How Much Education is Required to Be a Nurse Midwife?

midwifeIn the United States, approximately four million babies are born on a yearly basis. In addition to obstetrics doctors, nurse midwives are health care professionals who deliver newborn babies.

Nurse midwives are registered nurses who specialize in providing primary health care to women from teens to the elderly. Nurse midwives provide gynecology, family planning, prenatal care, childbirth, and postnatal care. They practice in a range of settings, including hospitals, birth centers, and patient homes. One of the main things an individual interested in the field inquires about is how much education is required to be a nurse midwife.

Undergraduate Education and Licensure

Prospective nurse midwives must first complete a registered nursing program from an accredited institution of higher learning. In general, there are three educational options for registered nursing: a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. While the required coursework varies by program, students typically complete classes in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nutrition, nursing ethics, and microbiology. All programs consist of clinical components where students gain hands-on experience working with patients in actual health care settings. Students are supervised by instructors and licensed nursing staff. Diploma programs typically take at least a year to complete, associate degrees two years, and bachelor’s degrees four years. After completion of undergraduate education, individuals must receive a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination, commonly referred to as the NCLEX-RN.

Graduate Degree

In general, a master’s degree in nursing with specialization in nurse midwifery is required to become a nurse midwife. The programs typically include advanced practice core courses and specialty courses in nurse midwifery. Students learn about advanced health assessment, nurse midwifery management, promotion of health and prevention of disease, and issues in nurse midwifery professional practice. The core coursework often includes advance physiology and pathophysiology, women’s health, contraception, family theory, pregnancy management, pregnancy complications, and childbirth management. Students are also required to complete theory and research courses and some programs require a thesis or final scholarly paper. Most programs provide students with over 1,000 hours of supervised clinical practice in settings that involve nurse midwifery practice. Clinical experiences often include rotations in well women’s health, primary care, newborn care, pregnancy care, labor and deliver, and postpartum care. The graduate degree program usually takes about two years to complete and results in a Master of Science in nursing degree with focus on nurse midwifery. Some programs combine nurse practitioner aspects with nurse midwifery.


Most nurse midwives are required to complete a yearlong apprenticeship program in midwifery. In these programs, future nurse midwifes work alongside experienced nurse midwives to gain a better understanding of work environment and expectations. Requirements for apprenticeship programs vary, but many require all student nurse midwives to participate in at least 20 births and 1,350 hours under the supervision of a minimum of one certified nurse midwife. Apprenticeship programs prepare individuals to become certified. The American Midwifery Certification Board offers a Certified Nurse Midwife credential.

Working as a nurse midwife can be a very rewarding and lucrative career for individuals who have a passion for women’s reproductive health. Completing the necessary education requirements in the major step in pursuing this career.