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Updated August 23, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Among the oldest professions, midwifery's recorded history dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. While midwives historically learned their craft through apprenticeships, many contemporary practitioners train in formal academic programs.

Learners can pursue undergraduate and graduate programs for midwifery. These programs typically require 2-4 years of study. Direct-entry programs accept learners with varied backgrounds. Applicants to nurse-midwife programs usually need a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). However, many institutions offer alternative pathways for licensed practical nurses and applicants with bachelor's degrees in unrelated fields. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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With an increasing number of childbearing families choosing midwifery care, midwife-assisted birth rates in the U.S. have risen steadily since the late 1980s, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for midwives to increase 45% from 2019 to 2029. Professionals in the field also enjoy strong earning potential. Nurse-midwives earn a median annual salary of $105,030, according to the BLS.

Midwife programs train students to provide gynecological care for women of various ages. Learners prepare to assess and manage maternal and fetal health during pregnancy, attend low-risk births, and provide postpartum care to mothers and newborns. Nurse-midwives may also act as women's primary healthcare providers. These professionals often work in hospitals, clinics, community health organizations, and independent practices.

Midwifery practitioners include certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), certified midwives (CMs), and certified professional midwives (CPMs). CNMs and CMs complete similar graduate-level training and often work in conventional healthcare settings, such as hospitals. CPMs specialize in assisting during out-of-hospital births, usually serving clients in birth centers and homes.

Graduates of accredited midwifery programs qualify to sit for national certification exams. The American Midwifery Certification Board certifies CNMs and CMs, while the North American Registry of Midwives certifies CPMs. Requirements for licensure vary by state, but most states require midwives to hold national certification.

Accreditation for a Midwifery Program

Accreditation requires a comprehensive peer-review process and demonstrates that an institution meets or exceeds set educational standards. Approved accrediting agencies evaluate schools based on factors such as instructional quality, faculty credentials, academic integrity, and student support resources. Before selecting a midwifery program, learners should research the institution's accreditation status. The Department of Education provides a searchable online database of accredited schools and programs.

U.S. schools can earn regional or national accreditation. Regional accrediting agencies typically evaluate nonprofit colleges and universities. Regional accreditation requires a more rigorous review than national accreditation and is therefore considered more prestigious. For-profit, vocational, and religious institutions often receive national accreditation.

Many individual programs can receive field-specific accreditation. Individuals in highly regulated fields, such as healthcare, often need a degree from an accredited program to qualify for certification or licensure. Two agencies evaluate programs for midwifery. The American Midwifery Certification Board accredits nurse-midwife programs. Aspiring CPMs should look for a program with accreditation from the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council.


How many years of college does it take to be a midwife?

Midwifery programs typically take 2-4 years to complete. Part-time students and those without a BSN may take longer to graduate.

What is the difference between a doctor and a midwife?

Midwives specialize in low-risk births and typically provide significant emotional support to expectant parents. Obstetricians and gynecologists attend both high-risk and low-risk births, but they may delegate direct-care responsibilities to nurses.

Do midwives do ultrasounds?

Some midwives pursue certification to perform ultrasounds. Midwives without sonography certification typically refer clients to outside providers for ultrasounds.

What kind of schooling does a midwife need?

As advanced practice nurses, nurse-midwives need a master's or doctoral degree. Schools deliver direct-entry midwife programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Nurse-midwifery programs typically accept registered nurses with a BSN. Programs may also accept associate degree-holders and applicants with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. Enrollees without a BSN usually complete a bridge program before taking midwifery courses.

Admission to many nurse-midwife programs requires a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some programs prefer or require professional nursing experience. Students pursuing a master's degree in the field log about 700-1,000 clinical hours, while doctoral candidates generally complete 1,000-1,400 hours. Many programs for midwifery incorporate a research-based capstone project.

Admission requirements for direct-entry midwife programs vary by program, but they often include a minimum GPA, a high school diploma, and prerequisite coursework.

Courses in a Midwifery Program

Midwifery programs incorporate both classroom instruction and hands-on training. Students develop general medical expertise during foundational courses in areas such as physiology and pharmacology. Specialized coursework examines topics including pregnancy, labor, birth, the postpartum period, and women's primary and gynecological care. Students sharpen their critical-inquiry skills during courses exploring research methods and evidence-based practice.

Additional classes may examine ethical, social, and historical issues; leadership and finance in healthcare; and the role of midwife professionals. Some programs offer coursework in genetics and lactation management. Clinical requirements often include simulations and practicum experience to help students hone competencies in patient care.

Curricula vary by program, but midwifery programs commonly include the following courses.

Antepartal Care

This class supplements coursework addressing the pregnancy, labor, and birth processes. Learners explore current theory, research, and practice related to care management during pregnancy. Students examine how cultural, political, legal, and ethical issues affect childbearing families and inform prenatal care.

Degree-seekers become familiar with physiological, psychological, and psychosocial changes that can occur during pregnancy. Topics include risk assessment, early identification of complications, and strategies for risk reduction.

Intrapartum Care

Students develop and implement family-centered, evidence-based management plans for labor and birth. Learners prepare to assess maternal and fetal health, anticipate and manage emergencies, and provide ethical and culturally appropriate care.

Learners evaluate how the midwifery model of care and its emphasis on nonintervention in uncomplicated births informs the midwife's role. Students may also analyze and compare obstetric and midwifery values and practices.

Postpartum and Newborn Care

This course explores the process of synthesizing and applying multidisciplinary theory and research in postpartum and neonatal care. Learners explore strategies for promoting health maintenance and bonding. Degree-seekers learn to screen for and manage common abnormalities while working as part of interprofessional teams.

Learners study the anatomy and physiology of lactation and prepare to help parents establish healthy breastfeeding relationships. Midwifery programs may also offer clinical and didactic sections of this course.

Gynecologic, Reproductive, and Sexual Health

This course prepares aspiring midwives to meet the gynecological healthcare needs of women, from adolescent to postmenopausal life stages. Learners develop knowledge of reproductive anatomy and physiology, which graduates use to diagnose and manage common gynecological conditions.

Coursework explores reproductive health in a holistic context, considering physical, emotional, and sociocultural factors. Learners also examine social and structural determinants of women's health in culturally and geographically diverse populations. Additional topics include preventative care, patient education, and health assessment modalities.

Midwifery History and Professional Issues
This course helps students understand midwifery careers within cultural and professional contexts. Learners analyze key historical and contemporary topics in the field, and they study the social, political, and economic factors that shaped the development of midwifery and women's healthcare. Coursework introduces examples of current ethical, legislative, and policy issues affecting midwifery practice and the health of women and childbearing families.

Professional Organizations for Midwifery Students

Professional midwifery organizations provide networking, education, and career advancement opportunities. Members often connect with colleagues through conventions, online forums, and mentorship programs. Many associations offer continuing education resources, such as webinars and publications, to help members keep up with the latest field developments. Additionally, professional organizations often provide discounted student membership rates.

  • NBMA spearheads campaigns to expand educational opportunities for Black midwifery students and address maternal healthcare disparities that affect communities of color. The alliance's mentorship program connects students and early-career midwives with established practitioners. Self-identified Black midwives and midwifery students, along with their allies, can qualify for membership.
  • The premier professional association for certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives, ACNM advocates for policies that support nurse-midwifery practice. Students enrolled in accredited nurse-midwife programs can join the organization to access mentorship opportunities, the association's journal, and continuing education resources. Members can network through ACNM's events, volunteer opportunities, and the online community.
  • Dedicated to supporting and connecting midwives, MANA advocates for public awareness of the profession, promotes the development of educational programs for midwifery, and participates in midwifery-related research. Members receive access to conventions, publications, and MANA's professional referral page. The alliance accepts practicing midwives and midwifery students of all educational backgrounds.
  • NACPM members include certified professional midwives and midwifery students. The association participates in initiatives and coalitions focused on social justice, improving birth outcomes, and advancing the direct-entry midwife profession. Member benefits include access to continuing education webinars and a listing in NACPM's national directory. The organization also publishes a peer-reviewed journal.

Students in midwifery programs often fund their education through financial aid, such as grants, loans, and scholarships. Midwifery students may qualify for field-specific scholarships, along with general healthcare and nursing scholarships. Learners can also apply for awards based on factors such as academic achievement and financial need.

ACNM Foundation Basic Midwifery Student Scholarships

Who Can Apply: ACNM awards these scholarships to students enrolled in nurse-midwife programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. Applicants must hold ACNM student membership. Scholarship requirements vary by award. For example, the organization reserves some scholarships for midwives of color and students pursuing careers in out-of-hospital birth.
Amount: $3,000

NAABB Midwifery Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The National Association to Advance Black Birth sponsors this scholarship to support learners of African descent. Applicants must be enrolled in a midwifery program, such as a direct-entry or nurse-midwife program. Candidates submit an essay outlining their professional goals and detailing their plans to improve birthing outcomes for Black families.
Amount: $1,000

March of Dimes Graduate Nursing Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Graduate-level nursing students in a program related to maternal or child health, such as a nurse-midwife program, can qualify for these annual scholarships. Applicants must be a registered nurse and must hold membership with one of several specified professional organizations, such as the ACNM.
Amount: $5,000

Best Certified Midwifery Programs 2021

  1. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA



    A large private research university, Penn counts Benjamin Franklin among its founders. The Ivy League university's School of Nursing delivers one of the most highly-regarded nursing programs in the United States. Penn's master's-level nurse-midwifery program fulfills educational requirements for national certification as both a women's health nurse-practitioner and a certified nurse-midwife.

    The 17-course curriculum features core instruction in physiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment, using evidence-based research methods. Learners study professional issues and public policy alongside essential components of midwifery. These include women's health issues; fetal evaluation; and intrapartum, postpartum, and newborn care. The program accepts BSN-educated applicants and waives the GRE requirement for applicants with a 3.2 GPA or higher.

    Penn is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its program for midwifery holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  2. Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN



    Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt offers one of the country's top-ranked nurse-midwife programs. Open to applicants with and without nursing experience, the private university's MSN program trains graduates to provide healthcare to women from adolescence onward, with an emphasis on reproductive care.

    Vanderbilt's program prepares prospective nurse-midwives to sit for national certification exams. Associate-trained nurses and enrollees with non-nursing bachelor's degrees complete a yearlong prespecialty curriculum. After that, they take the NCLEX-RN exam and enter the nurse-midwife specialty program. BSN-educated learners enter the specialty program directly.

    Blending classroom courses, simulations, and clinical experiences, the second-year curriculum covers clinical skills, physiology, and pharmacology. Students benefit from hands-on opportunities through the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and can participate in service and leadership organizations.

    Vanderbilt is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The MSN program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  3. Emory University

    Atlanta, GA



    Emory's research institutes and highly ranked programs make the Atlanta, Georgia-based school a leading destination for health-related career training. Emory Healthcare, the state's largest healthcare system, provides clinical practice opportunities, along with numerous other partner organizations. Comprising 52-54 credits and 620-740 clinical hours, the school's nurse-midwifery program enrolls BSN-trained nurses licensed to practice in Georgia.

    Students learn to provide evidence-based, culturally appropriate care to women and newborns. They explore global issues in women's reproductive health and examine equity, finance, and leadership in the U.S. healthcare system. Advanced courses in key nursing topics such as physiology, wellness promotion, and mental health provide a holistic context for midwifery-specific skills. Full-time enrollees typically earn a master's degree in four semesters.

    Emory's midwifery program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. Emory is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. Case Western Reserve University

    Cleveland, OH



    Created through a merger between Western Reserve College and the Case Institute of Technology, CWRU serves over 11,000 students annually at its 267-acre campus in Cleveland, Ohio. The private research university offers prestigious healthcare degree programs, including its MSN program in nurse-midwifery.

    The 7- to-8 semester nurse-midwife program prepares graduates to obtain national certification as nurse-midwives and women's health nurse-practitioners. The 49-credit curriculum provides advanced training in essential nursing skills as well as midwifery-specific topics. Courses address subjects such as labor, birth, and neonatal assessment. Additional classes explore ethical, psychosocial, and spiritual concerns in healthcare.

    Applicants need a BSN, a license to practice nursing in Ohio, and neonatal resuscitation program certification. CWRU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The midwifery program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  5. New York University

    New York, NY



    The second largest private nursing college in the country, NYU's Rory Meyers College of Nursing educates nurses in the Manhattan metropolitan area. Emphasizing lifelong self-education, political awareness, and social responsibility, the school's master's-level nurse-midwife program teaches students to become leaders in the field.

    Degree candidates study statistics, research methods, and current issues in nursing and midwifery. Following the problem-based learning model, instructors introduce concepts and principles by presenting complex real-world scenarios. Practicum courses provide experience caring for women and families during pregnancy, labor and birth, and the postpartum period.

    The 48-credit, 1080-clinical-hour program accepts students with a bachelor's degree in nursing, or an associate degree in nursing and a bachelor's in another field. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and a New York State nursing license.

    The program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. NYU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. George Washington University

    Washington, DC



    A private university located in Washington, D.C., GW offers a master's-level nurse-midwife program in collaboration with Shenandoah University. The 47-credit hybrid program blends online classwork with in-person simulations, assessments, and practicum experiences. The program leads to an MSN from GW and a postgraduate certificate in nurse-midwifery from Shenandoah. Graduates qualify to take the American Midwifery Certification Board's national certification exam.

    Students take general nursing coursework through GW. Classes cover physiology, pharmacology, diagnostic reasoning, genetics, and biostatistics. Learners explore key concepts in healthcare policy and leadership. Shenandoah administers midwifery-specific courses in subjects such as antepartal, perinatal, postpartal, and neonatal care. Students log over 720 hours of clinical experience. They culminate the degree with a simulation-based skills assessment and a capstone practice project.

    GW is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Shenandoah's program for midwifery holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  7. Marquette University

    Milwaukee, WI



    A Catholic university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marquette offers innovative programs that embody the Jesuit traditions of service, inclusion, and intellectual inquiry. The private university's hybrid nurse-midwife MSN program has achieved recognition as one of the country's top programs for midwifery.

    The 49-credit curriculum explores theory, ethics, and policy while advancing learners' research, leadership, and advocacy skills. Students learn to provide primary care to women across the lifespan and specialty care during pregnancy, birth, and labor. Clinical placements occur at sites in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

    BSN-educated students usually complete the program in three years. Students with an associate degree in nursing or a non-nursing bachelor's degree can enroll in a two-year, 34-credit version of the program. However, they must first complete the school's direct-entry generalist MSN program.

    The midwifery program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. Marquette is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  8. Rutgers University

    New Brunswick, NJ



    Founded in 1766, Rutgers enrolls over 50,000 students annually across its multiple New Jersey campuses. Rigorous programs, such as its highly-regarded nurse-midwifery program, affirm the public research university's prestigious national reputation.

    The 77-credit program leads to a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree and features both online and on-campus instruction. General nursing core classes expand students' competencies in areas such as scientific writing, research methods, and project management. Complementary theory and practicum courses address neonatal care and women's primary, childbearing, and gynecological care. Students integrate skills and knowledge gained throughout the program in a 500-hour mentored independent project.

    DNP candidates can attend full time or part time and complete the program in 3-4 years. The program admits bachelor's-trained nurses licensed to practice in New Jersey.

    Rutgers is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its midwifery program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  9. University of Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh, PA



    A public research university with an enrollment of over 32,000, Pitt administers various highly acclaimed healthcare programs, including its doctoral-level nurse-midwifery program. Among the country's newest programs for midwifery, Pitt's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program has earned accolades for quality since its inception in 2016.

    The 99-credit, 1,440-clinical-hour program develops the skills and knowledge needed to provide evidence-based primary care to culturally diverse women, newborns, and childbearing families. DNP candidates complete a capstone project and submit papers to peer-reviewed journals. Many courses in the three-year program allow students to choose either in-person or synchronous online delivery.

    The school extends in-state tuition rates to all full-time students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, regardless of residency status. Pitt is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its nurse-midwifery program holds pre-accreditation status from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  10. Seattle University

    Seattle, WA



    A private Catholic university, SU educates students of all faith backgrounds at its 50-acre campus in Washington's largest city. Accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education, SU's nurse-midwifery program accepts applicants with and without nursing backgrounds. Graduates earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree with a specialization in nurse-midwifery and qualify to take American Midwifery Certification Board exams.

    Emphasizing a global perspective, the program trains students to provide primary, gynecologic, and reproductive care to women. Students take courses in ethics, policy, professional issues, and midwifery history. The program's cohort-based structure facilitates peer-to-peer networking and support.

    Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, recommendations, a resume, and a letter of intent. Students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree complete a year of pre-licensure training and earn their RN license before entering the three-year DNP program.

    SU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

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