How to Become a Midwife: Job Description, Education Requirements & Salary

Get your rubber gloves and speculum out because today we are going to toss more information about how to become a midwife at you than you can shake a uterus at! How is that for a visual! If we haven’t grossed you out, good! It likely means that you have what it takes to survive as a midwife. Keep on reading and we will tell you all about how to become a midwife and likely make a few bad uterus puns along the way.

How to Become a Midwife

The very first thing that you will have to do once you decide that you want to become a midwife is decide which pathway you’d like to pursue. The reason this is so important is because it will dictate what school you go to, which tests you have to take to receive certification and most importantly how long it will take. So first things first – we are going to break down the different options and then go into more detail about each. Sound good?

Routes of Entry into Midwifery

  • Certified Midwife (CM): A certified midwife is someone that is well educated in the discipline of midwifery. CM’s have a certification that falls into accordance with the requirements set forth by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): Certified nurse-midwives are people that are educated in the areas of both nursing and midwifery. Each CNM has a certification for the American College of Nurse-Midwives as well.
  • Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): A Certified Professional Midwife is an individual that is skilled and knowledgeable as a professional independent midwifery practitioner. A CPM has also met all standards for certification that are set forth by the North American Registry (NARM) and therefore is well qualified to give the midwifery model of care. A CPM is the only midwifery pathway that requires additional knowledge and experience outside of a hospital.
  • Direct-Entry Midwife (DEM): Direct-Entry midwives are independent practitioners that are educated through self-study, apprenticeship, a midwifery school, a college or a university program that is different from nursing. A DEM is trained to provide the Midwives Model of Care to women throughout their childbearing years outside of a hospital setting. A few examples of direct-entry midwives are Licensed Midwives (LM) and Registered Midwives (RM).

Now we know the different types of midwifery pathways…awesome! The next step in becoming a midwife is to select the school that you would like to attend and begin that process. You can expect to be in school for a minimum of three years but at as many as six if you should decide to go the distance and aim for a master’s degree.

Upon completion of your schooling, you will need to complete a midwife education program. This part does not take nearly as long as your schooling will. You will likely be able to finish the midwife program in two years or less depending on the pathway chosen. You’ll cover many things, but you can definitely count on covering out of hospital alternatives like home birthing.

Janet Fyle, midwife

Applying for certification is that last major step to becoming a midwife and that homestretch will feel so great! There will be slightly different certification processes depending on the pathway you select. You will be able to take a certification exam through either the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) or the American Midwifery Certification Board or the North American Registry of Midwives.

There will be some continuing education that is required to maintain your midwife certification. The certificate maintenance programs run in 3-5 year cycles (depending on the your certification)  and you will need to complete three self-paced modules and 20 continuing education units. If you’d rather skip this, you can opt to retake your certification exam, but you will still have to complete the 20 continuing education units.

What Does a Midwife Do?

Midwives are the main medical support person to a pregnant woman during her pregnancy, labor and delivery. Today’s midwives don’t just attend births as they once did though, but instead provide much more assistance before, during and after the birth. Here are a few of the areas that midwives can assist their clients in:

  • Perform gynecological examinations
  • Assist with conception planning and contraception planning
  • Provide prenatal and post-natal care
  • Assist the client during labor and delivery
  • Provide breastfeeding support and any other newborn care issues that may arise
  • Record patients’ medical history and document any new symptoms
  • Manage patient care for existing health care needs
  • Dispense medications or prescribe treatments
  • Conduct research for patients in regards to their health care needs

There will be more specific tasks that will be performed during each prenatal visit that will range from finding heart tones to cervix checks too. The job of a midwife is to function as a partner in the pregnancy and birthing experience, which certainly encompasses a lot.

Hey! Check Out This Video…

We used our amazing YouTube searching skills to find this great video from some actual midwives. These wonderful women are going to give you all of the dish on the job. It’s not very long and has some really great information that may make you even more excited to travel down the birth canal…or well the path to become a midwife. So that’s enough of us trying to insert any more bad birthing jokes into this section. Let’s get to watching the video!

Midwifery Schools

As we’ve already mentioned, there are two different schooling paths to travel down depending on how you’d like to become a midwife. First thing you will need to decide is if you want to pursue becoming a nurse midwife or if you want to skip the nurse part to become a certified midwife. We’ve gathered a few schools for each option for you so that you are able to see what programs are available. This part may take a while, so put your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea!

Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies

The School of Nursing & Health Studies at Georgetown University began their Nurse-Midwifery program in 1972 to great success. The program is still so successful that for the 2013 school year, the pass rate for the American Midwifery Certification Board pass rate was at a whopping 100 percent!

The Nurse-Midwifery program is a concentrated curriculum for nurses that have a desire to care for women during their reproductive years. This program will specialize in prenatal, birth and postpartum care for women and their newborns. You will also cover areas of general gynecology that will enable you to care for women that are not expecting new bundles of adorableness as well.

During your schooling you will take specialty classes in Introduction to Reproductive Healthcare of Women, Labor, Birth and Newborn Care and Primary Care of Women among many others. You will have to complete hours of clinical rotations each week too. It might be a good idea to look into some of those comfy nurse shoes now…our feet hurt just thinking about it.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is an option for students that are interested in becoming a certified Nurse-Midwife. They are fully accredited by the ACNM Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). As to be expected from any program in nursing, but especially one that is as demanding as midwifery, there is a pretty hefty amount of learning to be done here.

Each semester is locked and loaded like a baby ascending into the birth canal. Your semesters at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing are not for the weak of heart or mind because you will be going full gorilla for the very first semester with 14 credit hours as opposed to the usual 12. Trust us when we say that two extra credit hours a semester is a doozy to take on.

Some of the courses that you can expect to slave over the textbooks for are: Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology, Evolution of Midwifery in America and Antepartal Care for Nurse-Midwifery. There are a ton of others and they only increase in difficulty. Gear that thinking cap up because we have a feeling that you are going to need it big time!

Bastyr University Seattle Midwifery School

Bastyr University now offers the Seattle Midwifery School after more than 30 years of separate educating practices. This is pretty exciting for the folks in the Pacific Northwest! With this new addition to Bastyr, they now offer one of the nation’s first fully accredited direct-entry Master of Science in Midwifery degree.

This new program offers innovative teaching and training of childbirth professionals. Every aspect of midwifery care is covered and is entirely based upon the competencies that are set forth by the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA). This program is so inclusive that it expertly prepares midwives in training to complete the examinations that are necessary to become state licensed right after graduation.

The curriculum at Bastyr University focuses a lot of the importance of integrating the art and science of being a midwife and this is especially evident with Midwifery Care classes being at the forefront of the program. Each course completed is important because it will help you to develop your skills while preparing you for your days as a state certified midwife.

Some of the expected courses in this curriculum are epidemiology, nutrition, pharmacology, genetics, embryology and counseling, just to name a few. The graduation requirements are set in place to ensure that all new midwifes are meeting Core Competencies. Students are required to complete all didactic and clinical courses with a B- or higher, complete 40 hours of service for the profession of a midwife and complete all comprehensive written and clinical exams in the final year of school.

There are oodles of clinical hours to clock during this program. The breakdown is honestly pretty monstrous so we will just give you a brief rundown of the clinical hours you will have to toil away at. Are you ready for this? For graduation you will be required to: participate in 60 births, complete 1,500 hours of clinical hours, conduct 720 client contacts, operate under a preceptor for at least one year in at least two clinical sites and lastly continually care for at least 15 women. If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it totally is.

Birthwise Midwifery School

The Birthwise Midwifery School is a special one that is unlike nearly any out there. This is a fully accredited program that has a comprehensive approach to the midwifery study in both the academic portion as well as the clinical area. The midwife program at Birthwise is designed to allow students to complete it in three years if attending at full time. Students that enroll in only part time courses can expect the program to take about 6 years.

The Birthwise Midwifery School has a pretty unique approach to midwife training. They offer two different arrangements of their program: the Campus Program or the Community Program. The Campus Program is meant for residential students and abides by a typical academic calendar. The Campus Program is designed for students that want to stay in their home communities for the clinical work that needs to be done. There will be ten 2 week classroom sessions that are at the actual Birthwise facility during your 3 years of schooling.

Midwife Salary

 Look out Bureau of Labor Statistics, here we come! As of May 2013 the Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that midwives earn a median yearly salary of $92,290. There is a variation that can be expected based upon experience levels and even schooling. Some of the more experienced midwives are reported to earn a median annual salary of $120,540. Those that are possibly less experienced are reported by the BLS to earn $62,820 annually as well.

Meet Betty – Our Favorite Midwife

Hey gang, we’d like to take a little time to tell you a bit about our good friend and midwife extraordinaire, Betty. Now we know that we may be a little biased because she’s our sister from another mister, but she really is wonderful at her job. Let’s talk a little bit about her journey to become a midwife so that you can get an idea of what it’s like to go through the paces.


Betty started out her journey to become a midwife as a doula. She decided after the birth of her second child that she wanted to take the next step and become a midwife by following the direct-entry pathway. She happened to have a really great relationship with the midwife that delivered her daughter and asked if she could possibly begin an apprenticeship underneath her. For Betty’s former midwife, this was a no brainer. Bethany had already earned a very good reputation at a doula in the community and had the schooling credentials to get her where she needed to go.

Betty somehow has managed to continue her doula duties and help many mommies during their labor. When she is not busy being a mom, she is teaching birthing and Lamaze classes. Oh wait, we almost forgot to mention that she somehow manages to attend and assist in live births with her preceptor (midwife boss lady, so to speak). She has a pretty full dance card, but she handles it all like a champ.

Betty is very close to taking her certification classes to become a midwife and will soon become a partner in her preceptor’s midwifery practice. We really can’t think of anyone else that is more prepared and capable of entering this field than she is. We wish Betty luck on the last leg of her journey to become a midwife!

Should I Become a Midwife?

This is indeed a very good question. Given what you know thus far about how to become a midwife and what it is that they do exactly…do you still want to be one? If you are feeling unsure about it, no problem! We found this fun little quiz for you to take to see if this is the job for you. We all know how accurate internet quizzes are (Hello, Buzzfeed) and we are sure this one is no exception.

A Brief Look at the History of Midwifery

Midwives have been checking cervices for as long as women have been birthing babies. We can find record of all of the things that they were once called and some of them will make you giggle. Interesting names like sage-femme, weise frau  and mit wif were common among ancient peeps. Ancient Jewish culture called midwives “wise women”, which totally seems spot on to us.

Way back in the day, societies used to use midwives for not just their technical or manual skills, but also for their magical and mystical skills. We are sure that the women giving birth did not feel any magical relief of those fun contractions, but hey you never know!

If it wasn’t for midwives, in whatever incarnation they manifested into over the centuries, it’s safe to say that the way we view labor and childbirth may be entirely different. Their skills were even at one point feared because they appeared to have knowledge that others did not. Thankfully we have moved beyond those crazy days and onto embracing the awesome gifts that midwives have.

The birthing community continues to be enriched by the information that pours forth as we discover ancient midwifery practices. There are many natural practices that  were used all those years ago are still used by many to this day. Midwives have always been around, but their definitely seems to be a rebirth so to speak of the popularity. This is a good thing and reflective in the statistics of pregnancy outcome as the outcome of births that have midwives present are usually more positive.

Final Grade

As a midwife, you will grow accustomed to doling out Bishop Scores , but for now we are going to be the ones doling out the scores.  Take a quick gander at our final grades for the job as of a midwife.

  • Degree vs. Debt: B

Schooling to become a midwife is not cheap by any means and it very well may require a loan or five to get through it. The salary that is on your horizon as a midwife more than makes up for the possible debt that you may incur. This is one of those times when the degree to debt ratio is really not an issue in the grand scheme of things.

  • Difficulty of Degree: C

This is not a degree for those that are not extremely dedicated to their decision to become a midwife. There is so much information that is required to be learned and a very intensive amount of schooling is required to become certified. It’s all worth it in the end, but that doesn’t make the process any easier of less intense.

  • Happiness Quotient: A+

The job of a midwife gives us the warm and fuzzies times infinity. It makes us happy to just think about all of the cute squishy babies that you will help bring into the world. Come on…you know those little newbs smell so good when they are fresh out of the oven. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that you aided a mommy to be through her entire pregnancy as a trusted friend and adviser. Cue the warm and fuzzies again!

  • Job Outlook: A+

The birth industry is definitely booming and totally the spot to be in to make some cash. The job of a midwife is expected to spike a 31% growth between 2012 and 2022…yep we really did just type that! This is obviously a huge growth rate and some serious job security for you. Sounds pretty sweet, right?! We think so!

Sources and Recommended Reading

Our sources are so awesome that we are sure that even Ina May Gaskin would be proud and would give us a virtual high five. We know that there is a whole lot of information to process in here, so click away if you feel that there is some extra space in your brain to fit some more tib bits in.


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