What is a Certified Nurse Midwife?

what is a certified nurse midwife

A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is responsible for providing a range of healthcare services that goes far beyond just delivering babies.

Educational Requirements

CNMs are Registered Nurses (RNs) who have graduated from an accredited nurse midwife program and then passed a national exam provided through the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM). The available CNM programs can be taken in-person or online through a range of educational institutions but are only available for those already qualified as an RN, which requires an initial degree and qualification. Some programs also require applicants to have experience in the field already.

82% of all CNMs hold a master's degree and further education is the most common route to becoming an CNM. There are 39 American Commission of Midwifery Education (ACME) accredited programs in the U.S. for midwifery; the top ten are:

  1. University of California - San Francisco

  2. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

  3. Vanderbilt University 

  4. Oregon Health and Science University

  5. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

  6. Yale University

  7. University of New Mexico

  8. University of Pennsylvania

  9. University of Utah

  10.  Baylor University

Typical Duties of a Certified Nurse Midwife

A CNM has to perform many primary healthcare duties relating to women's health. Although many assume the bulk of a midwife's workload is delivering babies, research actually shows that more than 53% of CNMs identify reproductive care as their primary responsibility. A CNM is expected to:

  • Perform gynecological exams

  • Provide gynecological care

  • Write prescriptions

  • Give basic nutrition counselling

  • Educate on family planning, puberty and reproductive health

  • Deliver babies

  • Assist with preconception issues

  • Provide care for a mother through all stages of pregnancy

  • Measure and monitor fetal development

  • Provide care for newborns and mothers postpartum

CNMs work non-traditional hours, often being on call to respond to patients who go into labor. Although in-home birth is becoming more popular, 95% of all CNM-attended births occurred in hospitals. So CNMs can be found in hospitals, private doctor's offices, military facilities, community clinics, or in birthing centers.


The median salary nationwide for CNMs is $92,200, with a range from $62,000 to $120,500 by state, with California paying the most for its CNMs. Factors such as geography, experience and education can affect expected salary. There are currently over 11,800 registered CNMs working across the U.S. As with other specialties across nursing, CNMs are expected to take on more and more functions of a primary care physician and the industry demand for CNMs is only expected to rise.

Other Types of Nurse Midwife

For those looking for a different route to working in midwifery, there are options besides a CNM certification. A Certified Midwife (CM) is a non-nursing professional who is trained in midwifery, has a bachelor's degree and has been certified by the ACNM. This is a fairly unique role, as only five states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island and Missouri) legally permit CMs to practice. More commonly, a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a lower level nurse midwife practising nationwide, who has entry level midwifery knowledge but is not trained or licensed for advanced practice.

Learn about certified nurse midwife job outlook.

Discover more about other registered nurse specializations. Learn how to become a postpartum nurse and postpartum nurse education requirements.

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