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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions on Médecins Sans Frontières' 

 

Recruitment

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.

Please note: in some countries MSF is working in, there may be a maximum age limit fixed by the national law, above which certain profiles may not be able to obtain the necessary work permits.

Citizenship

Can I apply through MSF Australia if I do not have an Australian or NZ citizenship?

MSF Australia office can only recruit those who have an unrestricted work permit to work either in Australia or New Zealand. This is because those we recruit are placed on an employment contract with MSF-Australia, and we can only do this if they have the legal right to work here.

Therefore, if you do not have the legal right to work in Australia or New Zealand and you want to work with MSF as a member of its international staff, you will need to apply to one of the five MSF Operational Centre offices, as they can recruit and employ from any part of the world. The five offices are in Belgium, France, Holland, Spain and Switzerland. The contact details are available on the MSF International Web site: www.msf.org

Essential Criteria

What are the essential and basic criteria for someone who is interested in applying?

  • Commitment to the aims, principles 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
  • Flexibility and willingness to work in potentially unstable environments
  • Relevant life or work experience in indigenous/remote areas /developing countries
  • Ability to cope with stress and a high workload in an unfamiliar environment
  • 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.

More information on Essential Criteria for all fieldworkers.

Desirable Criteria
  • Intermediate (or higher) competencies in speaking French or Arabic
  • Interest and/or experience in international humanitarian issues, international relations, anthropology
  • Previous field experience in a similar role with a non-government organisation
 
More information about Desirable Criteria.
 
Military Career

Does Médecins Sans Frontières Australia recruit people who are currently employed by or who have been employed in the Armed forces, Reserves or equivalent, or the Department of Defence (DoD)?

MSF recognises that many of the skills gained in a military career are relevant to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, however, applicants must be aware that this background may present a direct conflict of interest with the Charter of MSF. Military experience can also result in limited deployment possibilities in the many security sensitive contexts where MSF works such that our recruitment and placement criteria cannot be met.

The following criteria must be satisfied before MSF Australia can consider an applicant:

  • Applications of ex-forces members will only be considered if they are not currently on any Armed Forces Reserve List.
  • Applications will only be considered after a minimum of 2 years of civilian life, that must include employment outside of the Armed Forces or the Department of Defence.

Each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, dependent upon the role and responsibilities of the applicant. 

Recruitment Information Events

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 Events both online and 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.

Occupations Medecins Sans Frontieres Recruits
What professions/occupations does Médecins Sans Frontières look for when hiring field workers?
 
Medical Profiles:
  • Anaesthetists
  • Medical Doctors
  • Epidemiologist
  • Medical Scientists
  • Mental Health Specialists
  • Midwives
  • Neonatal Nurses
  • Nurses
  • Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Operating Theatre Nurses
  • Paediatricians
  • Pharmacists
  • Surgeons
 
Non-Medical Profiles
 
  • Administration
  • Construction
  • Electrical
  • Experienced Coordinators
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • General Logisticians
  • Fleet Management
  • Supply Management
  • Water and Sanitation
 
More information about Who We Need.
 
Does Médecins Sans Frontières accept applications for positions that are not currently advertised for recruitment?
 
Occasionally MSF has needs for certain professions with specific skills for a specific project. Please note, we do not invite applications for unadvertised roles. Ad hoc recruitment is in response to changing field needs and roles will be advertised as needed.
Qualifications Required

Médecins Sans Frontières requires at least two years’ professional experience; for specialists, does this mean two years since they qualified in their particular speciality?

The two-year minimum relates to the field position you would fill.

For most medical specialities, once you have gained your Fellowship, you do not need to complete a further 2 years professional experience post-Fellowship to fulfil this requirement. Surgeons are the exception to this, in that surgeons applying to MSF must have completed a further two years professional experience after having qualified for their fellowship.

Please note: applications for Medical Doctors will be considered after the completion of PGY2. MD’s who have not completed their speciality medical training can be recruited. 

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 a pre-departure course. It can sometimes take six months to get from application to the field.

  1. Applicant submits an application form online, and a current CV (résumé).
  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 Recruitment Events calendar. Please note that 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 between four weeks to six months to occur.

Learn more about the Application Process.

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 not have a recent gap in clinical experience greater than two years in order to be currently competent, as they will be using their skills in challenging environments.

For non-medical profiles, while the time limit on recent experience applicable to medical profiles does not apply, a candidate’s chances of selection may decrease if they do not have current applicable experience within the last three to four years. These will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

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 can expose you to a similar environment to the one you will find working in the field. You need to be independent, confident in your skills, and have the ability to make your own decisions without close support, supervision, or a well-equipped hospital system backing you up on site.

Languages

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 language skills 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 (this is not an exhaustive list!) and you may be the only native English speaker in your team.

Criminal Record

Can I apply if I have a criminal record or 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 the 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.

Paramedics

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.

 

Placement

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 2016, the top 10 countries where Australian or New Zealand field staff were placed were: South Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Tanzania  and Lebanon.

We do not recruit for a specific job or country. We recruit people who meet our criteria, and then we will try to find you an appropriate position. When you are applying to MSF-Australia, you are applying to Médecins Sans Frontières generally.

Availability And Placement Duration

Availability

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, Anaesthetists, 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.

 

Placement Duration

Field placements can vary in length. The duration of a field placement is driven by the needs of the field project.

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.

Pay And Associated Costs

Does a Médecins Sans Frontières field worker get paid?

A field worker initially earns a modest monthly salary starting from approximately A$2123 per month. This salary will increase with Médecins Sans Frontières field experience.

 

What costs are covered by Médecins Sans Frontières?

  • Transport: domestic and international
  • Accommodation
  • Insurance
  • Superannuation for Australian residents (New Zealand residents receive the equivalent amount as additional salary)
  • Luggage
  • Per diem – which is a local allowance to cover food and daily expenses in the field
  • Visa/work permit
  • Medical indemnity
  • Medical repatriation
  • Relevant vaccinations
  • Health
  • Life & disability
  • Psychosocial support

See Benefits and Opportunities for more information.

Partner/Family

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

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.

Trainees

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.

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.

Contract

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 (for Australian residents only; New Zealand residents will receive the equivalent amount as additional salary), 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.

 

In the field

Handover

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 respective dates of departure of the predecessor and of arrival of the new person.

Physician

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, and the 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.

Security

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.

Holidays

Do you get any type of holiday during the course of an assignment?

Generally, for 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.

 

Career Opportunities

Accreditation To Training

Can I have my time with Médecins Sans Frontières in the field accredited to my post graduate medical specialist training?

It depends. For some Colleges, 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 will accredit time in the field under certain situations and criteria. For further information, you should contact the relevant college.

Training Courses

Do you run any training courses that those considering applying to go on field projects can take before applying? 

Following a successful interview, Médecins Sans Frontières runs a pre-departure introduction course for new fieldworkers with the potential to depart to the field soon. Successful completion of this training is required before field placement.

There may also be training of a more technical nature prior to their first field placement.

Please be aware that places on all MSF pre-departure courses are limited. Participants are prioritised for courses based primarily on our predicted needs in the field in the coming months, as well as their date of availability for fieldwork. Course lists are generally finalised 4-6 weeks in advance of the course dates.

Please note that Médecins Sans Frontières offers pre-departure training to new fieldworkers following a successful interview only. MSF does not offer training for candidates intending to apply.

Other Courses

Do you recommend any courses that intending applicants can take to improve the likelihood of being selected?

We do not recommend any particular courses. However, there are a number of different courses available that provide good training for working in the field (although 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 by Charles Darwin University, Burnet Institute in Melbourne, International Humanitarian Studies, etc.

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, advising of their field availability as personal or domestic commitments permit.