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.
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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.
National Black Midwives AllianceNBMA 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.
American College of Nurse-MidwivesThe 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.
Midwives Alliance of North AmericaDedicated 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.
National Association of Certified Professional MidwivesNACPM 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.
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.
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.
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.
Best Certified Midwifery Program
#1 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
University of Pennsylvania
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania is a private institution that enrolls learners in high-quality graduate programs. Currently, the school offers 141 master's degrees through its on-campus and online programs. One option includes a nurse-midwifery program.
Degree-seekers can complete internships to bolster their resume. The graduate program's required credits include advanced coursework in nurse midwifery, which provides important career preparation. Learners can benefit from seeking advice from a faculty mentor before selecting classes. Professionals with a graduate degree typically earn higher salaries and qualify for advanced positions with more responsibility.
The accredited school charges in-state students $36,254 in tuition. Learners may qualify for federal financial aid. They can also apply for scholarships and institutional aid. Degree-seekers can graduate sooner by transferring previous credits into their program. Applicants should contact the institution to learn about admission requirements for the nurse midwifery program.
#2 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Known for top-quality graduate programs, Vanderbilt University is a private institution. While students can take classes on campus, they can also pursue many of the school's 104 master's degrees from the Nashville, Tennessee, campus. The institution's nurse-midwifery program attracts many degree-seekers interested in the field.
The immersive program features opportunities for graduate students to apply classroom knowledge. Learners complete high-level nurse midwifery classes, which help them gain field-specific skills. Before selecting classes, learners can discuss their options with faculty mentors in their department. A nurse midwifery degree can lead to promotions, raises, and increased opportunities in the field.
In-state learners pay $48,624 in tuition. Enrollees often fund their education through scholarships, institutional aid, and fellowships. The school allows students to transfer approved graduate credits into the program, reducing the cost of the master's degree. The institution's admissions department can provide detailed information about the application process.
#3 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
- 4 years
With top-quality graduate-level offerings, Emory University is a private institution based in Atlanta, Georgia. Through 75 online and in-person master's programs, the school educates students located near its campus and throughout the country. Learners can enroll in the school's nurse-midwifery program.
The curriculum prepares graduate students to succeed in the field. Degree-seekers fulfill advanced coursework requirements to gain subject-specific knowledge. While developing an academic and professional plan, learners can consult with faculty mentors. Professionals who want to transition to a career in the nurse midwifery field often benefit from earning a master's degree.
In-state enrollees pay a tuition of $42,800. Degree candidates can fund their education through merit-based and need-based awards from the institution and third-party organizations. To save money on tuition, transfer students can apply previous credits toward their master's degree. Interested applicants should contact the institution to learn about admission requirements and start dates.
#4 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
Case Western Reserve University
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
A private institution located in Cleveland, Ohio, Case Western Reserve University stands out for its graduate programs. The school delivers 96 master's degrees in on-campus and online formats. One option includes a nurse-midwifery program.
Many enrollees pursue internships to gain professional experience in the field. Degree-seekers expand their knowledge through advanced nurse midwifery coursework. Learners work closely with faculty mentors to customize their course of study. Along with increased earning potential, a master's degree qualifies graduates to pursue doctoral studies.
State residents earning a graduate degree from the school pay $46,524 in tuition. Degree candidates can fund their education through merit-based and need-based awards from the institution and third-party organizations. Students with previous graduate-level experience often transfer credits into their master's program and graduate sooner. Interested applicants should contact the institution for specific information about program requirements.
#5 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
New York University
New York, NY
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
New York University's academic offerings include high-quality graduate programs, which learners can pursue on campus. Degree candidates can also enroll in many of the school's 201 master's programs in an online format. An example of the institution's graduate-level offerings, the nurse-midwifery program attracts many qualified students.
Degree candidates can pursue experiential learning opportunities such as internships and research projects. The program's required credits include high-level nurse midwifery classes. Learners work closely with faculty mentors to customize their course of study. Master's degree-holders often earn higher salaries and qualify for more career opportunities than bachelor's degree-holders.
In-state learners pay $33,408 in tuition. Enrollees often fund their graduate education through scholarships, institutional aid, and fellowships. Transfer students may be able to apply previous credits toward the degree, reducing graduation time and tuition costs. Applicants should contact the institution to learn more about admission requirements and start dates.
#6 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
George Washington University
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
A Washington, D.C.-based private institution, George Washington University offers 164 master's degrees in a virtual format. One option includes a nurse-midwifery program.
Degree candidates can pursue experiential learning opportunities such as internships and research projects. The program requires advanced nurse midwifery classes. Learners can benefit from seeking advice from a faculty mentor before selecting classes. Compared to bachelor's degree-holders, master's graduates often secure more advanced roles in the field.
The school's graduate tuition costs $31,770 for state residents. Enrollees often fund their education through scholarships, institutional aid, and fellowships. Incoming enrollees can save time and money by transferring credits toward their degree. To ensure the nurse-midwifery program's requirements and outcomes meet their needs, prospective applicants should contact the institution.
#7 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
With a main campus located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Marquette University is a private institution that enrolls learners in high-quality graduate programs. Through 50 online and in-person master's programs, the school educates students located near its campus and throughout the country. One option includes a nurse-midwifery program.
The curriculum features unique opportunities in the field, such as internships with relevant organizations. Degree-seekers complete high-level classes in niche subfields. The variety of available classes allows learners to choose courses based on their academic and professional goals. A master's degree can help graduates advance in the field or transition to the industry from another field.
In-state students pay $21,060 in tuition to pursue the school's graduate programs. Along with institutional funding, enrollees can apply for federal aid and fellowships. Students can graduate sooner by transferring previous credits into their program. The institution's website provides more detailed information about the program's requirements and graduate outcomes.
#8 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
New Brunswick, NJ
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
With top-quality graduate programs, Rutgers University-New Brunswick educates learners from its campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Students can earn their master's degree through one of the school's online programs without relocating or commuting to campus. The nurse-midwifery DNP program represents one option for the institution's graduate degree-seekers.
The curriculum prepares students to succeed in the field. The variety of available classes allows learners to choose courses based on their academic and professional goals. A master's degree often qualifies graduates for raises and promotions and can help professionals transition to a career in the field.
The school charges in-state graduate students $17,736 in tuition. Sources of funding for graduate enrollees include federal financial aid programs and field-specific organizations. The school accepts transfer credits from other accredited institutions. Prospective applicants can contact the admissions department for detailed information regarding the application process.
#9 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
Saint Paul, MN
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
With top-quality graduate-level offerings, Bethel University is a private institution based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In addition to providing in-person graduate programs, the school offers virtual programming for distance students interested in its 17 master's programs. A popular choice includes the nurse-midwifery program.
Degree candidates can pursue experiential learning opportunities such as internships and research projects. By taking advanced classes, degree-seekers develop high-level skills in the field. Learners work closely with faculty mentors to customize their course of study. Professionals with a graduate degree typically earn higher salaries and qualify for advanced positions with more responsibility.
In-state learners pay $11,700 in tuition. Enrollees often fund their graduate education through scholarships, institutional aid, and fellowships. Students can apply transfer credits toward program requirements to reduce the overall cost of earning a graduate degree. Prospective applicants can contact the institution for details regarding admission requirements.
#10 Best Certified Midwifery Programs
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
From its campus in Lubbock, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center delivers top graduate programs in a variety of fields. Along with studying on campus, students can pursue many of the school's 17 master's degrees in a virtual format. One option includes an MSN in nurse midwifery.
Degree-seekers can complete internships to bolster their resume. During high-level graduate coursework, learners gain practical skills necessary to succeed in the industry. To customize the curriculum, learners can select classes based on their goals and niche interests. A master's degree can help graduates advance in the field or transition to the industry from another field.
In-state students pay $6,168 in tuition. Educational funding options such as federal aid and private scholarships can help graduate enrollees reduce out-of-pocket expenses. To reduce tuition costs and graduate sooner, students can submit previous graduate credits for approval. Start dates and requirements vary by program, so prospective applicants should contact the institution for details.