What is midwifery?
Midwifery is a whole lot more than just supporting women to give birth.
It’s the professional care of women – before, during, and after the birth of their child. Midwifery has been an honoured and important profession for thousands of years.
Midwifery is a global profession. Childbearing women, newborn infants, and families share similar needs wherever they live and midwives make a vital contribution to their survival, health and well- being across the world. The World Health Organisation has stated that ‘strengthening midwifery education is a key step to improving quality of care and reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity’.
Midwifery course entry requirements
The entry criteria for midwifery courses and programmes are quite specific. Almost all universities will require a qualification in biology (or at least another science), to show your scientific ability. To show your compassion and understanding, qualifications in psychology or sociology, for example, would help.
Grade requirements will vary by university. You will need to check their individual requirements.
Midwives work in partnership with women so there are many skills you should reflect in your application that you have the potential to develop. These include communication, compassion, empathy, high attention to detail, the ability to work under pressure, and work as part of a team.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Attend an interview
- Submit a personal statement
- Show work experience
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Take an entry test
The International Confederation of Midwives’ definition of the midwife:
The Future Midwife: the role and scope of the midwife in the 21st century
The role of the midwife is to provide skilled, knowledgeable, respectful, and compassionate care for all women, newborn infants and their families. Midwives work across the continuum from pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, labour and birth, postpartum, and the early weeks of newborn infants’ life. This includes women’s future reproductive health, well-being, and decisions and in promoting very early child development and the parents’ transition to parenthood. Midwives respect and enable the human rights of women and children, and their priority is to ensure that care always focuses on the needs, views, preferences, and decisions of the woman and the needs of the newborn infant.
Midwives are fully accountable as the lead professional for the care and support of women and newborn infants, and partners and families. They provide care based on the best available evidence, and keep up to date with current knowledge and skills, thereby helping to ensure that their care is responsive to emerging evidence and future developments. They work in partnership with women, enabling their views, preferences, and decisions, and helping to strengthen their capabilities.
Midwives optimise normal physiological processes, and support safe physical, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual situations, working to promote positive outcomes and to anticipate and prevent complications.
Midwives make a vital contribution to the quality and safety of maternity care. They combine clinical knowledge, understanding, and skills with interpersonal and cultural competence. They make an important contribution to population health and understand social and health inequalities, and how to work to mitigate them through good midwifery care. They provide health education, health promotion and health protection to promote psychological and physical health and well-being and prevent complications.
Evidence shows the positive contribution midwives make to the short- and long-term health and well-being of women, newborn infants, and families. Midwives provide and evaluate care in partnership with women, and their partners and families if appropriate, referring to and collaborating with other health and social care professionals as needed.
Midwives are ideally placed to anticipate and to recognise any changes that may lead to complications and additional care needs; these may be physical, psychological, social, cultural, or spiritual, and include perinatal loss and end of life care. When such situations arise, the midwife is responsible for recognising these and for immediate response, management and escalation, involving, collaborating with and referring to interdisciplinary and multiagency colleagues. In such circumstances, the midwife has specific responsibility for continuity and coordination of care, providing ongoing midwifery care as part of the multidisciplinary team, and acting as an advocate to ensure that care always focuses on the needs, views, preferences, and decisions of the woman and the needs of the newborn infant.
Why study midwifery at university?
There aren’t many careers more important than midwifery. Not only are midwives essential for the safe and healthy delivery of babies, they are pillars of support for parents both before and after the birth.
And, because they’re so important, the NHS funds many courses to enable students from all backgrounds to become midwives. This means that you may gain your degree for free. Please check with your chosen university.
A career in midwifery will be challenging and rewarding in equal measure, giving you magical moments that you’ll remember forever. It’s also a very safe and stable career, with almost every midwifery graduate in immediate employment, earning an average of £22,000 from the outset.
Some modules you may study are:
- Public health and childbearing
- Human relationships in midwifery
- Prenatal care
- Autonomous midwifery
- Postnatal care
- Midwifery emergencies
- Midwifery research
- Midwifery leadership
Most midwifery graduates will remain in their careers for life, but the transferable skills developed during practice lend themselves to success in other medical and caring professions.
Finance and bursaries
A new grant has been announced for nursing, midwifery, and some allied health professional students from August 2020 – offering students between £5,000 and £8,000, and which doesn’t need to be paid back.
All new and continuing degree-level students enrolled on a course in September 2020 will receive at least £5,000 a year.
Some students will be eligible for an additional £3,000, creating a total grant of £8,000 per year. Further details of eligibility will be confirmed by the government in early 2020.
Students will still be able to access funding for tuition and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BCC to ABB, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for ABB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBC to AAABB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring BBBC. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
What can you do with a midwifery degree?
Understandably, the vast majority of midwife graduates will go on to become practicing midwives in the NHS.
Interdisciplinary skills also lend themselves to careers as:
- learning disability nurse
- care worker
- family project worker
- community worker
What’s it like to study midwifery?
Studying midwifery is demanding, there’s no doubting that. You’ll need to push yourself and rise to challenges, both in the classroom and on the ward. The three-year course is designed to teach and prepare you for everything you might face as a midwife, so expect to step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.
But once you graduate, you’ll be stepping into one of the most rewarding jobs going.
You won’t be sitting in lectures five days a week. You’ll split your time between theory and practice, meaning that you’ll often be on placement. You will have the opportunity to observe specialists at work, and eventually treat your own patients under supervision. You’ll be working all sorts of hours on placement, just like you will when you’re a qualified midwife.
You’ll generally study the same modules as everybody else during your midwifery degree, rather than specialising in certain areas. This is because you need to have a lot of core skills to become a licensed midwife, and be allowed to care for mothers and babies.
During your degree, you can expect to be:
- writing reports and essays
- carrying out research projects
- attending lectures and seminars
- watching practical demonstrations
- observing professional midwifery
- practising supervised midwifery
The nature of a midwifery degree means you won’t get as much time off as some of your friends on different courses. You can expect to spend 20+ hours per week in the classroom, plus the time on placement in hospitals and clinics.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course on a shorter timescale.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.
There are over 60 apprenticeships in the health and science sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Degree apprenticeship (Level 6)
Discover more about apprenticeships in medicine, dentistry and nursing
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.