed in the armed forces can only apply for MSF roles two years or more after leaving the military.

  • Do you only recruit medical staff to work in your international projects?

    While the majority of our volunteers have a medical background, we also need skilled support staff such as: nutritionists, epidemiologists, lab technicians, mental health professionals, water and sanitation engineers, construction engineers, logisticians and HR and financial controllers.

  • Does MSF Southern Africa accept applications from residents outside Africa?

    MSF SA can only accept applications for field positions from people who permanently reside in Sub-Saharan Africa have a valid permit to work in the country of their residence. If you do not have this we cannot accept your application. 

    IF you do not reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, Please contact your nearest MSF office or one of the MSF Operational Centres in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Geneva or Paris in order to apply for a position, details can be found on http://www.msf.org/en/work-msf/how-apply

  • May I request placement in a specific country?

    It is not possible to honour specific country requests. MSF recruit applicants into a pool before matching them to a specific position. MSF expect candidates to be flexible about where they work so that we can meet the needs of the field. However, special skills, languages and restrictions are taken into consideration in each placement.