Individuals with no nursing training can enroll in associate's degree programs in midwifery, which teach students about health concerns, safety issues and high-risk births. Students must attend many births during the program. Graduates can apply for professional midwife credentials.
Registered nurses with bachelor's degrees can enroll in a master's program in nurse-midwifery. Students examine topics such as newborn care, pathophysiology and maternal health, and they complete clinical work. Students with master's degrees in nursing or another healthcare field can enroll in a graduate certificate program that will prepare them for midwife certification.
Midwives are educated strictly in the practice of midwifery, whereas a nurse-midwife is licensed and educated in the practices of midwifery and nursing over the course of 2 to 3 years. Both types of professionals assist with women's health throughout pregnancy, including the labor, delivery and aftercare of the mother and newborn. Both master's degree and post master's certificate programs require an RN license for entry.
Associate's Degree in Midwifery
Associate's degree programs in midwifery, such as the Associate of Science in Midwifery, can take 2-5 years to complete and provide hands-on training through a clinical practicum. Students study prenatal and postpartum health concerns, methods used to avoid and handle any safety issues and how to provide care to both low-risk and at-risk clients.
Associate's midwifery programs can also prepare graduates for the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) exam, which is commonly required to obtain midwife credentials (www.narm.org). Currently, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) accredits several schools in the U.S. that offer associate's degree programs (www.measchools.org).
Prerequisites typically include general education courses in areas such as writing composition, algebra and critical thinking, while science courses may include anatomy, chemistry and nutrition. Some programs also require CPR certification and successful completion of prerequisite courses prior to entering the midwifery program.
Associate's degree programs in midwifery typically require clinical experience. Students can also develop technical skills and knowledge through coursework in areas such as:
- Midwifery sciences
- Health sciences chemistry
- Support skills for midwives
- Microbiology lab
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
The master's degree program in nursing offers a specialty track or nurse-midwifery emphasis, allowing students to participate in rotational clinical residences, including full-scope clinical experience taking place in private care practices and hospitals. Research and theoretical studies are common in the MSN curriculum and the program can take 2-3 years to complete. Graduate nurse-midwifery students also complete advanced science courses in areas such as pathology, pathophysiology and genetics during their final year of the midwifery degree track.
Some universities admit students who hold a bachelor's degree from a field other than nursing into a Masters Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), which is designed for students without previous nursing training. MEPN programs also require applicants to complete science proficiency prerequisites, as well general education prerequisites. MSN programs may also require that students be a licensed registered nurse (RN) and have a minimum number years of clinical experience; however, this can vary significantly depended on the program type.
In addition to clinical residencies, this specialty program also offers advanced midwifery coursework in areas including the following:
- Care of the newborn
- Disease prevention
- Psychiatric evaluation methods
Post-Master's Certificate in Nurse-Midwifery
A post-master's certificate program entails clinical experience and training in areas that include inpatient and outpatient primary care, labor, birth and newborn care. This certificate program is primarily designed for RNs who hold a master's degree in nurse-midwifery or another health-related field. The program typically takes 1-2 years to complete and can ensure that graduates have the ability to provide wellness education, as well as conduct research in the midwifery field. Educational prerequisites and admission requirements are similar to those of the master's degree in midwifery or MSN programs.
Program coursework for the certificate does not typically include any general education courses. Students can expect studies in areas that include:
- Antepartum, postpartum and intrapartum education
- Primary women's care
- Diagnosis and assessment methods
The midwife may choose to become a certified midwife after earning an associate's degree. According to NARM, certification typically involves supervised, clinical experience of at least one year. NARM also notes that the most pivotal element to the certification is education and the acquisition of a degree from an accredited school. Further, the midwife must have been physically present for at least ten births and provided primary care (prenatal, postpartum and newborn exam) for at least three women. The certified midwife is required to maintain his or her certification every five years, reported the American Midwifery Certification Board (www.amcbmidwife.org).
According to the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), graduates with a master's degree in nurse-midwifery are eligible to become a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) after passing AMCB's certification exam and applying for licensure (www. amcbmidwife.org). Certification ensures the professionalism of the nurse-midwife and reflects the level of knowledge the nurse-midwife has attained. The American College of Nurse-Midwives also offers continuing education opportunities for CNMs.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
After earning an associate's degree in midwifery, graduates may consider working at a clinic or opening a private practice. The MEAC noted that salary largely depends on a midwife's number of clients, and the success of a private practice depends on location, word-of-mouth and advertising. As of 2016, the MEAC reported that solo-practice midwives often attend 2-4 home births per month and may request a payment of $2,000-$4,000 for each. If self-employed, most midwives keep home offices and assist clients in their home or at a birthing center.
Working closely with physicians and obstetricians in caring for and monitoring patients, nurse-midwives are involved in maintaining the overall reproductive health of women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an increase of 16% was expected for nurse-midwives from 2018-2028, especially in rural and urban areas. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary of nurse-midwives was $103,770 as of May 2018.
A midwifery or nurse midwifery degree or certificate program allows graduates to practice midwifery in hospitals, at birthing centers or in the homes of expectant mothers. Certification as a midwife is optional and available through the American Midwifery Certification Board, but demonstrates one's level of expertise, which may be attractive to employers.