This AMA thread is now closed

Hi - I’m Melissa and I’ve been a recruiter with MSF for four years. I most recently spent six months on assignment in Yida, South Sudan, as a logistician and before that I worked with MSF in Malawi.

My proof:

I’m Rogier and I’ve worked as a recruiter for MSF for five years, including in MSF’s Amsterdam office, and I’ve done field assignments in Bosnia, Croatia, Sri Lanka, South Sudan and Sierra Leone.

Learn more about working with MSF and apply here:

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Comments: 436 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

msfama22189 karma

MSF is known to have an acceptance rate on the level of Ivy-League colleges so I have two questions.

1) Why do you deny so many individuals?

2) How do you think someone who wants to get involved could get experience working in developing countries before applying? Are there any organizations you find particularly good at preparing someone for a mission?


melissa_msf188 karma

Yes, it is a competitive application process but we aim to have a diverse group of expats in the field and recruit from all areas of expertise and education. It never harms to apply as you will always get feedback. We accept many people after they follow up on our recommendations.

One of the main requirements of working with MSF is experience in developing countries and many applicants don't have that experience. We suggest to look at websites like reliefweb and for short term assignments.

melissa_msf146 karma

Thank you. These are great questions. Just to let you know, we are urgently looking for French-speakers (any profile), midwives, anesthesiologists, CRNA, Infectious Diseases specialists, Water & Sanitation experts. Please look at our websites for updates. Thank you again :-)

msfama22138 karma

Recently, 5 MSF staffers were kidnapped in Syria. Many applicants are reluctant to work in these areas for good reason. Do you hold it against an applicant for not wanting to work in these dangerous areas? Also, related to this:

1) How does MSF provide security for expats in the field?

2) How does MSF respond to a crisis like this?

melissa_msf124 karma

Yes, it is true that we work in many insecure areas (55% of our programs). We take security very seriously and have good security management policies in the field.

It is okay to say no to an assignment for security reasons but in general we expect you to trust our security management and we try to send you to where your skills are most needed.

meowkay62 karma

I've heard that MSF is more about management positions and teaching the doctors in other countries what to do. Can you elaborate on what your responsibilities are as a doctor working overseas for MSF?

melissa_msf71 karma

Management and coaching is a big part of every expat position in the field. As a doctor or nurse you do clinical work but just as much training and coaching locally hired staff.

MwalimuG59 karma

Hello! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this AMA.

My ultimate goal since I was 18 has been to volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières. I am starting a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program this fall, and I have extensive international volunteer (Peace Corps) and medical field (EMT/ED-Tech) experience. I'd like to ask a few questions in preparation for signing up in the future:

  1. Is there a preference of MD's over DO's? I know that many countries in the world don't accept DO's, so would this be a factor in where one would volunteer?

  2. One of the reasons I'm heavily considering an EM residency is because I believe it would be the best fit for MSF, but I'm also interested in Pediatrics. Would volunteer opportunities differ between an Emergency Physician and a Pediatric?

  3. How long does the average physician volunteer for? Are shorter/longer periods possible?

Thank you again for your AMA! I think of Doctors without Boarders as one of the few NGOs with a virtually flawless reputation for compassion, efficiency and transparency. It deserves all the exposure it can get.

melissa_msf51 karma

  1. Both MD and DO are fine.
  2. EM is a great speciality for field work because you deal with what comes in the door and both children and adults.
  3. The average assignment is 9-12 months sometimes 6 unless you are in the OR then it is 1-3 months.

salute12345 karma

I would love to work for your organization in a field-based role. I am not in the medical field, but have tons of management/administrative experience and am a former educator. Are there any career paths within your organization for people such as myself - non-medical professionals - in the field as opposed to in your home-based offices? If so, what would some examples be?

melissa_msf57 karma

Yes! 44% of the people we send out to the field are non-medical. The examples would be finance and HR professionals plus a wide range of logistics professionals. Management and teaching experience is always valued.

HLizzie38 karma

Hi! I'm a qualified pharmacist and I will be finishing my MSc in immunology of infectious diseases in September. I would be interested to know what opportunities there are for pharmacists? Thank you!

melissa_msf38 karma

We have needs for pharmacists in almost all of our countries. The role is more oriented towards managing the pharmacy, stock and supply rather direct patient care.

shamseldinayman35 karma

what are the requirements for applying to MSF ?

melissa_msf49 karma

In general 2 years professional experience, management experience, travel and/or work outside the US, and good coaching and communication skills. But, please check the website for additional details and the link is at the top of the page.

Laughing_so_hard30 karma

No question. Just thanking you guys for what you do.

Edit: No wait! I have a question. How has your traveling impacted you home life? Time spent with family and Your relationships?

melissa_msf29 karma

Working in the field is definitely a sacrifice and you do miss out on family events but the sacrifice is worth it. In all locations we have access to communications so you do have some contact with home plus you get holidays during your assignments and can meet loved ones.

NoeLol29 karma

Can physician assistants apply to MSF?

melissa_msf28 karma

Unfortunately not. Many PA level work in the field is done by national staff plus PA title is often not recognized in the countries we work.

tshirtsh25 karma

Third scattered comment: Just watched "TRIAGE: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemna" and I truly think it is a must watch for any individual wanting to work in the humanitarian field. Talks about MSF's mission as well, insisting on how humanitarianism is not about perfect systems. Also very relevant: Living in Emergency - Stories of Doctors Without Borders

melissa_msf17 karma

It is a great movie - we would also recommend access to the danger zone.

leontes21 karma

Is there a therapists without borders equivalent? I'm a mental health counselor and sometimes occasionally consider contributing in a similar way to the work you guys do.

melissa_msf30 karma

We do accept mental health professionals.

Roobiks17 karma

Would you say MSF has been romanticised at all? A lot of med students interested in MSF, from my experience, seem to have so I was wondering if it is a common thing or just unique to my med school.

melissa_msf23 karma

Yes, certainly some people over idealize working in the field. People underestimate living and working in a diverse team under basic conditions. It is great fun but is challenging also. In addition, the limitations to what we can do in the field can be frustrating (for example, working in remote areas with little access to supplies, referral options ect).

MiaLovesGirls15 karma

Hi, first i'd just like to say the work done at MSF is amazing. As for my question: What is the most common reason you've found people apply to be a doctor for MSF?

melissa_msf31 karma

What they tell us is they want to "give back" they are "disillusioned with the US healthcare system", they want to "travel", "rely more on their clinical skills than the tools they have in the US".

Darkata712 karma


As a medical student who has active research in both global health disparities and trauma/critical care management, thank you so much for reaching out like this! Myself, and the groups I collaborate consider y'all to be absolute rockstars. I have two questions:

1)Is there any way for healthcare professional students to become involved with MSF?

2)One of the concerns I have come across in the global health field is how things have become increasingly complex: especially in regards to the number of active NGOs, the ever evolving role of host nations in requesting/denying assistance, and the view of some individuals regarding the increasingly blurred lines between a desire to perform beneficent humanitarian assistance and an attitude that some have described as neo-colonialistic. Yet, clearly there is a need for humanitarian efforts globally.

In this increasingly complex environment, what does MSF see as its role in the future of humanitarian intervention and what are some of the challenges it is currently trying to address?

Thanks for being who you are and doing what you do, and if I run into either of you overseas the first beer will be on me.

melissa_msf16 karma

  1. For healthcare professional students - we have volunteer and intern opportunities in New York and other offices around the world.
  2. MSF is an emergency humanitarian organization guided by our principals - neutrality, impartiality and independence. We will continue to use those principals when gaining access to areas where most need.
  3. Sure, we like beer : )

Sortiria12 karma

As a doctor, which speciality is the most likely to get you a post with MSF? Are Peadiatricians often recurited?

melissa_msf13 karma

Pediatricians and emergency medicine is great but also infectious disease.

Hersonme11 karma

What you can indicate to a student of Pharmacy who intend to join MSF? Many pharmacists are currently working in MSF? Thanks Melissa!

melissa_msf13 karma

You need 2 years of independent pharmacy experience and both retail and hospital work are valued.

SanAndresana11 karma

Hi, Thanks for taking the time to share with us this information!
I have two questions: *What are the options for a general psychologist from a latinoamerican country with a master in humanitarian assistance but no master or phd in psychology? *Is there a training before going on mission?

melissa_msf7 karma

We take a broad range of mental health professionals in the field (PhD, MD, Masters). Typically the types of skill set we are looking for is work in trauma, PTSD, HIV/TB counseling, and sexual/domestic violence.

Mmhmbop10 karma


melissa_msf10 karma

Yes, completion of residency is enough to apply for MSF.

Mmhmbop7 karma


melissa_msf10 karma

MD is sufficient but MPH is an asset.

charitylindsay8 karma

Hi, I am wondering if you know if MSF hires RRTs (Registered Respiratory therapists)?

melissa_msf4 karma

Not yet but this can change in the future.

xulander8 karma

Hi - I'm currently a second year medical student in the UK who has ambitions of joining of the MSF at some point in my career. However I am planning to specialise in emergency medicine first. What can I do to help my chances of joining the MSF? I understand that you have a preference for french speakers due to the areas you work in so I have been trying to keep up with french (as best as I can at least as a medical student). My university has a Friends of MSF society which gives great talks however they do not much advice in how to join/apply. Thanks for your time

melissa_msf10 karma

During your training if you can get experience abroad working in resource poor settings, keep up the French (60% of our field openings are in French speaking countries), get management, teaching skills, also get comfortable with both adults and children.

JD11908 karma

I'm a first year medical student in the USA, and I'm interested in working with MSF in the future. I was wondering, do you recruit any internal medicine subspecialists besides infectious diseases?

melissa_msf10 karma

Yes many specialities are welcome (family practice, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, OBGYN). We look forward to your application!

shamseldinayman8 karma

I read that an applicant has a better chance if he/she speaks French, are there any other languages that are often required on the field ?

melissa_msf9 karma

French is most important but other languages such as Arabic, Spanish, Russian ect. are good too.

shamseldinayman11 karma

My native language is Arabic, i also speak French, English, and German but i was wondering if i learn a new language which would be more useful, Italian or Spanish ?

melissa_msf12 karma

I think you are fine but Spanish!


I just finished my freshman year of college in New England. I'm Pre-Med, hopefully headed for medical school, and an EMT. How do I get involved?

melissa_msf4 karma

You can apply after finishing your medical residency. But if you want to get involved now - you can get involved in one of our campaigns - help spread our messages through social media or attend a MSF event.

hananasharlyland6 karma

Do MSF have writing based careers - either journalism or communications roles? And if so, do either of these careers involve working in the field where doctors are based?

melissa_msf8 karma

Most of our communication positions are headquarters based. We do have some field communication people but they are usually hired in the countries where we work or from HQ.

tshirtsh6 karma

My second question is: Holding neutral, impartial, and independent values like the ICRC or other pioneers in the humanitarian field, what would you say truly distinguishes MSF from other known NGOs in its mission to relieve suffering and protect dignity?

melissa_msf5 karma

It is those principals that set us apart and our strong focus on emergency medical needs backed by independent funding and strong logistical capacity.

skhayman6 karma

As a logistician, how many fellow logisticians, and logisticians of the same type do you typically work with on an assignment? How are team dynamics between logisticians and medical professionals assigned to the same area?

melissa_msf4 karma

We have big teams and small teams in the field. You can be the only logistician or on a team of many (for example, in South Sudan we had a construction log, watsan log, base log, supply log). You are always working in close cooperation with the medical team.

tshirtsh5 karma

Thank you for this AMA! I am a motivated physiotherapist with a little more than 2 years experience, working with both adults and children and looking to contribute to the humanitarian sector. Do you have needs for motivated physiotherapists on the field? It is not a profession that is advocated much on the website, although I have read about missions pertaining to rehabilitation, such as working in the ICU in Gaza.

melissa_msf3 karma

We do have a very small pool of physiotherapists so you are welcome to apply.

NewGradRN145 karma

I am a former Peace Corps Volunteer and just graduated from nursing school. After I have worked a few years, I plan to apply to MSF. I have already attended one of your info sessions and am very excited about working with MSF. Here are my questions:

1) What is the percentage of employees that die or are harmed during assignment? I saw that you previously answered a question regarding kidnapping in Sudan and assignment safety.

2) If my RN experience will mostly be medical-surgical or home health care/community health, do these fall under the acceptable fields of experience? (They are are not listed under assets for RN eligibility on the website).

Thank you!

melissa_msf3 karma

Nurses do such a wide range of tasks in the field. Med surge is good in general home health depends on the project. In general, being able to work autonomously without much support is always important. As a nurse in the field the role isn't 100% bedside or clinical it is a lot of management so we value charge nursing experience.

NikGebbs5 karma

Question regarding logisticians. What is the typical age for a general/tech log? I’m 26 with three and half yrs in logistics/supply chain and currently work in international trade and I’m afraid I’m too young at the moment…

Also, how in demand are logisticians compared to the other positions you hire for? Thanks

melissa_msf5 karma

The average age of our expats is 39 but it is a wide range from 24-80. It is not so much about the age but about the skills and experience.

michr05 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! And thank you for all your work and dedication! It is definitely appreciated :)

I'm very interested in becoming involved with MSF. I'm currently working my way through med school, and just had a few questions.

1) What would you suggest to better prepare myself for MSF?

2) What's the story with DO's in MSF? I keep hearing different things, and as I'm working to become a DO, I want to know for sure if/where DO's are allowed.

3) How helpful would it be to have an MPH degree? Not so much for "boosting my CV" to get an assignment, but for the actual work that a healthcare worker would be doing?

Thank you again!

melissa_msf9 karma

  1. Travel, French, comfortable with adults and children, ability to work with limited resources
  2. DO is fine
  3. MPH or Tropical Medicine is seen as an asset.

daneneebean4 karma

Hi! I am a Laboratory Scientist who is in the process of applying to MSF. I actually think I had my telephone interview with you yesterday, unless there is another Melissa who is a logistician. I have two questions: one is on the conditions of living/being in South Sudan as a woman, since you've been there personally and mentioned there is a need for lab scientists in South Sudan. Is it harder to be a woman working there for MSF vs. a man, do you have to take extra precautions? When I've mentioned South Sudan to others, they are very nervous for me to potentially go there as a woman, but I think it would be an eye opening experience.

My other question is related to lab scientist statistics. Do you know how many US lab scientists apply a year to MSF, or the percentage of US lab scientists from MSF being sent on missions vs. other countries?cant information you could give me would be fantastic!

melissa_msf5 karma

As a woman working with MSF I have never felt compromised or singled out because of my gender.

melissa_msf3 karma

Thanks for all the questions we will be ending the session in about 5 minutes.

SanAndresana3 karma

Do you know what are the requirements for US permanent residents when working with MSF, since they have to be inside the country at least 6 months a year?

melissa_msf2 karma

We have many permanent residents who have been able to make this work for 6, 9 or 12 months.

beans80813 karma

Hi, Is there a minimum requirement for time spent working in a developing country outside the US? I've done a week of humanitarian work as a physician and have traveled extensively throughout the world.

melissa_msf5 karma

No, there is no hard minimum requirement.

lauraerizi3 karma

Hi, I am Laura and I am currently enrolled in a Master of Arts in Human Rights and Conflict Management. I was wondering if there may be opportunities for someone with such a background to work with you in the field. I have already experience to work in the field (Latin America and Africa) in the field of democratisation. Thank you, Laura

melissa_msf3 karma

Our non-medical job are logistics and administrative and it is a wide range of people who apply for these positions (44% non-medical positions in the field). We do have a few humanitarian affairs officer positions in the field but they tend to be for people with a lot of MSF experience and often working at HQ already.

lauraerizi3 karma

Thank you, Melissa. I would have other questions now: do the people applying as logisticians have already experience in logistics in the field? Any suggestions for me to be able to successfully apply as a logisticians for MSF? At the end of my masters I will have to do an internship, so your suggestions will be more than welcome! Laura

melissa_msf3 karma

A lot of people have logistics experience in the field but we accept a wide range of applicants. If you can get technical experience in one of the following areas (construction, electricity, mechanics, watsan, supply) that would be beneficial to your application.

franktetteroo3 karma

Hey there! Thank you for taking your time to answer these questions!

I keep reading about the much needed experience to work in the field. Does it count to work at a HQ to gain this 'experience' or is fieldwork needed? I would love to work as non-medical staff in the field but unfortunatly I don't have any experience. So if possible, I would like to work for the home based organization and transfer to the field from this on out.

Thank you for your reply!


melissa_msf4 karma

We want you to have been uncomfortable so field work is more important that HQ experience.

gianthobbit3 karma


melissa_msf3 karma

Personally for Rogier and I no.

ryovyse3 karma

Hi, I would like to ask the following question:

Are people who are placed on the MSF register able to request that they are not offered missions until a set time; say 'x' amount of months after the interview?

Also, is there a maximum amount of time allowed between being placed on the register and being offered missions?

I am asking this as I am planning to apply for MSF, although I am not available until the start of next year. I am unsure whether I would be better holding off and applying later in the year, or applying just now and giving a set date that I can depart in 10 months time.

melissa_msf3 karma

We need to know your availability in terms of start date, length of assignment, and notice period (the time you need before you can leave). We recommend applicants apply 4-6 months before they are available. Application process takes 3-4 months. We keep you in our pool for 2 years.