Basic requirements

The following is a general but by no means exhaustive overview of the minimum requirements for working with MSF in the field.

Professional work experience

A minimum of two years professional work experience is required.

Ability to live and work as a team

MSF field workers live and work together. The hours are long and the living conditions are basic, with little privacy. Field workers need to be tolerant and flexible and possess solid interpersonal skills. The ability and willingness to interact with people of all nationalities and cultures are critical.

Experience in developing countries

Since MSF works most often in developing countries, previous work or travel experience in countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, is essential.

Ability to manage stress

The environment of an MSF project is often chaotic and volatile and the people we are trying to help may have seemingly overwhelming needs. Even in more stable areas, heavy workloads and a high pressure to respond may be stressful. Field workers must be able to cope with being away from home and family for an extended period in a difficult and unpredictable environment.

Flexibility

Situations can change quickly in the field, and job descriptions must change accordingly. Team composition and working environments may also change during missions. Flexibility and adaptability are critical to one’s success in an MSF project.

Acting as teacher and trainer

The willingness and ability to train others is a core expectation of MSF workers. Building the capacity of national staff to become less dependent on outside intervention is an important goal in any MSF project. This means that the focus is not just in getting the job done, but in teaching others how to do it.

Language skills

Language skills are a strong asset. The ability to speak French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic or an African language, as well as English, allows for more opportunities for placement. Preference will be given to candidates who are bilingual in English and French.

Personal reflection

As you consider your suitability to undertake an MSF field mission, it is critical that you bring a well-informed and realistic understanding to your decision:

  • Do you have the patience to work through the inevitably frustrating communication breakdowns that occur during cross cultural interactions?
  • Are you open minded and creative when facing unexpected problems?
  • Do you have constructive and readily available means of coping with stress, anxiety and frustration?
  • Are you prepared to compromise some of your personal freedom because of security in some areas?
  • Have you considered how you will respond in the presence of extreme suffering and deprivation, part of the day-to-day reality of many of the people MSF assists?
  • Are you honest about your own motivation for seeking this type of work and realistic in your expectations of what it will be like?

Final thoughts

Despite such challenges, thousands of people have worked with MSF over the years and found their experiences in the field to be deeply rewarding, even life-changing.

Being an MSF field worker means acting in solidarity with people facing unimaginable medical challenges. Your presence alongside people in times of need sends a profoundly meaningful and human message: "You are not forgotten."

If you are interested in moving forward, please refer to the Application Process.

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