Through extensive education and training, midwives gain the distinct pleasure of serving, supporting, and caring for women pre-partum, during the birthing process, and post-partum. Most midwives become certified in midwifery schools and programs through a combination of coursework and practical training.
There are three common educational paths that may prepare individuals to pursue potential career opportunities in midwifery:
- The direct-entry path: the direct-entry path is one for professionals in fields other than midwifery who want to begin careers in midwifery.
- The nursing path: the nursing path is one for licensed nurses who want to work as midwives or specialize in the discipline.
- The path for current midwives: this path is one for current midwives who want to advance their knowledge and enhance their careers.
Midwifery schools, midwifery programs, and nurse midwife programs exist to help professionals pursue these three paths. Some direct-entry, midwife, and nurse midwife programs are offered by colleges and universities while others are delivered by designated midwifery schools. Designated midwifery schools often offer non-degree granting midwife training and other modes of professional development in the discipline.
In this article, we’ll focus on the graduate school path to new or enhanced careers in midwifery.
Midwifery Schools: Common Pre-Requisite Coursework for Midwife Training Programs
Depending on their paths, prospective midwives, midwives, and nurses might choose to pursue advanced certificates or earn degrees to enhance their potential career options in the field of midwifery. Here are some of the options:
Advanced Certificate in Midwifery:
Many midwifery programs offer advanced certificates to prospective midwives who have already earned a master’s degree in a related field. Each midwifery program determines whether or not the applicants’ current degree is “related”. This option is a common one for current midwives with graduate-level education.
Advanced Certificate in Midwifery & Master of Science, Nurse Midwifery:
Many midwifery programs also offer advanced certificates and graduate-level education to prospective midwives who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing and a valid, current registered nurse license. Nurses might also earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing with a concentration in nurse-midwifery. These types of programs give nurses an advanced education or specialization in midwifery.
Master of Science, Midwifery:
Many midwifery programs offer a Master of Science in Midwifery to applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline. This may be a good option for prospective direct-entry midwives.
In most cases, to earn an advanced certificate or graduate degree in midwifery, students’ current degrees must come from an accredited school, and applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. In addition, they typically must have a grade of “C”, “B”, or better in the following prerequisite courses:
- Anatomy and physiology with labs
- General biology
- General chemistry
- General psychology
- Developmental psychology
Direct-entry applicants, or those professionals without midwifery training or a background in nursing, might have to take some of these prerequisite courses prior to applying for a program if they did not take them during their undergraduate programs.
Nurse Midwife Programs: Common Application Requirements
As mentioned above, there are three primary paths that might help prepare a person to pursue a career in midwifery: one for prospective midwives, one for current midwives, and one for nurses. Prospective and current midwives are considered “direct-entry” applicants while nurses are considered “non-direct-entry” applicants.
Direct-entry and non-direct-entry applicants all have to apply for admission to colleges, universities, or midwifery schools. In each case, the precise admissions and application requirements depend on the school, the program, and the applicant’s background and goals. In most cases, applicants must first be admitted to the broader college or university. Common admissions and application requirements include:
- A complete application form
- Proof of a certain score on the GRE
- School transcripts from each institution the applicant has attended
- Letters of recommendation
- A personal essay
- A CV or resume
- An application fee
In addition, applicants to midwifery school might also be asked to submit student health forms, background checks, current Registered Nurse licenses, and proof of any midwife training, education, and experience. Some applicants might also be asked to interview with the directors of the midwifery programs and, when appropriate, nursing programs. Applicants who apply to designated midwifery schools or midwife training programs that do not grant degrees or accredited certificates may have completely different application requirements.
Midwifery Programs: Common Program Coursework
In the realm of advanced education, the three primary options for prospective midwives, current midwives, and nurses are advanced certificates in midwifery, a master of science in midwifery, and a concentration in midwifery through an advanced nursing program.
In the case of master’s programs, midwifery and nurse-midwifery students generally complete 45 to 65 hours of core and elective courses. They take courses such as:
- Integrated medical sciences (at multiple levels: I, II, and III, for example)
- Research I, II, and III
- Teaching and mentorship
- Ethical issues in midwifery
- Professional issues and leadership in midwifery
- Healthcare policy and community health
- Basic health skills
- Advanced pharmacology
- Physical assessment of women and pelvic assessment of women (at multiple levels of didactic and clinical study)
- Medical and obstetrics complications of pregnancy
- Pre-partum, postpartum, and intrapartum care
Students typically must also complete practicums and/or midwifery training, independent study courses, and courses consistent with a chosen concentration or emphasis. Depending on their school and program, graduate students might also have to write and defend a thesis or take and pass a comprehensive exam.
To earn an advanced certificate in midwifery, students complete 35-45 credit hours of similar courses. Depending on the program, they might also have to complete a practicum, present a research project, or take a comprehensive exam.
Students in midwifery school earn their credits through traditional or online midwifery programs. Online midwifery programs can be especially useful for midwives as many of them work fulltime and hold schedules incompatible with those of traditional on-campus programs (Note online midwifery programs are also likely to include a practicum requirement – some programs might arrange placement for the student while other online midwife programs might require students to make their own arrangements).