Online Midwifery Schools Offering CNM Masters Degrees in California

In 2014, the California Nurse-Midwife Association (CNMA) reported that certified nurse midwives attended 11 percent of all conventional births in the state, assisting in the delivery of approximately 55,082 newborns that year.

California leads the nation when it comes to nurse-midwifery, issuing more Advanced Practice Nursing (APN) licenses to certified nurse-midwives (CNM) than anywhere else in the country. As of last count in 2014, some 1,200 CNMs were licensed to practice in the state, providing whole-person focused well-women care and family planning services in addition to the gentle antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum care they have come to be known for.

In 2018, approximately 11-13.69% of births in California were attended by midwives, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics.

California’s certified nurse-midwives work independent of restrictive collaborative practice agreements that are common elsewhere in the nation, and qualify to receive Medi-Cal reimbursement at 100 percent of physician fee levels. This has contributed to California’s CNMs being among the best paid in the nation, enjoying an average annual salary of $154,500 as of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Experienced nurse-midwives can earn even more, $187,150 at the 75th percentile and $204,130 at the 90th percentile.

More and more women are choosing to work with certified nurse midwives through the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum periods, and for general health and gynecological care throughout the course of their lives. The reason behind the growing preference for nurse-midwifery care is perhaps best summarized in a San Diego Union-Tribune article quoting Paula McQueen, a mother of six and nurse-midwife in Fallbrook who said, “I felt intimidated to talk with my doctors, but I felt comfortable to talk with my midwives about anything.”

Steps to Becoming a Nurse-Midwife in California

Certified nurse-midwives are licensed as Advanced Practice Nurses (APN) through the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). California RNs with licenses in good standing may become licensed to practice as certified nurse midwives by following the steps in this guide:

Earn a Master’s or Higher Degree in Nurse-Midwifery
Take the National Certification Exam in Nurse-Midwifery
Apply for APN Licensure in Certified Nurse-Midwifery through the California BRN
Explore Career Opportunities Available to Nurse-Midwives and Maintain Credentials



Step 1. Earn a Master’s or Higher Degree in Nurse-Midwifery

California RNs interested in becoming certified nurse-midwives can fulfill education requirements by completing a master’s or higher degree in nurse-midwifery that meets one of these criteria:

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There are three schools in California that offer nurse-midwife graduate degree programs approved by both the BRN and the ACME, located in:

  • Fullerton
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco

Working RNs often prefer the convenience and flexibility of the ACME-accredited online programs that are available through nationally renowned schools.

All in state accredited master’s, as well as many master’s in midwifery online programs, offer students the option of dual specializations in the areas of nurse midwifery and women’s health. Earning an accredited master’s degree with a focus in these fields will give RNs the option to go on to become dually credentialed as both a certified nurse midwife (CNM) and women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP). Accredited dual-focus graduate programs in nurse-midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner (NM/WHNP) are designed to meet all requirements for national certification and state board recognition in both areas.

Admissions Requirements

Common admissions requirements for nurse-midwife graduate programs include:

  • Current RN license
  • BSN or completion of nursing prerequisite courses
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Statement of goals, personal essay, or video essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Prior related work experience

While most candidates for nurse-midwife graduate programs hold a BSN, there are also accredited RN-to-MSN bridge programs in midwifery/women’s health for those that hold an associate’s degrees in nursing.

Nurse-Midwifery Graduate Program Structure

Full-time online and campus based-programs tend to be similar in length, with students completing the full course of study in around two years. Part-time programs typically take about three years to complete. All programs comprise the following elements:

  • Classroom instruction – 40 to 60 semester credits
  • Clinical instruction – around 1,000 hours

Classroom Education

Important topics in midwifery and women’s health are covered throughout the course of a student’s didactic studies, including:

  • Conducting advanced health assessments
  • Legal issues and ethics in maternal healthcare
  • Advanced physiology
  • Disease prevention and health promotion
  • Psychology for pregnancy
  • Women’s reproductive health
  • Labor, birth, and newborn care procedures
  • Complicated pregnancies and deliveries
  • Advanced integrated midwifery
  • Nurse midwifery for the antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum woman
  • Mother and infant biostatistics
  • Multicultural midwifery
  • Research methods for advanced-practice nurses
  • Advanced pharmacology for childbearing women

Clinical Education

Sites where students can complete their clinical sequence are located throughout the state – both for in-state and online programs. Students involved in online studies will work closely with a faculty advisor to determine appropriate clinical placements at a convenient location. Online programs strive to develop relationships with clinical programs across the United States, and in California in particular since the state leads the nation in terms of nurse-midwife graduate program enrollment.

Locations in California were nurse-midwife graduate students complete clinical sequences include:

University of San Francisco Medical Center:

  • Women’s Health Primary Care Center at Montgomery Street
  • Women’s Health Primary Care at Mount Zion
  • Centering Pregnancy Program
  • Fetal Treatment Center
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Services at Serramonte

University of California Los Angeles:

  • The BirthPlace Santa Monica
  • The BirthPlace Westwood
  • Acute Care Pediatrics Unit
  • Fetal Diagnostics Unit
  • Infant Security – Perinatal Unit

University California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento:

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic
  • Women’s Clinic
  • Miscarriage Center
  • Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine



Step 2. Take the National Certification Exam in Nurse-Midwifery

After completing a qualifying graduate program, candidates for APN licensure by national certification in nurse-midwifery would then go on to take the Certified Nurse-Midwife Exam through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). Graduates of dual focus nurse midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner (NM/WHNP) programs may additionally choose to take the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Exam through the National Certification Corporation:

After registering with the respective sponsoring organizations, exam candidates can sign up for a testing date and location through Applied Measurement Professional (APM), which proctors both exams at H&R Block Centers located throughout California in the cities of:

  • Chino
  • Fresno
  • Irvine
  • La Mesa near San Diego
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Modesto
  • Monrovia
  • Oakland
  • Palm Springs
  • Sacramento
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Santa Maria
  • Upland
  • Van Nuys

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) Exam – American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)

Candidates can apply for the National Certification Examination in Nurse-Midwifery by sending an application to:

849 International Drive, Suite 120
Linthicum, MD 21090

Candidates are encouraged to prepare for this exam by reviewing the Candidate Handbook. The test is taken on a computer and comprised of 175 multiple-choice questions. Candidates have four hours to complete their test, which covers the topics of:

  • Antepartum – 19-26 percent
  • Intrapartum – 17-26 percent
  • Postpartum – 15-18 percent
  • Gynecology – 15-18 percent
  • Women’s health and primary care – 8-16 percent
  • Newborn – 7-16 percent

Successful examinees will receive a Certificate in Nurse Midwifery (CNM) from the AMCB.

Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Exam – National Certification Corporation

Candidates can register for this exam online through the NCC’s website, and prepare by studying the WHNP Candidate Guide. Testing lasts three hours, is administered on a computer, and is comprised of 150 scored multiple-choice test questions (tests may contain up to 25 unscored pretest questions). Subjects covered on the test are as follows:

  • Gynecology – 35-40 percent
  • Obstetrics – 25-30 percent
  • Primary Care – 10-15 percent
  • Diagnostic testing and physical assessment – 10-15 percent
  • Pharmacology – 5-10 percent

Upon passing the exam, examinees will earn the NCC’s nationally recognized WHNP-BC credential.



Step 3. Apply for APN Licensure in Certified Nurse-Midwifery through the California BRN

Upon successfully completing the appropriate certification exam(s), applicants for APN licensure would complete the appropriate licensing application form to be submitted to the California Board of Registered Nursing:

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Candidates can submit all application materials to the following address:

Board of Registered Nursing
Advanced Practice Unit – Nurse Midwife/Nurse Practitioner Certification [choose relevant unit]
PO Box 944210
Sacramento, CA 94244-2100

Prescribing Medications

The California BRN allows both nurse-midwives and women’s health NPs to prescribe or furnish medications. To be eligible for this, APNs must complete a BRN-approved graduate course in advanced pharmacology. They can then submit the appropriate application(s) to the BRN in order to receive a furnishing number:



Step 4. Explore Career Opportunities Available to Nurse-Midwives and Maintain Credentials

Applicants can check the status of their APN application on the Board of Registered Nursing’s processing times webpage. Once they have received their designation from the BRN they can begin working as certified nurse-midwives in the state.

APN licensure does not need to be renewed and there are no continuing education requirements, save for those required to renew the basic RN license every two years. The respective national certifying bodies do require the CNM and WHNP-BC credentials to be renewed on a regular basis.

Renewing the Certificate in Nurse Midwifery (CNM) through the AMCB:

  • CNM renewal is completed on a five-year cycle through the AMCB’s Certificate Maintenance Program, which requires one of the following:
    • Re-examination
    • Completion of 3 certificate maintenance modules and 20 hours of continuing education

Renewing the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC) Credential through the NCC

  • WHNP-BC renewal is completed on a three-year maintenance cycle
  • Continuing education hour requirement can range between 10-50 hours per cycle, and is based on the results of a Continuing Competency Assessment

California’s Top Employers of Certified Nurse-Midwives

While it is common for nurse-midwives and women’s health NPs to pursue career advancement in their current place of employment or at the site where they completed their clinical sequence, others may like the idea of starting an independent practice or joining a partner practice with other nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners.

The following are among the top employers of certified nurse-midwives in California:

  • Los Angeles Center for Women’s Health
  • Beach Area Women’s Health Center in San Diego
  • Women’s Community Clinic in San Jose
  • Women’s Community Clinic in San Francisco
  • Women’s Health Center in Fresno
  • The Birth Center in Sacramento
  • Beach Cities Midwifery in Long Beach
  • Sacred Birth Place in Oakland
  • Mercy Family Birth Center in Bakersfield
  • Natural Birth Center and Women’s Wellness in Anaheim
  • California Pacific Medical Center’s Labor and Delivery Center in San Francisco
  • California Hospital Medical Center’s Maternity and Neonatal Unit in Los Angeles
  • Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns in San Diego

The following list represents actual job vacancy announcements for CNMs posted on job boards throughout the state taken from a survey conducted in 2015 (shown for illustrative purposes only):

  • Certified Nurse Midwife at Family Health Centers of San Diego
  • Women’s Health NP at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco
  • Certified Nurse Midwife at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles
  • Women’s Health NP at Planned Parenthood in Pasadena
  • Certified Nurse Midwife at Saint Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco
  • Women’s Health NP at the San Laredo Medical Center
  • Certified Nurse Midwife at Walnut Creek Hospital
  • Women’s Health NP at Concentra Outpatient Clinic in Redondo Beach

Salaries for Certified Nurse-Midwives in California

Work experience and employment setting remain the biggest factors that contribute to higher salaries among California’s certified nurse-midwives. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics reported that newly-certified nurse-midwives just entering the field in California earned an average annual salary of $69,000, while mid-career CNMs earned an average annual salary of $108,810 that year. The most experienced nurse midwives working for large hospitals and integrated health systems in the state were recognized as those with salaries that fell within the 90th percentile, earning an average annual salary of $204,130.

New healthcare legislation, an increased reliance of cost-effective medical care, and an elevated awareness of the benefits of preventive care measures are at the heart of the growing demand for nurse-midwifery services in California.

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The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) revealed that there were 1,237 certified nurse midwives licensed to practice in California as of 2012, accompanied by another 787 with the prescriptive authority necessary to prescribe controlled substances. A 2012 BRN survey found that certified nurse midwives that were also certified as nurse practitioners experienced a higher rate of employment and better pay.

Salary and Employment Trends within the Field of Nurse-Midwifery in California

Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies found that 8.72% of all births in California were attended by a certified nurse midwife in 2013, the latest data that are available.

The data below shows a thorough analysis of nurse midwife employment and salaries in major metropolitan regions throughout California (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019):

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim

  • Entry-Level: $115,110
  • Average: $163,020
  • Experienced: $204,230

San Diego-Carlsbad

  • Entry-Level: $82,980
  • Average: $130,140
  • Experienced: $198,570

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward

  • Experienced: $206,330
  • Average: $156,450
  • Entry-level: $104,370

(Salary data for nurse-midwives reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019. Figures represent state data, not school-specific information. Job growth data provided by Projections Central, a resource funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed March 2021.)

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