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How to Become a Certified Midwife: Education, Licensing & Salary

How to become a midwife and delivery babies like this one

Few career paths will be as rewarding as a career as a midwife. These highly-trained professionals work with women of all ages, including expecting mothers to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a safe delivery. In the end, they get to share, at least in part, in the joys of newborn babies, taking an active role in the delivery and care of precious newborns.

But the career can also be challenging and frustrating; physically and mentally exhausting. Things don’t alway go as planned, and the possibility of something going tragically wrong, for the mother or the child, is a constant reality for midwives.

For this reason, midwives have some of the most extensive educations and certification requirements in the medical industry. Midwife training is lengthy and rigorous, but in the end it allows you to become one of the most respected, appreciated, and well-paid nurses in any hospital or clinic.

If you are working in the medical industry and want to advance your career, or if you want to enter the exciting field of healthcare, this career may be the perfect choice for your future!

In this article, we will discuss a variety of issues and answer numerous questions, including:

What Does a Midwife Do?

Midwifery, which is practiced by both certified midwives (CMs) and certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), is the medical practice of helping women through all stages of life. While much of their focus involves safe reproductive practice and the healthy delivery of babies, the duties of a midwife go far beyond the delivery room. You should also think about the midwife requirements and responsibilities.

A midwife career can include many aspects of a woman’s life, including well-woman care that is delivered throughout a woman’s lifetime. Many of the issues center around reproduction and sexual wellness, so a midwife’s career may include contraception management, fertility counseling, and sexual health care. Their work can also include numerous women-focused healthcare practices, including breast exams, PAP smears, and annual screenings of many types.

Midwives are often associated, rightfully so, with pregnancy. The foundation of midwifery is guidance before, during, and after pregnancy. Before pregnancy, a licensed midwife may provide guidance through fertility questions or contraception management. Midwives also provide services during pregnancies that can include ultrasounds, pregnancy confirmations visits, and routine exams throughout a pregnancy. After delivery of a baby, a nurse midwife will provide care for the mother, ensuring she is healthy and comfortable. A midwife may also provide immediate care to the child, although a neonatal doctor or nurse will likely be ready to provide more advanced care to the newborn while the midwife focuses on the mother.

Midwife vs Doula

Midwife vs doula is a common question. While similar in responsibilities, a doula holds a different role in women’s health and reproductive care. A doula provides physical and emotional support to an expecting mother, and this care may continue after childbirth. A doula focuses almost entirely on the needs of a mother, enabling her to have the best possible experience throughout pregnancy and delivery. He or she may be present during labor and birthing, and there are also doulas who specialize in before and after care. The doula often helps a mother prepare a birth plan.

A doula’s specific duties may vary, but they often include comfort care for the mother. This can include massages, assistance with labor positions, and other practices that can increase the comfort and relaxation of a mother in labor. Most important, a doula is not a medical professional. He or she cannot deliver babies, nor are they trained in any type of medical care.

Midwife vs Doctor

When expecting parents visit a hospital or clinic for pregnancy care, they may often meet with a midwife. However, they could also meet with a doctor, most typically an OB/GYN specialist. Doctors and physicians have a higher level of education than midwives.

OB/GYN doctors specialize in women’s health, a wide-ranging topics that can include pregnancy, childbirth, and longterm sexual health. In this regard, they may often overlap with midwives.

One important difference between the two is level of care. In high-risk pregnancies, a doctor is often capable of providing care that a midwife may not be able to deliver. Midwife vs doctor is a close comparison, but as you can see there are obvious differences.

Midwife vs Labor & Delivery Nurse

In a women’s clinic or delivery ward, you may also find labor and delivery nurses. These specialized nurses who have education and experience with the deliver of babies and care for newborns. Usually working under the guidance of a midwife or a doctor, these nurses assist with care for both mom and baby and often provide postpartum care, newborn education, and provide general support to parents.

How to Become a Midwife: The Basic Steps

There are four steps to begin this exciting career:

  1. Earn a bachelor's or associate’s degree to fulfill RN requirements
  2. Complete a master's degree in midwifery
  3. Become certified through the state where you will work
  4. Continue your education and re-certify as needed

Midwifery Education Requirements: A Detailed Look

Step 1: Earn a Nursing or Medical Bachelor’s or Associate Degree

One of the first steps you’ll need to take is to complete a nursing or medical-related degree. Midwife education requirements are common and consistent in all states, but slight details may vary.

Most people will choose a bachelor’s degree in nursing, as this is probably the most common and seamless way to transition into the next step. However, many other nursing-related topics may help you along your educational journey.

Many people want to know how to become a midwife without a nursing degree. An associate’s degree could be a faster path, but your earning potential and job options may be limited.

If you wish to become a Certified Nursing Midwife (CNM), you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing before moving into your master’s degree.

Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree

The next step will be to complete a graduate program that will allow you to become a certified nursing midwife. Graduate-degree programs provide the opportunity to advance your understanding of medical issues, especially women’s health, reproduction, and child delivery.

Most institutions provide specialized nurse midwife programs that allow you to learn both midwifery and women’s health. These specializations allow you to expand your knowledge and become even more useful to women who are, or are looking to become, pregnant.

While competing your midwifery training and schooling at the master’s level, you’ll complete a variety of course that develop your understanding of the human body (especially a woman’s body and reproductive system), as well your knowledge of the healthcare industry. Each program will have different courses, but you can expect classes to cover topics such as health assessments, antepartum (before birth) care, well-woman issues, and newborn care, among many others. These programs also include lab hours as well as requirements for clinical experience.

How long does it take to become a midwife? This stage of your training will likely take about two years to complete. When added to your bachelor’s degree, you’re looking at roughly six years of formal education.

Step 3: Complete Licensing Requirements

Before starting your midwife career, you’ll have to complete licensing and certification requirements. Each state will have differing requirements for a licensed midwife, but most of the time you will need to complete testing and meet education and experience requirements.

In most states, the licensing requirements align with the requirements for “Advanced Practice Registered Nurses,” a broad term that covers a variety of specialities, including nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives. To qualify, you must have a registered nursing license and complete a graduate-level program from an accredited institution. You’ll also need to pass a certification exam and have APRN licensing. For nurse midwives, the process is administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Step 4: Maintain Credentials as a Certified Nurse Midwife

The steps listed above will help you become a nurse midwife, but to stay in this profession, you’ll need to maintain your credentials and continue to learn about the latest medical practices. This is often done through the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Continuing education and recertification are required, allowing you to not only keep your job, but also shaping you into one of the most advanced medical professionals, one who is informed on the cutting edge of the leading research and practices.

Midwife Certification & Licensing: A Deeper Look

As we discussed above, each state has a different approach to midwife certification. To demonstrate these differences, let’s look at the requirements for three different states.

New Jersey

To become a certified nurse midwife in New Jersey, you need to complete a notarized application with a specific form of ID, which is submitted to the State Board of Medical Examiners. You’ll also need transcripts from your master’s program and you’ll have to complete a background check. A resume is needed, and you’ll have to submit proof of certification from the American Midwife Certification Board. In New Jersey, licensing needs to be renewed every two years, which includes 30 hours of continuing education to meet the midwife requirements.

Texas

A midwife in Texas goes through a similar process, but the specific details can be different. In Texas, nurses can become a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), which requires a master’s degree. In this state, midwives need to have certification through the North American Registry of Midwives.

Illinois

Midwives in Illinois are overseen by the State of Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, which categorizes the profession under the umbrella of advanced practice nursing. A copy of certification from the American College of Nurse Midwives is also required, but a document from the American College of Nurse Midwives Certification Council (ACC) may also be submitted.

Midwife Career Overview

Advantages

When you work in this career, you’ll be able to enjoy numerous benefits, both in pay, job security, and overall job satisfaction. The pay, as we’ll discuss below, is usually outstanding and the job growth, which we will also address, is expected to be high. However, these two factors alone won’t get you through the long days. The chance to help people grow their families, to assist women in a healthy way, and to create better wellbeing for women of all ages, just might.

Everyone will have a different experience, but this can be one of the most rewarding careers available. Your efforts create healthier, happier women and families, and your job is one of the most highly-regarded in all of the medical industry. You have the chance to interact with patients and help them through their journeys, all while providing the support they need throughout many of life’s challenges. From adolescence through elderly care, a midwife can be a tireless companion to women of all ages.

Disadvantages

Becoming a midwife can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Irregular schedules, hectic days, and stressful moments. All of these are found through a midwife’s career. This is a challenging career that requires the highest levels of commitment, and things don’t always go the way we hope. Midwives have to put in long hours, provide support even when they feel powerless, and often deal with sad outcomes during birthing. The career can bring the highest of highs, but it can also bring sadness, stress, and mental fatigue.

Nurse Midwife Salary

How much do midwives make? It will vary, but you can expect an excellent salary. A midwife is one of the best-paid professionals in the medical industry, and it far outpaces the typical salaries for most occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May of 2020 the median salary for nurse midwifes was $111,130. This is far more than the median salary for all occupations, which was $41,950. Clearly this is one of the highest-paying professions currently available, and people working in the career can expect excellent salaries.

If you want to earn a large salary, it appears that California offers the best pay for this profession. In this state, the median salary for a nurse midwife is just shy of $160,000. Utah takes 2nd place, but it’s a distant 2nd. The median earnings in this state is $133,680, roughly $26,000 less than in California. The cost of living certainly needs to be considered, but it appears that California truly appreciates people who have completed nurse midwife programs. Other states in the top five for nurse midwife salary include Mississippi, New York, and Minnesota.

Nurse Midwife Job Outlook

The career growth for this profession is expected to be strong, although it won’t be as high as many other areas. The growth for midwives between 2019 and 2029 is expected to be 12%. The career will go from about 7,200 jobs to 8,100. Compared to most careers, this growth is excellent; the total for all occupations over the same period is expected to be 4%.

Career growth for nurse midwives could happen because of many factors. The increased emphasis on preventative care in women’s medicine will likely drive the growth, as will the desire for healthcare services for aging adults. As many women from the baby-boomer generation become older, there will be an increased need for healthcare and other services, a large portion of which can be provided by nurse midwives. For this reason, the nurse midwife job outlook is very positive.

Different areas seem to have more nurse midwives than others. Large states, of course, have the most. California and New York, for example, are #1 and #2 respectively in the total amount of nurse midwives. But to get a better idea of where the most nurse midwives are found, you need to look at employment per 1,000 jobs. In this category, Vermont is #1, as the state has 0.18 nurse midwives per 1,000 jobs. Second on the list is Alaska, with 0.15, and New Mexico is #3 with 0.14. Maine and Connecticut are tied for fourth place with 0.1 nurse midwives per 1,000 jobs.

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