Nurse Midwifery Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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Nurse midwifery master's degree and PhD programs can open the door to practical and academic careers. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Nurse Midwifery: Degrees at a Glance

Nurse midwives provide healthcare to women, with particular attention to issues such as family planning, pregnancy and childbirth. With a master's degree in nurse midwifery, you can secure a job as a practitioner. However, prospective nurse midwives should be aware that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has endorsed a move to consider the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) the standard for advanced nurse practitioners - including nurse midwives - by 2015. PhD programs specifically in nurse midwifery aren't available (although DNP programs are), but PhD programs in nursing - for those interested in academic pursuits - are offered.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a faster-than-average 26% increase in jobs for registered nurses (RNs) between 2010 and 2020, with advanced practice RNs expected to be particularly in demand. Postsecondary teachers in general are predicted to see a fast-as-average 17% job increase over the same period.

Master's PhD
Who Is This Degree For? Nurses wishing to focus on the reproductive and gynecological health of female patients Nurses who wish to work as researchers or educators in the field
Common Career Paths (with an approximate median annual salary) - Certified Nurse Midwife ($92,000)*
- Certified Women's Health Nurse Practitioner ($73,000 - based on entry-level salary)**
- Assistant Professor of Nursing ($58,000)*
- Associate Professor of Nursing ($69,000)*
- Professor of Nursing ($83,000)*
- Nursing Researcher (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion 2 years full-time, or 3 years part-time 4+ years full-time; part-time options also available
Common Graduation Requirements Practicum experiences - Comp examinations
- Dissertation
Prerequisites A bachelor's degree in nursing and RN license are required by many programs, but programs are also available for those with a bachelor's degree in another field - Bachelor's or master's degree in nursing
- Proof of licensure as an RN
- Completed statistics course
Online Availability Yes, usually with some site-based components Yes, usually with some site-based components

Source: *Salary.com (June 2012 figures), **PayScale.com (June 2012 figures).

Master's Degree in Nurse Midwifery

Nurse midwifery programs include training to prepare practitioners to span the divide between both traditional and modern medical birthing practices, stressing both non-interventionist philosophies and scientific skills. As a nurse midwifery student, you typically gain an understanding of advanced nursing practice theory, primary care procedures and research practices, as well as complete clinical coursework in a variety of practice settings. Completion of a program approved by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (along with an RN license) makes you eligible to take the national certification examination offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board; you'll earn the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) credential, which gives you legal authorization to practice in every state.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The number of births attended by certified midwives has grown almost every year since 1989*
  • Many programs offer opportunities for clinical experiences abroad
  • Profession allows potential for practice in a wide variety of settings, such as patients' homes, private practices, hospitals and clinics, around the world

Cons

  • Many programs have only a small number of openings each year due to the demanding faculty-to-student ratio required to effectively train nurse midwives, so you may not get into a program on your first attempt*
  • RNs may be exposed to dangerous chemicals or substances in their line of work**
  • Nurses may work irregular shifts or be on call**

Source: *American College of Nurse-Midwives, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Courses in nurse midwifery programs include study in areas like health assessment and promotion, as well as gynecological care. In addition, you'll gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations, during which you'll have the opportunity to work with practicing nurse midwives. Examples of other common course topics covered include:

  • Antepartum Care
  • Intrapartum Care
  • Postpartum Care
  • Pharmacology
  • Professional Role and Issues
  • Newborn Care

Online Degree Options

Online master's degree programs in nurse midwifery are available and allow you to complete coursework from a distance; however, clinical requirements mean that some of the work must be done in person. You can choose between completing most of the coursework online while occasionally attending intensive campus sessions or you could opt to enroll in a hybrid program in which you'll complete some courses through web-based means and others on campus. You might be required to travel to clinical sites in order to complete rotations. The online curriculum and the on-campus curriculum follow the same basic outline.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Some nurse midwifery master's degree programs incorporate complementary training to become a women's health nurse practitioner. Women's health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) provide primary care to females throughout their lives. These combined programs can lead to certification eligibility for both the CNM credential as well as the credential for WHNPs offered by the National Certification Corporation.

PhD in Nursing or Nursing Science

PhD students use theoretical and analytical approaches to conduct research in the nursing field. After completing core lessons, you'll be able to emphasize studies in a specific area. While targeted PhD programs in nurse midwifery aren't available, you can look for schools offering research emphases in relevant areas like women's health or family healthcare nursing, for instance.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some specialty teaching areas - including nursing specifically - are expected to have better job prospects*
  • You may contribute to advancing the practice of nursing with your research
  • Full-time students in PhD in Nursing programs may receive stipend funding for their studies

Cons

  • Doctoral studies in nurse midwifery occur in DNP rather than PhD programs
  • Associate professors make less than a Certified Nurse Midwife ($69,000 vs. $92,000)**
  • Heavy competition for tenured positions*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com (June 2012 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Most PhD programs examine topics in nursing health policy and research design. In addition to completing coursework, you will have to pass comprehensive oral and written examinations, as well as prepare and present a dissertation on a research topic of your choosing.

Online Degree Options

Online PhD programs in nursing are available and commonly include a mix of assignments, classes and lectures in which you can engage at a distance. However, these programs also typically require week-long, on-campus intensive experiences once or twice a year.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

BLS notes that some colleges and universities prefer to hire professors who already possess teaching experience. You could look into possible student teaching assistant positions while you're pursuing your PhD in order to give you a leg up on the competition; the work could also help offset tuition costs.

Degree Alternatives

A Doctor of Nursing Practice program gives you a practice-focused option, as opposed to scholarly focused PhD programs. DNP programs with specializations in nurse midwifery are available and provide preparation to assume clinical and leadership positions that involve research application through professional practice. Although according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives there's no indication yet that a DNP will lead to a salary increase, holding a DNP may better prepare you should a move to make it the standard take hold.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Health Care Quality & Patient Safety
      • M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Health Care Quality & Patient Safety
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • MS in Nursing - Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science in Nursing - MSN/MBA Dual Degree Option
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA: Medical Sciences: Molecular Medicine
      • MS: Healthcare Administration: Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Accelerated RN to MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Accelerated RN to MSN - Nursing Leadership and Admin
      • Accelerated RN to MSN - Nursing Education
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Columbia Southern University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Nursing (MSN)
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. Baker College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Nursing Administration - MSN
      • Nursing Education - MSN
  • Cincinnati, OH

    University of Cincinnati

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Online Programs Available
    10. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSN - Quality and Safety
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • M.S. in Nursing with an Emphasis in Health Care Quality & Patient Safety

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • MS in Nursing - Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Master of Science in Nursing - MSN/MBA Dual Degree Option

Which subject are you interested in?

Liberty University

  • MA: Medical Sciences: Molecular Medicine
  • MS: Healthcare Administration: Project Management

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • Accelerated RN to MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Accelerated RN to MSN - Nursing Leadership and Admin
  • Accelerated RN to MSN - Nursing Education

What is your highest level of education?

Columbia Southern University

  • MBA - Health Care Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • M.S. in Nursing (MSN)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Baker College

  • Nursing Administration - MSN
  • Nursing Education - MSN

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