How to Become a Certified Midwife: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified midwife. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career as a certified midwife, certified nurse midwife, or certified professional midwife. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Certified Midwife?

Certified midwives assist with childbirth, but their expertise and duties are more expansive. They also assist with pregnancy, postnatal care, newborn health, and general women's health issues. This profession might be stressful when emergencies occur, but observing the births of countless healthy babies offers a positive side.

There are three kinds of certifications, each with a different path. Generally, those who complete a graduate-level midwife program can qualify for certification, but there are methods for certification based on experience or by serving an apprenticeship. Regardless of the path chosen, midwife candidates must have a significant amount of clinical and hands-on experience before they can qualify for certification. Licensing, certification or registration may be required.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree often required
Degree Field(s) Midwifery, nursing, or another health-related field
License/Certification Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), or Certified Midwife (CM)
Experience Clinical experience; apprenticeship may be required
Key Skills Active listening, critical thinking, communication, deductive reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving skills; sensitivity and social perceptiveness
Median Annual Salary (2015) $92,510 (for nurse midwives)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

At minimum, a bachelor's degree is required to become a midwife, but more often a master's degree is required. Degrees are usually earned in midwifery, nursing or another health-related field. The three certifications offered for midwives are Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), which is available nationally; Certified Midwife (CM) which has limited availability; and Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), which is available in 26 states. Recertification must be completed every three to five years, depending on the certification. The key skills every midwife needs include active listening, critical thinking, social perceptiveness, communication, deductive reasoning, sensitivity, decision-making, and problem-solving. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for nurse midwives was $92,510 in 2015.

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Steps to Becoming a Certified Midwife

There are five steps to take to become a midwife.

Step 1: Choose Your Path

Candidates for American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) certification as a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or Certified Midwife (CM) can take one of two paths. The CNM path requires the candidate to first become a registered nurse. The CM path requires the candidate to obtain a bachelor's degree. Then, each path requires the candidate to attend and pass a graduate degree midwife program accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

Another option is to become a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) through the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). CPM candidates can choose several methods of obtaining the necessary education, including serving an apprenticeship, attending an accredited midwife degree program, or having the requisite experience. The candidate who does not successfully complete an accredited midwife degree program will have to fulfill NARM's Portfolio Evaluation Process (PEP) in order to be certified.

NARM's PEP requirements include that the person supervising the candidate's hands-on experience have specific credentials or experience. Candidates choosing the CPM apprenticeship path must ensure that whoever is supervising their experience possesses the necessary credentials and experience to satisfy the supervisory requirements.

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program or Apprenticeship

Those who plan to pursue AMCB's CM designation can complete a bachelor's degree in any subject, though nursing or a related field might be particularly beneficial. The CNM certification requires that the candidate obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing.

NARM provides certification procedures for applicants who have performed a minimum required number of observations, assisting with births, and performing primary midwife duties under supervision. This experience must involve all aspects of prenatal care, birth, postnatal care, newborn care, and continuity of care in situations in order to submit their experience in lieu of formal education.

Step 3: Complete a Midwife Education Program

A student who wants to earn AMCB certification as either a CNM or a CM must complete a graduate degree program in midwifery that's been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Graduate degree programs in midwifery give students the opportunity to advance their midwife skills both academically and clinically. Most programs are two years. NARM also has provisions to certify candidates who graduate from a program accredited by the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC). MEAC accredits programs that vary in course content and length. Both master's and doctorate degree programs are available, and all offer classroom and clinical experience. Many programs also offer courses about out-of-hospital alternatives, including home birthing.

Step 4: Apply for Certification

Students who hold registered nurse licenses are eligible for AMCB's Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) credential upon graduating from a midwife degree program. CM candidates are eligible to take the AMCB exam after submitting credentials verifying completion of an ACME-approved program. CPM candidates who have completed a MEAC-approved midwifery program are eligible for NARM's certification exam. Those who attended a non-accredited program or served as an apprentice must complete NARM's Portfolio Evaluation Process (PEP). This process requires the applicant to work with a preceptor, a mentor nurse midwife, to prove his or her experience and skills and provide specific proof of properly supervised experience before applying to take the exam.

Step 5: Complete Continuing Education

Continuing education units are required to maintain all three midwife certifications. CNMs and CMs participate in AMCB's Certificate Maintenance Program, which operates on a 5-year cycle. Within those five years, CNMs/CMs must either complete three self-learning modules and 20 CEUs or retake the certification exam and complete 20 CEUs in order to renew their certifications. Similarly, CPM certification follows a 3-year cycle and requires the completion of 30 CEUs along with either retaking the exam or completing an extra 2.5 CEUs. Topics of study might include neonatal resuscitation, midwifery in developing countries, gestational diabetes, and midwife ethics.

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