How to Become a Nurse Midwife (Salary & Job Outlook)

Imagine a fulfilling and rewarding career where you empower women, promote natural childbirth, and provide personalized care throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. This is the life of a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), a highly trained healthcare professional who plays a vital role in women’s health. In this blog post, we will explore the ins and outs of becoming a CNM, the unique services they offer, and the diverse career opportunities available in this growing field.

Key Takeaways

  • Nurse Midwives are advanced practice registered nurses specializing in comprehensive care for women throughout their reproductive lives.
  • Pursuing a career as a CNM requires obtaining an accredited nursing degree, completing an MSN or DNP program, and fulfilling certification and licensure requirements.
  • Nurse midwifery offers competitive salaries with job growth expected to exceed 38-40% over the next decade, making it an attractive option for those seeking personalized maternal care.
Nurse Midwife

Understanding the Role of a Nurse Midwife

Certified Nurse Midwives, also known as certified midwives, are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in women’s healthcare and childbirth. Their scope of practice encompasses comprehensive care for women throughout their reproductive lives, from adolescence to menopause. This includes providing gynecologic care, prenatal and postpartum care, and assisting in childbirth. In the field of women’s healthcare, certified nurse midwives work diligently to ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients. Within the nurse midwives practice, they collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide well-rounded care.

CNMs work in various settings such as hospitals, birthing centers, and private practices.

Women’s Health and Gynecologic Care

Nurse midwives are dedicated to women’s health and wellness. They offer a wide range of gynecological services, including:

  • Routine checkups and screenings

  • Family planning

  • Preconception care

  • Comprehensive reproductive healthcare

  • Counseling on various contraceptive methods

Their expertise enables them to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare and counsel women on various contraceptive methods.

The approach of a CNM differs from that of an OB/GYN doctor. While both provide similar services, CNMs focus more on individualized care and concentrate on low-risk pregnancies. This allows them to build strong relationships with their patients and provide holistic care tailored to each woman’s unique needs.

Prenatal and Postpartum Care

Throughout pregnancy, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) provide comprehensive care, including:

  • Monitoring the health of both mother and baby

  • Conducting tests and assessments to ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy

  • Providing education and support to help expectant mothers prepare for childbirth

  • Assisting with the adjustment to new roles as parents

After the birth, CNMs continue to offer comprehensive postpartum care for mothers and their newborns. This includes physical assessments, education on breastfeeding and infant care, and emotional support for the mother and her family. CNMs are instrumental in facilitating a smooth transition into parenthood, as well as promoting the health and well-being of both mother and baby.

Childbirth Assistance

CNMs assist women during childbirth, often promoting natural and safe birthing practices. They work closely with obstetricians to ensure the safety and well-being of the mother and baby, collaborating on birth plans and providing support during emergency situations. Their specialized training and expertise enable them to manage unexpected complications and emergencies that may arise during labor and delivery.

Nurse midwives are essential in crafting a positive and empowering childbirth experience for women. They provide support, encouragement, and guidance throughout the labor and delivery process, using various techniques such as relaxation, massage, and movement to promote a natural and comfortable birthing experience. By fostering a supportive environment, CNMs empower women to trust in their own abilities and instincts during childbirth.

Path to Becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Becoming a CNM involves a combination of education, training, and certification. The journey to this rewarding and fulfilling career starts with:

  1. Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) and obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

  2. Pursuing a graduate degree in nurse midwifery, typically a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

  3. Completing the necessary certification and licensure requirements.

Obtaining a Nursing Degree

The first step to becoming a CNM is to obtain a nursing degree and become a Registered Nurse (RN). This typically involves completing an accredited nursing program, such as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The prerequisites for entering a nursing degree program may include high school biology, chemistry, and college-preparatory math, as well as specific science courses depending on the program.

Throughout their nursing education, students will take courses in subjects such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology

  • Pharmacology

  • Medical-surgical nursing

  • Pediatric nursing

  • Obstetric nursing

  • Psychiatric nursing

  • Community health nursing

Upon completing their nursing degree, individuals must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a Registered Nurse.

Pursuing a Graduate Degree in Nurse Midwifery

Once an individual has become a Registered Nurse, they can apply for an accredited nurse midwifery program to continue their journey to becoming a CNM. These programs are typically Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with a specialization in nurse midwifery, although some may offer Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees as well. Choosing a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) is vital to ensure eligibility for certification.

During their graduate program, aspiring CNMs will further their education in midwifery, learning about prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum care, and women’s health. The program will also require students to complete clinical training hours, providing valuable hands-on experience in the field. The duration of these programs can range from two years for a full-time master’s program to four years for a part-time or doctoral program.

Certification and Licensure

After completing their education, CNMs must pass the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) exam to become certified. This exam consists of 175 questions and tests the candidate’s knowledge and competence in midwifery practice. Upon successful completion of the exam, individuals will receive their certification and the professional designation of a Certified Nurse Midwife.

With certification in hand, aspiring CNMs must apply for state licensure to practice midwifery in their respective state. Licensure requirements may vary from state to state, so it is important to research the specific requirements for the state in which you plan to practice. Once licensed, CNMs must maintain their certification through continuing education and participation in the AMCB Certificate Maintenance Program (CMP).

Online and Hybrid Nurse Midwife Programs

Online and hybrid nurse midwife programs offer flexibility and convenience for working RNs who wish to further their education and become CNMs. These programs allow students to complete coursework online while still gaining the necessary hands-on clinical training. However, it is important to carefully consider the program’s quality, accreditation, and clinical training opportunities when selecting an online or hybrid program.

Advantages of Online Programs

Online CNM programs hold numerous benefits for students seeking flexibility and convenience in their education. Some of these benefits include:

  • The ability to attend classes from anywhere, at any time, making it easier to balance work and personal commitments

  • Lower tuition fees compared to traditional on-campus programs

  • Financial aid and scholarship opportunities for students

Another benefit of online CNM programs is the ability to learn at your own pace and tailor your education to your specific needs and goals. Online programs often provide interactive features, such as live classes and placement services, to ensure that students receive a high-quality education and the hands-on experience necessary for career advancement.

Clinical Training Requirements

Despite the convenience of an online format, all CNM programs, whether online or hybrid, require students to complete clinical training hours in person to gain practical experience. The total number of hours for each program may differ. However, normally it ranges between 600 to 1,200 clinical hours. This hands-on training is essential for preparing nursing students to interact with real patients and apply their knowledge in real-world situations.

The clinical training element in online and hybrid programs presents students with distinctive opportunities to accumulate experience across an array of healthcare settings, collaborating closely with practicing nurse midwives during their clinical experiences. Although the structure and requirements of clinical training may vary depending on the program, the goal is to ensure that students are prepared to provide high-quality care upon entering the workforce as CNMs.

Career Opportunities and Work Settings for Nurse Midwives

CNMs have a wide range of career opportunities and can work in various settings, including:

  • Hospitals

  • Birth centers

  • Private practices

  • Non-clinical roles

The diverse nature of the profession allows CNMs to find the perfect work setting that aligns with their passions and goals, whether it be providing hands-on care to pregnant women or advocating for women’s health initiatives.

Hospitals and Birth Centers

Many CNMs work in hospitals and birth centers, providing comprehensive care to women throughout pregnancy and childbirth. In these settings, CNMs collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as obstetricians, to ensure the safety and well-being of both mother and baby. They are responsible for managing and caring for women with both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies, as well as providing support during labor and delivery.

Working in hospitals and birth centers allows CNMs to have access to state-of-the-art medical equipment and resources, ensuring that they can provide the highest level of care to their patients. Additionally, these settings often have a team of healthcare professionals available to assist in the care of the mother and baby, providing a supportive environment for CNMs to practice.

Private Practices and Home Births

Some CNMs choose to work in private practices or offer home birth services, providing personalized care in more intimate settings. In these environments, CNMs can:

  • Build strong relationships with their clients

  • Offer tailored support throughout the entire childbirth process

  • Provide comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care

This ensures that women receive the care they need throughout their pregnancy and beyond.

Working in private practice or offering home birth services allows CNMs to:

  • Focus on providing holistic and individualized care

  • Empower women to make informed decisions about their healthcare

  • Create a positive and fulfilling experience for both the patient and the midwife

This personalized approach fosters trust, confidence, and resilience in the birthing process.

Non-Clinical Roles

In addition to hands-on patient care, CNMs can also pursue non-clinical roles, such as advocating for women’s health initiatives, teaching future nurse midwives, or working in administrative and public policy positions. These roles allow CNMs to use their expertise and passion for women’s health to make a broader impact on the healthcare industry and improve the lives of women and their families.

By pursuing non-clinical roles, CNMs can:

  • Contribute to the development of healthcare policies

  • Promote awareness and education about women’s health issues

  • Work to improve access to quality healthcare services for women and their families.

Whether working in a clinical or non-clinical role, CNMs have a significant role in enhancing the overall health and well-being of women and their families.

Salary Expectations and Job Growth

CNM salaries can vary depending on factors such as location and experience, but on average, they earn a mean annual wage of $120,880. The job growth forecast for nurse midwives is promising, with an anticipated growth rate of 6.4% through 2032. This growth is driven by a nationwide shortage of maternity care providers and an increasing focus on personalized care, making it an excellent time to pursue a career as a CNM.

Factors Influencing CNM Salaries

Several factors can influence CNM salaries, such as geographic location, years of experience, and work setting. For example, salaries for CNMs working in urban areas with a higher cost of living tend to be higher than those in rural areas. Additionally, CNMs with more experience and specialized skills or additional certifications may earn higher salaries.

The factors that can influence the salary of a CNM include:

  • Work setting: CNMs employed in hospitals typically receive higher wages than those in birthing centers or clinics.

  • Certification: Having additional certifications or advanced training can lead to higher salaries.

  • Years of experience: CNMs with more experience generally earn higher salaries.

  • Location: Salaries can vary depending on the cost of living and demand for CNMs in a particular area.

Projected Job Growth

The need for nurse midwives is slated to increase in the near future, propelled by a nationwide shortage of maternity care providers and a growing emphasis on personalized care. In fact, CNMs attended 372,991 U.S. births in 2020, accounting for over 10.2% of all births, indicating a growing demand for their services. This trend is likely to continue, with a projected job growth rate of 38-40% over the next ten years.

This growing demand for nurse midwives presents an excellent opportunity for those considering a career in this field. With an increasing emphasis on personalized care and a focus on improving women’s health outcomes, CNMs are set to assume a significant role in the future of healthcare.

Common Questions

In this part, common questions regarding nurse midwives, their education, and the profession are addressed. These questions address the differences between RNs and CNMs, the challenges of becoming a CNM, and the rewards of the profession.

Is a Midwife Higher Than a RN?

While both RNs and CNMs provide essential care to patients, CNMs have a higher level of education and a broader scope of practice than RNs. CNMs are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in women’s health and childbirth, with the autonomy to provide comprehensive care during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum periods.

In contrast, RNs provide general nursing care and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.

Is Becoming a Nurse Midwife Hard?

Becoming a nurse midwife can be challenging, as it requires dedication and commitment to complete the necessary education and training. Here are the steps to becoming a nurse midwife:

  1. Become a Registered Nurse by completing a nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

  2. Obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

  3. Pursue a master’s degree in nurse midwifery.

  4. Pass the certification exam to become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM).

  5. Obtain state licensure to practice as a nurse midwife.

By following these steps, you can become a nurse midwife and provide care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.

Despite the hurdles, the benefits of a career as a CNM render the journey fulfilling.

What is the Difference Between a Midwife and a Labor Nurse?

The main difference between a midwife and a labor nurse lies in their education and scope of practice. CNMs have a higher level of education, typically holding a master’s degree in nurse midwifery, and have a broader scope of practice that includes prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.

Labor nurses, on the other hand, are Registered Nurses who provide care during labor and delivery but do not have the same level of autonomy and responsibility as CNMs.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Midwife?

The time it takes to become a nurse midwife varies depending on the individual’s educational background, but typically ranges from 4 to 8 years. This includes:

  • Completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree

  • Completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in nurse midwifery

  • Some programs may also require additional clinical training hours for hands-on experience in the field.

What Inspired Current Nurse Midwives to Choose this Career?

Many nurse midwives are inspired by a desire to empower women, promote natural childbirth, and provide personalized care. In the environments where nurse midwives work, they are passionate about women’s health and are motivated by the opportunity to build strong relationships with their patients, offering individualized support throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond.

This fulfilling and meaningful career allows CNMs to make a positive impact on women’s lives and contribute to the well-being of families.

Is a Nurse Midwife a Rewarding Career Choice?

A career as a nurse midwife can be immensely gratifying, providing the chance to positively impact women’s lives and contribute to family well-being. CNMs provide comprehensive care throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum periods, helping women navigate one of the most important and life-changing experiences of their lives.

Their specialized skills and compassionate approach to care make a significant difference in the lives of the women and families they serve.

What is the role of nurse midwife?

As certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives, Nurse Midwives provide comprehensive care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, as well as sexual and reproductive health services, gynecologic health services, and family planning. They strive to facilitate natural techniques for childbirth and reproductive care for women from adolescence to menopausal years.

Is becoming a nurse midwife worth it?

Becoming a nurse-midwife can be highly rewarding, as it gives you more control over your schedule and salary. You also have the ability to set up your own practice, depending on where you live. Therefore, becoming a nurse midwife is certainly worth it.

What is the main difference between a Registered Nurse and a Certified Nurse Midwife?

The main difference between a Registered Nurse and a Certified Nurse Midwife is that CNMs have more specialized education and greater autonomy in the scope of practice, focused specifically on women’s health and childbirth.


In conclusion, a career as a Certified Nurse Midwife offers numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as the chance to make a meaningful impact on the lives of women and their families. From providing comprehensive care throughout pregnancy and childbirth to advocating for women’s health initiatives, CNMs play a vital role in the healthcare industry. With a growing demand for their services and a positive job growth outlook, now is an excellent time to consider a career as a CNM.