There are currently over 27,000 midwives in the UK but despite a decrease in birth rates, there is still a shortage of qualified maternity staff.
If you are looking for a career that is both demanding and rewarding, have a calm and caring nature and are a people person with excellent communication skills, midwifery could be the career for you.
The role of a midwife
The word ‘midwife’, comes from Old English, ‘mid’ meaning ‘with and ‘wife’ meaning ‘woman’, translating quite literally into ‘with woman’. The general role of a midwife has not changed since the word came about; providing support, care and advice to women during all stages of their pregnancy including labour and the early postnatal period, however, modern day midwifery is a hugely varied career path.
Where do midwives work?
Midwives work in many environments; NHS hospitals, private hospitals, birthing units, within the community visiting women in their homes or you could be self-employed. You could develop your skills in one of these healthcare settings which would lead to a range of career paths including labour ward supervision and home birthing.
Why should you train to be a midwife?
The maternity services sector
There has been a continuous growth in the number of qualified midwives since 2005. However, there is still a shortage in the workforce. Jeremy Hunt, MP and Secretary of State for Health stated: “We need more midwives” in October 2015, a statement supported by figures from the Royal College of Midwives ‘State of Maternity Services Report 2015’ which highlighted an estimated shortage of around 2,600 maternity staff.
The need for more midwives within the UK means that there has been a yearly increase in the number of training places available at universities to meet the demand. In 2005 there were around 1,800 training places commissioned compared to over 2,500 in 2014. As the shortage of midwives remains, demand for staff continues, increasing the likelihood of more training places becoming available in future years.
Salary and working hours
Working for the NHS, newly qualified midwives can expect a starting salary of about £21,000, rising to around £26,000 after gaining experience according to research carried out by Prospects. The working week is usually 37.5 hours split into shifts; this is likely to include a combination of daytime shifts and unsociable hours, working throughout the night.
Midwifery can be the ideal career if you have other commitments as there are plenty of part-time positions available along with the option of being self-employed or working freelance.
Midwifery as a change of career path
Midwifery can be a great option if you are looking for a change of career path, particularly if you are already working in a healthcare-based role. Don’t be discouraged if your current job isn’t within this industry; the NHS welcomes people from all vocational backgrounds.
Many women find that after having children themselves, their experiences encourage them to change career paths and train in midwifery. Pregnancy and postnatal advice website BabyCentre ran a poll asking women whether it was important to them if their midwife had given birth herself or not; ‘Yes, her experience of becoming a mum is invaluable’, was the chosen answer by 69% of those that responded.
Am I too old to become a midwife?
The simple answer to this question is no; there is no upper age limit for entry onto a midwifery course. The Royal College of Midwifery has recorded that since 2005 over 3,100 midwives have qualified who were over the age of 50.
While those that are older bring a wealth of knowledge to the role, the profession is ageing, and the shortage of younger midwives makes it difficult to mentor new staff and grow their confidence and experience before those that are older, retire.
It is hugely important that the younger generations train in midwifery to continue to improve the quality of the services provided. An increase in younger midwives will give all maternity staff the ability to spend more time with each woman ultimately resulting in healthier mothers and babies.
How to become a midwife
To practise as a midwife in the UK, you have to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. To become registered, you’ll need to have completed a pre-registration midwifery programme, or, a degree in midwifery, which can last between three and six years depending on whether you choose to study full or part time.
How do I get onto a midwifery course?
Acceptance onto a midwifery degree will vary depending on the university that you choose to apply to as they will set different entry criteria due to there being no national minimum requirement. Most will require 5 GCSEs, grade A-C including English, Maths and Science along with 2 A Levels or the equivalent.
If you didn’t complete any A Levels at school or have been out of education for a while and feel that an additional course would benefit you before applying for your Midwifery degree, an Access to Higher Education Diploma (Health) “Midwifery Pathway” could be for you. The diploma covers 18 study units which, once completed, will enable you to gain a place at many universities to study for your midwifery degree. You can complete this diploma online through distance learning, allowing you to fit studying around other commitments such as family life and your current working hours.
How much will it cost?
There is a choice of payment options available to you to enrol onto an Access to Higher Education Diploma. You can pay the full sum in total upfront, pay an initial deposit followed by monthly instalments or, you may be eligible for a 19+ Loan and will not have to pay back a penny until you are earning £21,000.
How long will it take to complete?
As you will be completing your Access to Higher Education Diploma through distance study, there is no set timeframe allowing you to fit your studying around your other commitments. The minimum time that a learner is expected to complete the diploma is nine months, with two years being the maximum amount of time. Although it may be tempting to take your time and use the full two years, setting realistic, reachable goals will ensure that you complete your course quickly and will prepare you for university deadlines.
How long does it take to become a fully qualified midwife?
If you are enrolling on an Access to Higher Education Diploma before studying for your degree in Midwifery, the minimum amount of time that it will take for you to become a fully qualified midwife is three years and nine months, with the maximum amount of time being around eight years. Although this may seem like a long time to remain in education, the advantage of distance learning and studying part time is that you can fit your studies around your prior commitments without the extra stress of worrying about childcare or giving up your current job.
Where could your midwifery qualification take you?
As previously mentioned, midwifery is an incredibly varied career path, and once you have qualified, you can focus on a particular area that interests or where you feel that your skills are the strongest.
There are opportunities to specialise in public health, intensive care and parenting education among others as well the chance to tailor your career to suit your lifestyle best, for example, if you don’t think that you will suit working nights, a role as a community midwife could be best.
Other options available to someone with a midwifery qualification include:
- Health Visitor
- General Healthcare Assistant
- Maternity Support Worker
- Specialist Midwife – Bereavement, Teenage Pregnancy, Diabetes
- Ward Manager
- Consultant Midwife
- Voluntary Midwife – abroad
- Antenatal/Postnatal Healthcare Assistant
With a shortage of midwives throughout the UK and a demand for those with the relevant qualifications, now is a great time to start your career in midwifery.
Whether you are deciding which industry to go into for your first job or if you are looking for a change of career, midwifery welcomes applicants from all vocational and educational backgrounds. With an Access to Higher Education Diploma, you can study through online, distance learning from the comfort of your home, around your current commitments and you might not have to pay back a penny until you are earning £21,000.
Midwifery is an empowering, challenging and rewarding role, start your first steps to your new career, here.