For centuries, expectant mothers have relied on the services of midwives to deliver babies. In today’s world, the profession has broadened in scope and embraced standardized practices. Mothers who choose to work with certified nurse midwives (CNMs) can rest assured that their healthcare providers are highly qualified and experienced professionals who adhere to a strict standard of care and professional ethics.
If you feel drawn to the healthcare profession, or if you’re already a registered nurse (RN) who would like to take your career further, you may be interested to know how to become a nurse midwife. It’s a rather lengthy process, as CNMs must be highly trained. You will need to earn graduate-level degrees and obtain an advanced, specialty certification and license.
This career guide will walk you through the process of how to become a certified nurse midwife from start to finish. If you already work as an RN with an associate degree, or if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can skip to the sections that are most relevant to you.
In This Blog:
- Earning Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree
- Become a Registered Nurse
- Earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree
- Earn a DNP Degree
- Acquire Your National Midwifery Certification
- Apply for an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing License
- Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Earning Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs are an intensive learning journey. Be sure to utilize your professors’ office hours and tutoring services on campus to stay on track toward graduation. Nursing students can generally expect to study topics including:
- General chemistry
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Evidence-based nursing research and practices
In short, you will learn the essentials of conducting health assessments, as well as administering treatments and assisting with procedures. If you enroll at a school that offers simulated learning experiences, you can also expect to be immersed within a clinical setting that features common scenarios you may encounter as a nurse. You will be expected to apply your nursing knowledge and critical thinking skills as you work through the various scenarios.
Traditional BSN Degree
After high school, the first step in the process to become a CNM is to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Choose an accredited school and a program that leads to licensure. Nursing degrees involve a blend of classroom instruction, skills labs and hands-on clinical courses, and some schools may also offer simulated learning experiences.
Accelerated Nursing Program (ABSN)
For those who already have a non-nursing college degree, an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (aBSN) program is a great option to get your BSN degree. ABSN programs are designed to build on your existing college education and provide you with the additional knowledge and training needed to become a nurse. Admissions requirements for this type of program vary from state to state.
RN to BSN Program
If you already hold an associate degree or diploma certificate in nursing and have an active, unencumbered nursing license, you can complete the accelerated RN to BSN degree program instead of a conventional four-year bachelor’s degree or ABSN program. Even busy professionals can complete a BSN, because most of the program is offered online with practicum hours in your local community. GCU's RN to BSN core courses can be completed in 14 months. Students that transfer in the maximum of 90 credits, including six upper division, may be able to complete the core courses in as little as 12 months.1
Become a Registered Nurse
After you graduate with your BSN degree, the next step in the process of how to become a CNM is to obtain licensure as a registered nurse (RN). You’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to be legally allowed to practice as a nurse. This is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
There is typically a brief waiting period after graduation before you are authorized to take the NCLEX. Some nursing students prefer to take the NCLEX as soon as possible so that their classwork is still fresh in their minds. Others prefer to wait a while longer to fit in some extra time for studying.
Before you can take the NCLEX, you’ll need to apply to your state’s nursing regulatory body (NRB) for licensure. You will then be allowed to register with the test administrator (Pearson VUE) and pay your registration fees. You’ll also need your Authorization to Test (ATT) from your NRB before you can schedule your exam date.
The NCLEX-RN is a computerized, adaptive test that consists of four main areas:
- Safe and effective patient care
- Health promotion and maintenance
- Psychosocial integrity
- Physiological integrity It’s a good idea to invest in one or more NCLEX study guides and take several practice tests as you prepare for your exam date.
Earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree
The next step in the process of becoming a CNM is to earn your Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). Aspiring CNMs will need a graduate education to be eligible to obtain a specialty certification and APRN license.
To qualify for nurse midwife certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), one must earn their MSN from a school accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).,
In addition, the MSN degree offers considerable value to healthcare employers. For this reason, your employer may offer reimbursement of tuition fees and flexible scheduling while you complete your degree.
Earn a DNP Degree
After earning an MSN degree, many aspiring CNMs will go on to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice (or DNP) degree. A DNP degree is a terminal degree program, and by earning it, you will have reached the pinnacle of academic achievement in your field. Nurses with a DNP degree may be better prepared to tackle the challenging midwifery certification exam.
Acquire Your National Midwifery Certification
After completing the academic requirements for becoming a nurse midwife, the next step is to acquire your national certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board. The AMCB recommends taking the certification exam as soon as possible after graduation, as you will be granted four tries to pass the exam within 24 months of completing your degree.
Note that the AMCB may not necessarily define the date of completion as your actual graduation date. Rather, the date of completion is the date on which you completed the nurse-midwifery or midwifery portion of your academic program.
In other words, it’s in your best interests to take the exam as soon as possible, even if you’re not completely confident that you can pass the exam just yet. You can think of your first attempt as a practice test to help you prepare for successfully passing the exam on a subsequent attempt.
Begin preparing for your exam before your graduation date. You’ll find exam preparation materials available from the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). The exam itself is four hours long and covers the following topic areas:
- Well woman/GYN
- Women’s health/primary care
Apply for an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing License
Once you earn your certification, you will officially be a CNM. However, you cannot practice as a CNM until you acquire your advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) license. You can apply for the APRN license through your state’s board of nursing.
Each board will have its own requirements, but in general, you can expect to submit proof of your qualifications. You will likely be required to send proof of your RN license, academic achievements and CNM certification.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered nurses have a median annual wage of $75,330 as of May 2020,2 while nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners have a median annual wage of $117,670 as of May 2020.3
When looking at job growth for nurse midwives, there is an estimated 45% growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners expected from 2020 to 2030 as of September 2021.4 With this information, you can see how a substantial income and promising career growth can come along with advancing a bachelor’s degree in nursing to an advanced nursing position as a nurse midwife.
Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions offers a variety of nursing degrees, both on campus and online, to help students reach their goals within the nursing field. One of these degrees is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Pre-Licensure) degree program — the first step to getting your BSN and pursuing a career in midwifery. To get started, fill out the form on this page and learn more about applying to one of our accredited nursing programs.
1The entire program requires 120 credits.
2The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Registered Nurses as of May 2020. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Registered Nurses. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path.
3The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. They are not calculated using wages from GCU graduates but from workers across the country with varying levels of education and experience, and they reflect a national median wage for this occupation in 2020. This national data may not accurately reflect earnings of workers in particular parts of the country and include earners at all stages of their career and not solely entry level wages. COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.
4COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses
Approved by the associate dean of the College of Nursing and Healthcare Professions on March 13, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.