Certified Nurse Midwife: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a certified nurse midwife. Learn about education, licensure and certification requirements, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Nurse Midwife?

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is an advanced practice nurse who assists with childbirth and supports women's reproductive health before, during and after labor. They also offer family planning and general wellness counseling to expectant and new mothers. During labor, they help deliver the baby and respond to any emergency circumstances that arise. After the baby is born, they may continue to provide primary care to the mother and/or infant. Nurse midwives may work in hospitals, doctor's offices or specialized women's health centers.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a certified nurse midwife.

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Nurse midwifery
Key Responsibilities Perform examinations of patients' reproductive systems during pregnancy and monitor mother and child health during prenatal period; attend childbirth, examine newborn and assess baby health; respond to complications of childbirth; provide post-natal care to mother and child
Licensure or Certification Licensure as a registered nurse is required; board certification in nurse midwifery
Job Growth (2014-2024) 25%*
Median Salary (2015) $92,510*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Education Do I Need To Become a Certified Nurse Midwife?

To pursue a career as a CNM, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and complete a graduate-level nurse midwifery program that's been accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives' Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (www.midwife.org). If you're already a registered nurse, you'll have to take the college courses required to earn a BSN before you can begin your nurse midwife training.

Accredited nurse midwifery programs can be found at universities and colleges throughout the U.S. You might pursue a Master of Science, Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice. Both master's and doctoral degrees are acceptable for attaining certification. Students in nurse midwifery programs study high-risk pregnancy care, gynecologic health care, postpartum care and health promotion. According to the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), nurse midwifery programs are extremely competitive because schools have very limited openings every year.

How Do I Become Certified?

Once you complete a nurse midwifery graduate program, you can take the certifying exam offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (amcbmidwife.org) and become certified to work as a nurse midwife. After becoming certified, you'll need to be licensed to practice nurse midwifery in the state in which you live. Each state has its own laws regarding the practices and licensing of midwives, which could include showing proof of training and certification.

The American Midwifery Certification Board requires recertification of nurse midwives after a 5-year period. During these five years, you are expected to take continuing education courses and keep your knowledge base up to date. If you don't complete enough continuing education courses, you'll be required to retake the exam.

Where Can I Work?

As a CNM, you can work in hospitals, birth centers or private OB/GYN practices. Some states allow licensed CNMs to attend homebirths as the primary care provider. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the highest levels of employment were in offices of physicians, followed by outpatient care centers, in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

As a nurse midwife, you can provide comprehensive prenatal care, including physical assessments and laboratory tests. You might analyze health histories, refer high-risk patients to appropriate care and provide care for infants. The ability to write prescriptions for clients varies on a state-by-state basis.

What Could I Expect To Earn?

Your salary could depend on several factors, including the medical setting you work in and the scope of practice you provide. Your salary could also be determined by whether you're employed in a rural or urban area. In 2015, the median salary for full-time nurse midwives was $92,510, according to the BLS. This did not include benefits packages offered by individual employers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several alternative career tracks for advanced practice nurses. For instance, nurse practitioners (NPs) may offer primary care services to particular demographic groups of patients, such as adults, children or the elderly. Certified nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) specialize in administering anesthesia and caring for patients before, during and after surgical procedures. Like certified nurse midwives, these professionals need to have a master's degree and pass a licensure exam. Another option for aspiring medical professionals who are interested in reproductive health is a job as an obstetrician or gynecologist. However, it is important to note that this career requires individuals to go to medical school for an M.D. and complete an OB/GYN residency.

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