Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) Degree Programs

Two landmark publications confirm what many of us already know: nurse-midwives matter now, more than ever.

The Lancet’s Series on Midwifery and the State of the World’s Midwifery, two research studies published through the collaborative efforts of the United Nations Population Fund, the International Confederation of Midwives, and the World Health Organization, revealed some very interesting findings. One of the most critical revelations was that federal and local public health funding allocated for midwifery education has the net result of generating a 16-fold return on investment when looking at the near-term health costs associated with mothers and newborns that had access to antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum care versus those who did not.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) is focused on building a strong and qualified midwifery workforce so as to improve women’s health in the U.S.—and it shows. According to an ACNM report:

  • The nurse-midwifery profession is enjoying a double-digit annual growth rate
  • Student graduation rates from nurse-midwifery programs are on the rise

Thanks to a renewed interest in nurse-midwifery and the recognition of the value of nurse-midwives within the medical and maternity models, RNs interested in furthering their education to begin a career dedicated to the art and science of nurse-midwifery have more educational options and opportunities than ever before.

Graduate Level Nurse-Midwifery Education: Pathways to CNM Certification

The Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) serves as the official accrediting body for certified nurse-midwife programs in the United States. The U.S. Department of Education has recognized ACME as a programmatic accrediting agency for midwifery education since 1982. There are currently 39 ACME-accredited nurse-midwife education programs in the U.S., and one in pre-accreditation status.

Only those RNs who have completed an ACME-accredited nurse-midwifery program are eligible to take the Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) examination through the American Midwifery Certification Board, a requirement for licensure in all 50 states.

All CNMs must possess a graduate degree. Therefore, all ACME-accredited programs in nurse-midwifery are at the graduate level.

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Nurse-Midwifery Degree Program Options

Students of nurse-midwifery programs accredited by ACME may choose from a number of formats that correspond with their current level of education:

  • Baccalaureate degree (BA/BS) to CNM: Often referred to as graduate entry or direct entry programs, these three-year nurse-midwifery programs provide bachelor’s-degree prepared students who don’t possess an RN with the required nursing and midwifery components to earn an RN license and a master’s in nurse-midwifery.
  • Diploma/associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) to CNM: Often referred to as bridge programs, these nurse-midwifery programs provide RNs who possess a diploma or associate’s degree in nursing with the credits required to earn both a BSN and master’s in nurse midwifery.
  • Traditional master’s degree programs: Traditional master’s degree programs in nurse-midwifery provide bachelor’s prepared RNs with a master’s in nurse-midwifery through programs structured as either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in Nurse-Midwifery or a Master of Science (MS) in Nurse-Midwifery.
  • DNP option: Master’s prepared RNs may receive their graduate-level education in nurse-midwifery through a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in Nurse-Midwifery. Some DNP programs are also designed as bridge programs for bachelor’s prepared RNs.
  • Post-graduate certificates: Post-graduate certificates are designed for graduate-prepared APRNs who want to add midwifery to their scope of advanced practice nursing.

Because so many students of nurse-midwifery are practicing RNs, many institutions have begun offering nurse-midwifery programs with part-time options as well as programs offered partially or entirely online:

  • Fully Online Distance Learning Option: Students of online nurse-midwifery programs complete all components of their curricula through web-based courses, with the exception of clinical learning experiences, which they complete at nearby clinical sites.
  • Partially Online Distance Learning Option: Students of partially online nurse-midwifery programs complete some web-based courses and some campus-based courses.

Certified Nurse-Midwife Degrees By the Numbers

As of 2021, ACME had 39 accredited nurse-midwifery programs, and one pending accreditation. Of those:

  • 6 programs provide the majority of didactic material through an online curricula
  • 2 of the programs prepare certified midwives (CMs)
  • More than half of the programs offer bachelor’s prepared students the option of completing an accelerated program
  • 3 institutions offer the DNP
  • 6 institutions offer the MN/MSN or DNP
  • 29 institutions offer the MSN/MN
  • 1 institution offers the MPH

Of the 40 ACME-accredited programs, 39 are located in schools of nursing, colleges of allied health, or medical centers, while one is located in a school of public health.

Paying for Nurse-Midwifery Degree Programs: Loans and Scholarships

The cost of a nurse-midwifery program varies depending on a number of factors, including whether the school that offers the program is public or private. However, the average cost of a two-year nurse-midwifery program comes in at more than $53,000.

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A number of organizations provide assistance to nurse-midwifery students through scholarships and loan programs:

National Health Service Corps

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) offers students of nurse-midwifery programs loan repayment programs and scholarships. In 2014, the NHSC received 59 CNM scholarship applications and funded two recipients. The NSHC also received 110 applications in 2014 for loans and funded 38 recipients.

ACNM Foundation, Inc.

The ACNM Foundation, Inc. provides up to six $2,000 – $4,000 scholarships every year to nurse-midwifery students who are ACNM members.

Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) Program

The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources offers the Advanced Nursing Education Traineeship Program, designed to cover the cost of tuition, books, and fees associated with an advanced nursing education. Sixty-six students received grants during the 2013-14 academic year.

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