Requirements to Become a Nurse Midwife

Nurse-midwives generally need an RN degree plus a master's degree to move into midwifery.

Nurse-midwives generally need an RN degree plus a master's degree to move into midwifery.

Few jobs are as much fun as catching babies for a living. If you're an RN who loves working labor and delivery but wants to get to do the fun parts yourself rather than having a doctor get all the glory, nurse-midwifery is for you. If you believe in the power of women to give birth where and how they want, nurse-midwifery is doubly for you. If you're not a nurse yet, some midwifery schools combine getting your RN with the midwifery program if you already have a bachelor's degree.

RN Degree

Most midwifery programs prefer that you're already a registered nurse before starting, but some work with you if you have a bachelor's degree in another area. It takes four years to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. If you don't have a BSN degree, you should have coursework that centers on the sciences, including chemistry, biology and microbiology, the American College of Nurse-Midwives recommends. Courses in psychology, sociology and women's studies are also helpful. A nursing degree will generally include these types of courses. If you are an RN but don't have a BSN, some programs offer a bridge-to-BSN program that will lead to a master's degree,


While you don't have to work in labor and delivery before going to midwifery school, spending a few years in this specialty will help you decide if you really enjoy working with women in labor. If you're not an RN, shadowing a nurse-midwife can give you an idea of what the job entails; organizations such as the American College of Midwives maintain lists that can help you find a midwife in your area who might be willing to provide a hands-on view of midwifery or at least give you the pros and cons of the profession.

Master's Degree

At the end of the nurse-midwifery program, you will have a Master of Science or an MS in nursing. Some nurse-midwives go on to get their doctorate in the field. Choose a program certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Graduating from an ACNM ACME certified program allows you to take the national certifying exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board, or AMCB.

Personal Requirements

To work as a nurse-midwife, you must truly enjoy working with families long-term. Many nurse-midwives start working with their clients long before the actual birth, unless they work in an inner-city hospital that sees women in labor who have not had prenatal care. Nurse midwives strongly believe in the power of women to control their own labors and to have the type of birth they want, so if you're the type of person who wants to control situations with clients, midwifery might not be for you. While emergencies are rare in childbirth, they can occur; a nurse-midwife needs the knowledge and courage to act quickly and decisively when necessary.


While salary can vary depending on where you live, whether you work for a hospital or function as an independent contractor and whether or not you work full time, the median salary for a full-time CNM was between $79,093 and $89,916, according to the 2007 American College of Nurse-Midwives Compensation and Benefits Survey.      

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About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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