Certified Nurse Midwife vs. Women's Health Nurse Practitioner: What's the Difference?

Updated November 23, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Do you want an NP career helping women, but aren't sure which? This guide to certified nurse midwife vs. women's health nurse practitioner careers will help you choose.
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As an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you can make a difference in women's lives. Both certified nurse-midwives and women's health nurse practitioners (WHNP) enjoy professional autonomy and high salaries.

This guide explains the certified nurse-midwife vs. women's health nurse practitioner distinctions. Keep reading for the information you need to choose the career that fits your women’s healthcare goals.

Certified Nurse-Midwife and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Key Similarities and Differences

Both certified nurse-midwives and women's health nurse practitioners are APRNs who treat women. However, the scope of practice is different for these two professions.

Certified nurse-midwives specialize in helping people prepare for pregnancy, through pregnancy, and during and after childbirth. Women's health nurse practitioners care for pregnant people regardless of their pregnancy status, though they also provide care during pregnancy or after birth.

Both certified nurse-midwives and women's health nurse practitioners can diagnose conditions, order medical tests, and prescribe medications. Both degrees require at least a master of science in nursing (MSN) and passing the applicable board certification examination.

What is a Certified Nurse-Midwife?

A certified nurse-midwife is an APRN who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. They care for pregnant people during pre-pregnancy, throughout the pregnancy, and before, during, and after the birth. They have either an MSN or a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) in nurse-midwifery. Certified nurse-midwives work in hospitals, standalone birthing centers, home healthcare, clinics, and other birth settings.

What is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner?

Women's health nurse practitioners have a more general training, since they treat women for all health conditions, not just pregnancy or even just for conditions specific to women, such as female fertility and menopause.

Certified nurse-midwives supervise births, which women's health NPs do not have the licensure to do. Women's health nurse practitioners can act as primary care providers, unlike certified nurse-midwives, and provide care for women throughout their lifespan, not just during pregnancy.

Major Comparisons
Points to Consider Certified Nurse-Midwife Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
Degree Required MSN or DNP MSN or DNP
Certification Options American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) National Certification Corporation (NCC)
Duties and Responsibilities Provide care before pregnancy and during pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery from childbirth. Treat conditions related to fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth. Provide healthcare for women of all ages. Diagnose and prescribe treatment for health conditions.
Annual Salary $105,000, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) $120,680 (median), according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Source: BLS, AANP

Duties and Responsibilities

Comparing certified nurse-midwife vs. women's health nurse practitioner responsibilities, nurse midwives and women's health nurse practitioners both care for adult women. However, women’s health nurse practitioners do not provide antepartum or antenatal care, and do not provide care during delivery, which nurse-midwives do provide.

What Does a Certified Nurse-Midwife Do?

While most people associate certified nurse-midwife work just with giving birth, nurse-midwives provide nursing care for patients seeking to become pregnant, who are pregnant, and who have recently given birth. Nurse-midwives also provide care during labor.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Helping patients who plan to become pregnant or are struggling to become pregnant
  • Educating women and family members on healthy pregnancies
  • Helping patients prepare a birth plan
  • Supervising births
  • Providing parental and newborn care after birth
  • Assisting in birth recovery

What Does a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

Women's health nurse practitioners most often act as primary care providers, but can also act as specialists. While they have professional training in fertility and childbirth, they are still generalists who can diagnose and prescribe for all women's health conditions, including all aspects of reproductive health and menopause. Their key responsibilities include:

  • Assessing patients
  • Ordering medical tests
  • Diagnosing health conditions
  • Prescribing treatments
  • Educating patients on health and wellness

Education and Certification

Both certified nurse-midwives and women's health NPs are APRNs. They need an RN license, to earn an MSN or DNP, and pass the applicable board certification examination.

Most have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), but many schools offer RN-to-MSN bridge programs for nurses with an ADN.

How to Become a Certified Nurse-Midwife

Becoming a certified nurse-midwife often takes six years of education: four years for a BSN and two years for the MSN. Most MSN programs require or strongly prefer at least one to two years of RN experience.

Certified nurse-midwives must earn board certification by graduating from an accredited MSN program and taking the AMCB board certification examination. They need a current and unencumbered RN license to apply.

After passing the board certification, nurse-midwives apply to the relevant state board, either the state board of nursing or board of midwifery, for licensure. States may have additional licensing requirements.

How to Become a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a women's health NP also takes six years of education, and most schools require or prefer at least one to two years of experience as an RN.

The WHNP curriculum includes topics related to fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth, but also covers general health and medicine for women.

The National Certification Corporation issues board certification. WHNPs must also apply for a state license from the state board of nursing. Depending on the state, they may have full practice autonomy, meaning independent work. Or the state offers restricted practice autonomy, meaning in collaboration with or under the supervision of a physician.


Salary and Career Outlook

Looking at certified nurse-midwife vs. women's health nurse practitioner salaries, the median salary for WHNPs is slightly higher. However, both offer a salary considerably above the $41,950 national median for all workers, according to the BLS.

$105,000
Average Annual Certified Nurse-Midwife Salary

$120,680
Median Annual Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Salary

Certified Nurse-Midwife Salary and Career Outlook

According to the BLS, certified nurse-midwife jobs will grow 11% between 2020 and 2030, above the average for all occupations. Growth will be stronger in areas with higher demand, especially in states where the population is younger.

Factors affecting certified nurse-midwife salaries include experience, education level, additional certifications, local demand, and local cost of living.

Workplace settings can also affect salaries, with hospitals often paying the highest salaries (for all APRNs).

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Salary and Career Outlook

While the BLS does not separate women's health nurse practitioners from all NPs, it projects a 52% job growth rate for NPs between 2020 and 2030.

This is one of the fastest job growth rates in the nation, reflecting the high demand for healthcare professionals, especially primary care providers. For all APRNs, hospitals pay the highest salaries, followed by outpatient care centers and physician offices.


Certified Nurse-Midwife vs. Women's Health Nurse Practitioner: Which Career is Right For Me?

Making the certified nurse-midwife vs. women's health nurse practitioner decision depends on your personal goals. Both have high salaries, professional autonomy, and a potentially satisfying career.

The required education takes the same amount of time and costs roughly the same amount. While the salaries are similar, the demand for WHNPs is higher. Of the two, only certified nurse-midwives can deliver babies.

If you know you want to treat women but are not sure about if you want to specialize in fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth, becoming a nurse-midwife gives you more options.

Either way, if you change your mind after you graduate and practice, you can enroll in a post-graduate certificate program to earn the other specialization.

Emotionally, certified nurse-midwives experience more highs and lows, since they treat patients experiencing trouble becoming pregnant, or who lose a pregnancy or child. Sometimes their patients die during childbirth.

While women's health NPs also treat women during difficulties and lose patients, their work is not inherently as emotionally charged. Either career offers emotional and financial rewards.


Page last reviewed: May 6, 2022


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