What is a Midwifery Degree?

Midwives are health professionals who provide primary care to women with low-risk pregnancies, from conception until six weeks after birth.

The training that students of midwifery receive happens in the classroom and in work placements. Programs are focused on the stages of midwifery care: antepartum (pre-childbirth), intrapartum (labor through delivery), postpartum (following delivery), and newborn care. They cover physiology, primary care of women, reproductive healthcare of childbearing women, fetal wellbeing and complications, and related pharmacology and medicines management.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Midwifery – Two Year Duration
Bachelor’s Degree in Midwifery – Two to Three Year Duration
At the undergraduate level, studies in midwifery most often lead to an associate degree. Some schools offer a bachelor’s in the field. In some cases, the difference between the two degrees is essentially in name only, meaning that both programs combine lecture classes in the major and a practicum experience with some general education courses in mathematics, English composition, communications, and the social sciences. In other cases, the bachelor’s program is longer and is distinguished by a more extensive clinical practicum.

The Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Midwifery is granted upon completion of program requirements and passing of the exam administered by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). Passing this exam often fulfills licensing requirements, but licensing laws do vary from state to state.

Here is a snapshot of the major components of undergraduate study in midwifery:

Human Life Science and Math

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Fetal Development
  • Genetic Screening
  • Applied Microbiology
  • Fundamental Math
  • Fundamental Chemistry
  • Child Growth and Development

Critical Thinking and Psychological Issues

  • Communication and Counseling
  • Cultural Issues
  • Evolution of Human Sexuality
  • Perinatal Education Including Lactation
  • Analytical Writing

Antepartum (Pre-Childbirth) Management

  • Basic Skills
  • Risk Screening
  • Physical Assessment
  • Provision of Care
  • Complications
  • Pharmacology
  • Nutrition
  • Diagnostic Lab Tests and Procedures
  • Observation and Charting
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Intrapartum (the time period from the onset of labor through delivery) Management

  • Basic Skills
  • Risk Screening
  • Physical Assessment
  • Provision of Care
  • Complications
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnostic Lab Tests and Procedures
  • Observation and Charting
  • Intravenous (IV) Therapy

Postpartum (Following Childbirth) Management

  • Basic Skills
  • Risk Screening
  • Physical Assessment
  • Provision of Care
  • Complications
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnostic Lab Tests and Procedures
  • Observation and Charting

Newborn Management

  • Basic Skills
  • Risk Screening
  • Physical Assessment
  • Provision of Care
  • Complications
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnostic Lab Tests and Procedures
  • Observation and Charting
  • Neonatal Resuscitation

Well Women Reproductive Healthcare

  • Risk Screening
  • Physical Assessment
  • Provision of Care
  • Diagnostic Lab Tests and Procedures
  • Family Planning
  • Pharmacology
  • Observation and Charting

Professional Issues

  • History of Midwifery
  • Ethics
  • Laws and Regulations
  • Protocols
  • Community Health
  • Out of Hospital Birth
  • Business and Professional Communications
  • Statistics
  • Midwifery Literature

Clinical Requirements

  • Observer – births in an out of hospital setting
  • Assistant Under Supervision – initial prenatal assists / prenatal assists / birth assists / newborn exam assists / postpartum exam assists
  • Primary Care Provider Under Supervision – family planning / initial visits / prenatal consults / birth as primary / newborn exams / postpartum exams

Master’s Degree in Nursing-Midwifery – Two to Three Year Duration
To be accepted into a master’s program in nursing-midwifery generally requires a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Depending on the school, students with a bachelor’s in a non-nursing discipline may be admitted if they meet varying specified requirements.

Post-Master’s Certificate in Nurse-Midwifery – One Year Duration
Not all post-master’s certificate programs in midwifery have exactly the same admission requirements, but in general candidates must have earned at least a Master of Science in Nursing with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, be a nationally certified advanced practice registered nurse, and hold a current and unencumbered Registered Nurse (RN) license.

Graduates of master’s programs and post-master’s certificate programs often go on to assume leadership, director-level roles within the field.

Here is an overview of the kinds of courses that make up these two graduate-level programs:

  • Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology – organ systems function and dysfunction, the genetic basis of disease, new approaches to disease and symptom management
  • Advanced Physical Assessment and Clinical Decision Making – laboratory/clinical course; topics include provider-patient interaction, data collection, and formulating hypotheses
  • Healthcare of Women and Primary Care – clinical approach to assisting women with the most common health problems; health promotion and health maintenance
  • Advanced Pharmacology and Therapeutics for Nursing Practice – advanced pharmacology and therapeutics of various common diseases and conditions found in the acute care and primary care setting
  • Complementary / Alternative Therapies in Women’s Health – fundamentals of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as applied to women’s healthcare
  • Well Women Healthcare: Theory – the management and evaluation of physical, emotional, socio-cultural, and educational needs of gynecologic healthcare
  • Well Women Healthcare: Clinical – promoting and maintaining wellness, clinical decision making, systematic health interview, physical assessment, interpretation of laboratory findings, and diagnosis and treatment of gynecological problems
  • Public Policy Leadership in Healthcare – the effect of policy on individual/family user of health services, especially on populations living near or below the poverty level
  • Fetal Evaluation – developing knowledge relating to assessment of fetal wellbeing; fetal complications and high risk pregnancy; the physics of ultrasound, pulse echo imaging, and other techniques; practice of ultrasound skills
  • Healthcare of Childbearing Women: Theory – theory and practice related to nurse-midwifery / nurse practitioner management of the normal pregnant woman; antepartum strategies to reduce childbirth complications
  • Healthcare of Childbearing Women: Clinical – physical, psychosocial, and educational management of women during pregnancy and postpartum
  • Introduction to Research Methods and Design – understanding nursing research methods; evaluating research results for application to practice; statistical techniques
  • Intrapartum, Postpartum, and Newborn Care: Theory – anatomy and physiology relevant to the care of women and their families during the intrapartum, postpartum, and newborn periods; managing childbirth emergencies and medical complications
  • Intrapartum, Postpartum, and Newborn Care: Clinical – related clinical assignments
  • Professional Issues in Midwifery – contemporary issues facing the nurse-midwifery profession; education, certification, and practice; ethical, legal, and political issues
  • Integration I – integration of theory and clinical practice in women’s outpatient care; teaching rounds, case presentations, and seminars
  • Integration II: Midwifery Integration – integration of theory and clinical practice in women’s healthcare with emphasis on intrapartum, postpartum, and newborn care; teaching rounds, case presentations, and seminars

Degrees Similar to Midwifery

This degree program is designed to give students the knowledge and experience for safe, compassionate, evidence-based, competent, and ethical nursing practice.

There is no distinct pre-medicine degree. ‘Pre-medicine’ or ‘pre-med’ is merely a term that students planning to go to medical school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring doctors enter med school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees. A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory. In other words, a pre-med student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to medical school.

Public Health
Students who enter degree programs in public health look at how access and lack of access to healthcare, health education, and funding affect the spread, treatment, and prevention of disease. Epidemiology – the science concerned with the spread and control of diseases and viruses – is the science at the heart of public health.

Skills You’ll Learn

Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Midwives are consistently called upon to interact, to listen, to understand, and to support their patients and their patients’ families.

Cultural Awareness / Appreciation for Diversity
Midwives must work effectively with people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds.

With the capacity to empathize, midwives are equipped to help expectant mothers manage the emotions that go along with pregnancy and childbirth.

Observation and Critical Thinking
The abilities to assess situations and think critically about how to manage them is key to the role of a midwife.

The work of guiding women through pregnancy and childbirth is not fast work. It requires dedication to the process and to the relationship with the mother-to-be.

Stress Management
The work of a midwife can involve stressful situations.

Trust Building
Expectant mothers have to feel safe and supported if they are to trust a midwife with such a momentous time in their lives.

What Can You Do with a Midwifery Degree?

Because of the very specific nature of their degree, almost all graduates of midwifery programs go ON to work directly in the field as midwives. Their employment options include:

  • Private Clinical Practice / Home Birth Practitioners
  • Birthing Centers
  • OB-GYN (Obstetrics and Gynecology) Clinics
  • Public Health Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Midwifery Education Programs
  • Military Bases
  • Government / Health Policy

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths