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How to become a midwife

Learn about the different tasks you’ll undertake in this in-demand career.

A midwife’s job doesn’t stop at childbirth. Not only do they manage all stages of a woman’s pregnancy — from start to finish —  but they also help women and families plan for parenthood.

We spoke with Tina Johnson, the interim director of midwifery practice, education and global outreach at the American College of Nurse-Midwives to find out more about this expanding field.

What does a midwife do?

Midwives serve as primary health-care providers to women throughout the lifespan of their pregnancy, says Johnson. “This means [they] perform physical exams, prescribe medications, order laboratory tests as needed, provide prenatal care, gynecological care, labor and birth care, as well as health education and counseling to women of all ages,” she explains.

And their all-encompassing role certainly has its benefits. In general, “women, children, and families have better lives because of the work of certified nurse-midwives,” says Johnson.

What schooling do you need to become a midwife?

Midwives typically begin their careers as registered nurses after completing a bachelor’s of science in nursing. After that, they need to get into a midwifery program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education and receive their graduate degree, which leads to the last step: passing the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) exam to become certified to practice as a midwife.

What’s the typical salary for a midwife?

The median annual salary for midwife was $102,390 in 2016, according to the most recent reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best paid in the profession make $142,510 annually, while the lowest-paid make

$66,660.

Is this a promising field to enter at the moment?

“Given the current workforce shortages for primary care, midwifery and OB/GYN services nationwide, now is a great time to pursue a career in midwifery,” says Johnson, adding that over 40 percent of all U.S. counties have no maternity-care providers (physicians or midwives). “Midwives are highly skilled and can help to fill these access gaps.”

Even better, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the profession is projected to grow 31 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

 

The pros

“Midwives have the privilege of working in a variety of settings including private practices, hospitals, birth centers, health clinics, and home-birth services,” says Johnson. But that’s only a small chunk of the benefits. “It’s the individual client care that is the hallmark of midwifery that really makes the profession so rewarding,” she explains, noting that midwives have the ability to improve access to high quality, optimal health outcomes for women and families.

There is also ample opportunity for professional growth and research, interdisciplinary practice and the ability to shift the culture of birth toward a more holistic focus on supporting healthy, physiologic birth and wellness, she explains. “And, since birth affects 100 percent of all people, there will always be a need for the care that midwives can so skillfully provide.”

The cons

The main drawback of the occupation is the fact that states and communities are not using midwifery care to its full potential, says Johnson. “There still remain barriers to practice in some areas due to prohibitive state regulations, inadequate reimbursement and insurance coverage, and hospital credentialing issues.”