Commonly asked questions about working in the field
- Accreditation to training
Can I have my time with Médecins Sans Frontières in the field accredited to my post graduate medical specialist training?
Yes there is provision for time in the field to be accredited to your medical specialist training. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Royal Australian College of Physicians accredit time in the field under certain situations and criteria. For further information you should contact the relevant college.
- Age Limit
Is there an upper age limit for field workers?
No, Médecins Sans Frontières does not discriminate on the grounds of age. However, field workers do need to have the physical and mental fitness to cope with the demanding conditions that may be encountered on a field assignment.
- Essential Criteria
What are the essential basic criteria for someone who is interested in applying?
- Commitment to the aims and values of Médecins Sans Frontières
- Minimum two years of professional experience post-qualification
- Experience in supervising, training and managing others
- Demonstrated ability to work well as a part of a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team
- Ability to organise, prioritise workload and use initiative
- Willingness to work in potentially unstable environments
- Relevant travel or work experience in indigenous/remote/developing/cross-cultural communities
- Ability to cope with stress
- Available to work in the field for a minimum of nine months (exceptions for some profiles; refer to your specific profession)
- People with a medical background also require current and valid registration with the appropriate board/authority, and must display no recent gap in clinical experience greater than two years.
Click here for more information.
- Desirable Criteria
What other desirable criteria do you look for in a person?
- Intermediate or better competencies in speaking French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian or other field-relevant languages
- Interest and/or experience in international humanitarian issues, international relations, anthropology
- Previous field experience in a similar role with a non-government organisation
Click here for more information.
- Countries – most likely to be sent to
What country are you likely to work in if you apply through Médecins Sans Frontières Australia?
This will depend on a number of factors, including the needs of the projects and your skills, experience and language competence. In 2013, the top 10 countries where Australian or New Zealand field staff were placed were: South Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Philippines, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Jordan, Yemen, Palestine and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We do not recruit for a specific job or country. We recruit people who meet our criteria and then we will try and find you an appropriate position. So when you apply to us, you are applying to Médecins Sans Frontières generally.
- Choose location
Can I specify places I do not want to go to, or somewhere I especially want to go to?
As part of our charter, we assist populations in danger regardless of whom or where they are. As such, we ask people who work with us to adopt the same principles. You might, for example, have language skills, cultural experience, etc that is suitable for certain countries. This will be taken into consideration when matching you with a position, but generally we place people based on our project needs.
- Availability and Placement Duration
It is extremely unlikely that your placement will start on the first date of your availability. A fieldworker with more flexibility in their availability can be considered for more vacancies.
For example, applicants available for nine months in-field within a twelve month window of opportunity are able to be considered for many more vacancies.
Can I apply if I am only available for less than nine months?
Applications that do not meet the minimum period of availability required for an in-field placement will not be processed.
All new recruits must make a commitment of nine to twelve months*
* Exceptions to this:
Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, and Ob/Gyns can sometimes do placements from six weeks to three months.
OT Nurses can sometimes do placements of three to six months.
Paediatric Doctors can sometimes do placements of six to nine months.
Field placements can vary in length. The duration of a field placement is driven by the needs of the field project.
Which foreign language(s) are most valued by Médecins Sans Frontières in recruiting for field projects?
The international working languages of Médecins Sans Frontières are French and English.
Most Australian and New Zealander fieldworkers are sent to English speaking projects - though it may not be an English speaking country.
Applicants with French and/or Arabic are highly regarded and can be considered for more field opportunities.
In the field, you will find yourself in a multicultural team in which the more common languages used might be French or Spanish. Other common languages found in our field teams are Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, and Swahili (though this is not an exhaustive list!) and you may be the only native English speaker in your team.
- Recruitment Information Evenings
Does Médecins Sans Frontières organise events where I might be able to find out more information and talk to field workers?
Médecins Sans Frontières frequently holds recruitment information evenings in various cities around Australia and New Zealand, which include information about our work and provide an opportunity to ask questions about field work. We post all up and coming events on our website.
- Not worked for a few years
Can I still apply if I have not worked in my profession for several years?
Medical and para-medical applicants must have no recent gap in clinical experience greater than two years as they will be using their skills in challenging environments and being currently competent. While there is not the same limit, for non-medical profiles, a candidate’s chances of selection may decrease if they do not have current applicable experience within the last three or four years. These will be evaluated on a case by case basis.
- Occupations Médecins Sans Frontières recruits
What professions/occupations does Médecins Sans Frontières look for when hiring field workers?
- Operating Theatre Nurses
- Medical Doctors
- Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Medical Scientists
- Psychologists / Mental Health Professionals
- Logisticians- skills and experience in at least 3 of:
- electronics and/or electricity
- water and sanitation
- supply management
- event and/or project management
- Administration / Finance / Human Resources - experience gained in areas such as:
- business and/or general management
- financial or human resources management
- event and/or project management
- marketing, fundraising, journalism
Click here for more information about the occupations we recruit.
- Pay and associated costs
Does a Médecins Sans Frontières field worker get paid? What costs are covered by Médecins Sans Frontières?
- Transport: domestic + international
- Relevant vaccinations
- Medical repatriation
- Life & disability
- Medical indemnity
- Psychosocial support
- A modest monthly salary starting from approximately A$1750 / month initially. This salary will increase with Médecins Sans Frontières field experience.
- Per diem – which is a local allowance to cover food and daily expenses in the field
Can I go on assignment with my partner?
No. All posts for first-time field staff are unaccompanied. Most placement locations do not allow for friends or family members to visit. Accompanied posts may be offered to experienced fieldworkers, depending on field needs.
What can I expect to do as a physician on an assignment?
Duties in the field depend on the project and situation of the 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.
- Qualifications required
Médecins Sans Frontières requires at least two years’ professional experience: for specialists, does this mean two years since they qualified in the particular speciality?
The two-year minimum relates to the field position you would fill. If you continue on with specialist training, and once you become a member of the relevant college, you do not need a further two years experience. The exception to this are Surgeons who are required to have an extra 2 years experience after qualifying. If the application of these general rules is unclear, we ask that intending applicants send us their CV, so we can advise based on the specifics of their qualifications and experience.
- Recruitment Process
How long does the recruitment process take? How long before the date I am available to depart should I apply? What does it involve?
It is best to allow for as much time as possible before you can go to the field, remembering that the process includes interview, recruitment checks and pre-departure course. It can sometimes take six months to get from application to the field.
1. Applicant submits an application form, a motivation letter, and a current CV (resume).
2. Positively screened applicants are invited to an interview with a Field HRO.
3. Interviews take place in the Médecins Sans Frontières Australia Sydney office throughout the year, and during recruitment visits scheduled throughout the year to various cities in Australia and New Zealand (see calendar of recruitment visits; MSF cannot cover expenses associated with the recruitment process).
4. Following a successful interview and reference checks candidates are invited to a pre-departure training course in Sydney (travel, meals, and lodging are paid for by MSF). This course is part of the recruitment process.
5. Following successful completion of the pre-departure training course, candidates are accepted into the pool of active field staff.
6. Field placement is entirely dependent on field needs, and may take from four weeks to six months.
Click here to learn more about how to apply.
- Remote Experience
Does it improve an applicant’s chances if they have worked in a remote Indigenous community?
Yes. Working in a remote indigenous community will expose you to a similar environment than the one you will find working in the field. You need to be independent, confident in your skills and be able to make your own decisions without close support or supervision or a Hospital system backing you up on site.
How does Médecins Sans Frontières manage safety and security in the field?
Médecins Sans Frontières provides extensive risk management procedures and security guidelines for every project. 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 briefings and protocols. Adherence to our field guidelines for personal and team conduct and safety is mandatory.
- Short placements
Can someone go on a field placement at his or her own expense as a general helper/assistant? Can someone who happens to be travelling in the area in which a project is working stop off and visit or perhaps lend a hand for a week or two?
No, the teams we send to the field cannot accommodate observers, untrained helpers, interns, students or others who lack the qualifications and experience to be full participants in the work of the project. Our priority is aiding the populations we are there to serve.
Do you have positions on projects for trainees? Do you have positions for medical students doing an elective?
Unfortunately the conditions encountered on field projects demand the full attention of the teams, and they do not have the time to supervise, monitor and assess trainees and students.
- Training Courses
Do you run any training courses that those considering applying to go on field projects can take before applying?
Médecins Sans Frontières runs a pre-departure introduction course for candidates with a successful interview, with the potential to depart to the field soon. Successful completion of this training is required before field placement.
For those recruited in the capacity of a Logistician or Administrator, there may also be training of a more technical nature prior to their first field placement.
Médecins Sans Frontières does not itself run any training courses that can be taken by intending applicants.
Do you offer ongoing training for fieldworkers?
Médecins Sans Frontières offers numerous training courses for fieldworkers as they progress within the organisation. These trainings are field specific (see also Career Opportunities).
- Other Courses
Do you recommend any courses that intending applicants can take to improve the likelihood of being selected?
No, we do not recommend any particular courses. However there are a number of different courses available that are good training for working in the field (though no course would guarantee selection). Some examples of these are a Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine program run by James Cook University, RedR courses, Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community studies run Charles Darwin University, Burnet Institute in Melbourne, International Humanitarian Studies, etc.
Do you get any type of holiday during the course of an assignment?
Generally every 3 months of work you will enjoy one week of holidays. You have the right to the pro rata equivalent of 25 days annual leave, calculated according to the duration of your contract. In addition to annual leave, you may benefit from local in-country public holidays, or additional leave as R&R according to the specific circumstances of your project.
- Support available
What support is available infield and after you come home from a placement?
In the capital of the country where you will be working there is a team of experienced field workers, the Country Management Team, who will provide you with support throughout your assignment. You will have access to a technical referent of your specific profession who will be able to give you technical support during your assignment.
At HQ level there is a desk which also provides support to the teams. Médecins Sans Frontières has extensive protocols, guidelines and reference material available for you.
At the end of your placement Médecins Sans Frontières will provide you with our post assignment psychosocial support package.
- Notice period
How much notice do I get of an upcoming placement?
Once you are available we try to provide 3 to 4 weeks notice. It is very rare that we can give more notice than this.
The less notice you need to be able to go to the field, the more vacancies you can be considered for.
Do I get a handover infield?
Médecins Sans Frontières' objective is to give you a handover in field. However it may not always be possible depending on the position, project context and OC administrative procedures.
Do I get a contract?
Yes, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia will sign with you an employment contract. As an employee you will receive a salary, superannuation, comprehensive insurance coverage, (including workers compensation), vaccinations and other health-related support, psychosocial support, access to training opportunities and reimbursement of work-related travel and associated expenses.
- Criminal Record
Can I apply if I have a criminal record / past misdemeanours?
Médecins Sans Frontières does not discriminate on any grounds. However all potential applicants must be aware that if recruited, criminal record and working with children checks will be required. Possessing a conviction will not necessarily result in denial of an employment offer, however any employment offer will be subject to Médecins Sans Frontières being satisfied that the stated conviction(s) will not impact on an individual's capacity to perform the inherent requirements of a position. Inherent requirements of a position may include the ability to obtain the visa required for a particular country.
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 generally 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. In the few locations where we do run ambulance services, paramedics are recruited locally.
- Career Opportunities
What are the career opportunities for Médecins Sans Frontières fieldworkers?
Médecins Sans Frontières has numerous options for fieldworkers to build a career within the organisation. There are many Field and Capital Coordination and Headquarter positions that require field experience. Training courses are available to support these transitions.
There are many career paths open to our fieldworkers. For example, a medical doctor may do several field placements gaining experience in varying contexts. They may then be offered opportunities to advance their career within the organisation by becoming a Medical Team Leader - responsible for medical leadership at the project level, and then Medical Coordinator - responsible for medical leadership at the country level. There are also opportunities to become a Project Coordinator, Technical Referent, or any one of numerous other roles within the organisation.
What if I don't want a 'career' but I do want to continue being a fieldworker?
Many of our fieldworkers also choose to undertake regular field placements throughout their careers in Australia and New Zealand. They combine a domestic career with regular fieldwork.