The Guide to Online Midwifery Programs

Midwifery is one of the oldest medical specializations. With that history comes many misconceptions. For example, it is a common assumption that midwives exist solely to support pregnant women through pregnancy and delivery. In reality, modern midwives do much more.

Certified midwives specialize in a whole host of women’s healthcare issues. They can work in hospitals, OB/GYN offices, or even run private practices. As such, an online midwifery program is an alluring advancement option for Registered Nurses (RNs) with an affinity for women’s care looking for a rewarding and worthwhile specialization.

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What is a Midwife?

In the modern clinical sense, a midwife is a nurse or healthcare professional with specialized training in the care of women’s reproductive health. Typically, women turn to midwives for support through prenatal care, pregnancy, the birthing process, and the post-partum period. That said, a midwife’s training also extends to other aspects of women’s health such as gynecological services and family planning. Thus, it is common for midwives to possess certifications as Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNPs) alongside their midwifery certificates.

While there are several different classes of professional midwives1, only Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) are licensed to practice nationwide. A CNM certification requires an active Registered Nurse (RN) license, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, and a passing score on the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) Certification Examination.

Certified midwives (CMs) are required to have nearly all of the same credentials as a CNM, but they are not required to have RN licenses. Only Delaware, Maine, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York currently allow CMs to practice in certified capacities1.

By contrast, Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are not required to hold any post-secondary degree1. Instead, they are certified by an entirely different body than CNMs and CMs (the North American Registry of Midwives – NARM) and are evaluated based upon apprenticeship experience, completion of an accredited midwifery program, or completion of state’s own specific licensure requirements.

The Online Midwifery Program Experience

Online midwifery programs typically involve a combination of coursework and clinical hours. The number of credits and hours of clinical practice vary depending upon the student’s prior experience, level of education, and expected outcome. For example, a nurse looking to complete an online MSN program with a Focus in Nurse-Midwifery and an MS in Nurse-Midwifery can expect to complete anywhere from 48 to over 80 credit hours and somewhere between 500 to 1,200 clinical hours. DNP programs focusing on Nurse-Midwifery are similar in length.

However, an RN that holds an MSN degree and is simply looking to add a CNM certification can complete a shorter program averaging 24-40 credit hours and approximately 600-1,000 clinical hours. Many of these programs are available either entirely online or in a hybrid online/in-person format. That said, clinical requirements must obviously be satisfied on site.

The nature of these online distance-learning opportunities make it possible for working RNs and other healthcare practitioners to complete required midwifery coursework without having to give up their existing positions and shifts. Similar to other nursing certification specializations, pursuing a CNM is an ideal fit for those looking to advance their careers in the healthcare industry in their spare time.

To promote an engaging and reliable learning environment, these types of online nursing programs often provide students with:

  • A cloud-based digital hub used to distribute, interact with, and turn in course content
  • Multimedia-infused learning tutorials and content
  • Embedded communication and collaboration tools for student-professor and student-student interaction
  • Tech support services to address software and hardware issues

Online Midwifery Program Admissions Requirements

While there are several different paths you can take to become a licensed and certified midwife, the most thorough and comprehensive programs focus on training and certification for CNMs. This means nursing school admissions officers are looking for candidates that meet the following criteria:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited university or college
  • An active registered nurse’s license in good standing
  • A minimum amount of work experience as an RN (amount varies by institution)

Programs for CM certifications have comparable requirements, but do not require an active RN license for admission.

In some cases, colleges and universities will allow applicants to pursue an RN license and midwifery certificate concurrently. In these cases, the CNM certificate is typically treated as a RN specialization option similar to a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification.

Some schools also offer Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs that specialize in midwifery. While there are BSN-DNP pathways that exist, many online DNP programs are tailored for RNs with MSN degrees looking to pursue a doctoral degree without committing to a PhD track. Explore nursing scholarships.

Online Nurse Midwifery Program Curriculum

Regardless of the path, typical courses in an online nurse midwifery specialization program will include topics such as:

  • Reproductive health
  • Women’s mental, emotional, and behavioral health
  • Gynecological care
  • Prenatal health
  • Labor & birth
  • Postnatal health
  • Infant care

Beyond coursework, clinical experience is a crucial aspect of any midwifery program – even midwifery programs online. These practicum rotations allow prospective midwives essential hands-on experience with skills and techniques such as:

  • Physical examinations
  • Cytology testing
  • CPR
  • Births
  • Intrapartum experiences
  • Pre- and post-natal examinations
  • Newborn examinations
  • Gynecological care

Midwife Certification (American Midwifery Certification Board – AMCB)

When choosing an online nurse midwifery program, accreditation matters. There are several institutions that govern the licensure and certification of American midwives and nurses. They include:

Of these, the AMCB is the only body with the authority to issue the CNM certification that is accepted in all 50 states. The AMCB also issues the CM certificate, which is less widely accepted. When evaluating candidates for either of these certifications, the AMCB relies upon their own certification exam as well as completion of coursework at ACME-accredited institutions.

In addition, both CNM and CM licenses must be renewed every 5 years. Because of this, the AMCB remains an important point of contact for certificated midwives throughout their careers.

Complete certification details for CNMs, CMs, and CPMs can be found on the AMCB website.

Midwife Career Outlook

As a midwifery nursing career path, becoming a CNM is the most versatile and profitable pathway into midwifery of the three certificated options. Oftentimes, this pathway also results in a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) certification, which can create new opportunities to demonstrate your expertise to employers, patients, and co-workers. Learn more about WHNP programs and the career outlook for becoming a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner.

From 2018 to 2028 the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a strong 16% growth-rate for nurse midwives. CNM-certified midwives received compensation competitive with other specialized RNs. In 2019, certified Nurse Midwives in the United States had a median annual income of $105,030. Learn more about nursing salary by state.

Despite these positive statistics, midwives make up one of the smallest percentages of the specialized nurse practitioners employed in the United States. As such, this may mean the number of potential job opportunities for nurse midwives entering the field will be far fewer than other specializations. For this reason, RN’s seeking to advance their careers through online midwifery programs should strongly consider options that include additional specializations such as a WHNP certification.

Finding the Best Online Midwifery Program For You

In searching for the best online midwifery programs across the United States, it’s important to take into account the specific type of degree being offered, the clinical hours the program requires of its students, and the credit and GRE requirements necessary to complete the program. Comparing online midwifery programs is the best way to choose a degree program that will work with your schedule and provide the best return on investment

Online Midwifery Programs to Consider

We’ve compiled a list of the online midwifery programs across the United States along with degree and program requirement information. An important component to any online degree program is their ability to provide quality clinical placements as well as great online coursework. Comprehensive midwifery online programs will include placements on high-level clinical facilities in order to best prepare you for your career. Explore each program thoroughly to find out which will be the best suited midwifery program online for you!

1 “Comparison Chart,” Comparison of Certified Nurse-Midwives, Certified Midwives, Certified Professional Midwives Clarifying the Distinctions Among Professional Midwifery Credentials in the U.S Oct 2017, American College of Nurse- Midwives. Accessed May 2020.

Last Updated May 2020