Medical Aid Worker: Job Description & Career Info

Mar 25, 2019

For medical professionals with a sense of adventure, an ability to handle stress and an abiding compassion for people in need, the medical aid field can offer a rewarding, if risky, career. Read on for more details about useful training, essential skills and career opportunities for medical aid workers.

Career Definition for Medical Aid Workers

According to the International Medical Corps (IMC), medical aid workers bring relief to people in need around the world, often traveling abroad to dangerous locations and working in emergency situations with limited resources. Their activities can include immunizing rural populations against infectious diseases and providing medical care to injured and displaced people in areas of violence and unrest. Full professional training, education and a strong network of contacts are usually required to pursue this career. Doctors and surgeons may benefit from volunteer experience with humanitarian organizations, such as the Peace Corps. Medical aid workers are usually employed by government, non-governmental (NGO) and nonprofit organizations.

Education Medical school, specialized training
Job Skills Medical skills, function well under pressure, respond quickly to emergencies, adaptability to new surroundings, communication skills
Median Salary(2017)* $211,390 (physicians and surgeons, all other)
Job Outlook(2016-2026)* 13% (physicians and surgeons)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

While the educational criteria for medical aid workers can vary, candidates are expected to complete all of the degree and professional certification requirements associated with their professions. For example, doctors and physicians usually attend college and medical school for a combined eight years before spending up to another eight years as an intern or a resident. The Aid Workers Network reports that specialized training in immunology, orthopedic surgery or trauma care can be especially valuable for aspiring medical aid workers, and areas of expertise should be highlighted during the application process. Volunteer aid experience, including work with the Peace Corps or Voluntary Service Overseas, is key, according to Global Envision of Mercy Corps.

Skills Required

Along with solid medical skills and training, medical aid workers must function well under pressure, be able to respond quickly to emergency situations and be extremely adaptable to new surroundings, poor living conditions and different cultures. They should also be compassionate, organized and have good communication skills. Patience is important, especially when it comes to building up volunteer experiences and developing networking contacts. An understanding of the risks involved is essential, as medical aid workers frequently live and work in dangerous areas.

Career Opportunities

Aspiring medical aid workers may find opportunities with government-sponsored organizations and the United Nations; a list of private voluntary organizations (PVOs) registered with the U.S. government can be found at USAID ( Medical aid worker jobs can also be found at ReliefWeb ( Salary and career outlook for these professionals is unclear, and some may operate on a part-time volunteer basis. Physicians and surgeons, including all others in the U.S., however, earned a minimum median salary of $211,390 as of May 2017, with positions expected to increase faster than average at 13% from 2016-2026 (

Alternate Career Options

Similar careers in this field include:

EMT and Paramedics

Basic and advanced emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide immediate cardiac, respiratory and other care for ill and injured people before transporting them to a hospital. Paramedics provide additional prehospital care, which may include the use of medications and complex monitoring equipment. EMTs usually complete non-degree programs in emergency medical technology; an associate degree may be required for a paramedic's position. Between 2016 and 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 15%, or much-faster-than-average, increase in employment opportunities nationwide for EMTs and paramedics, who earned a median yearly salary of $33,380 in May 2017.


Firefighters are responsible for responding to a variety of fire and medical emergencies, which may include forest fires and natural disasters. Hiring requirements include a high school diploma, EMT certification and a passing score on a physical and written test, after which firefighters complete on-the-job training. As reported by the BLS, firefighters can expect a 7% or average increase in job openings from 2016-2026. As of May 2017, a firefighter earned a median yearly salary of $49,080.

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