How to qualify for and find a job as a midwife
Midwifery's a great job to go into – just imagine the scenes you'll be privy to as a dedicated, trained nurse assisting the birth of new families! Practitioners do say it is a vocation (read: hard work for little thanks) but that the rewards greatly outweigh the slog.
11th October 2013
Getting a midwifery job is straight-forward; sure, you'll need to put in the legwork to get there but follow our guide and the process should go swimmingly!
In terms of career path, it's also a versatile and well-paid role which can accommodate any number of interests – from education to community outreach to managerial work to straight-forward midwifery.
Whether you're just starting out and thinking about your A Level choices and how to get a midwifery degree, or a well practised midwife who wants to improve their CV and move up a level, we can help you. So, get that cup of tea, sit back and read on!
How to get a midwifery qualification
We'll start at the very beginning for our midwifery babes-in-arms. Midwifery is a form of nursing and, as such, you need to be reasonably academic. After all, you're caring for people during an incredibly important and complicated period of their health journey and even today in the UK, over 300,000 women die in childbirth every year. Midwifery needs clever people to keep this rate low!
For those of you who need to choose their A Levels, first know that your GCSE performance may affect whether midwifery is an option. Generally, courses want to see at least 5 C's at GCSE with English, Maths and Science all represented. Others want at least 6 and will look down on your application if some aren't at A or B grade.
Access course students or alternative route students are also welcome to apply. Again, this changes for university to university so email to the course leader if you're in any doubt. As a ball-park figure, know that the University of Hertfordshire wants Access students to have 45 Level 3 credits with 30 at Distinction or above. Some universities will not accept anything but GCSEs for English and Maths so do check before you assume your Access course will be sufficient.
When it comes to choosing A Levels for midwifery, course expectations diverge. What is common to most courses we looked at was a marked dislike for General Studies, Key Skills and Critical Thinking. These are all perfectly interesting A Levels but don't contain a great deal of specialised knowledge so don't choose these!
Many courses want to see a science A Level or, at least, prefer a science A Level. Others will want to see at least a B in your science option, regardless of how many points you achieve overall.
Whatever set of A Levels you choose to study, you need to achieve at least 300 UCAS points. This is equivalent to BBB or ABC.
No A Levels? Not a problem. Degree courses will also consider BTECs, Baccalaureates and OCR qualifications, amongst many more. BTECs will likely be expected to be in Health and Social Care, Health Studies or Applied Sciences, with you having achieved three Distinctions or two with one Merit.
For our international readers, Welsh Baccalaureates will require something like a Core pass with AB A Levels, International Baccalaureates at least 28 points, Scottish Highers with ABB grades and OCR qualifications at M1. Remember, these are approximates so carefully check each course you consider!
Finally, grades aside and not including the interview, there will be a few other things you need to demonstrate to get a place on a midwifery course. Course leaders will be looking for all or some of the following:
• Understanding and insight into the world of midwifery.
• A DBS check (the Disclosure and Barring service, formerly Criminal Records Bureau service).
• Taking university numeracy and literacy tests.
• Occupational health checks to ensure fitness for practice and to identify any alterations needed.
• Situational judgement tests.
• Voluntary or paid work in a relevant area.
• For those who have English as a Second Language, an IELTS score of at least 7.0 in all sub-areas of the qualification.
Each course has a UCAS profile detailing their expectations and a university web page that will go into more detail. If you are at all unsure, email or ring the course leader to have a chat about what they want to see.
Midwifery preparation jobs
Like all healthcare roles, you should make sure you definitely want to work in the area. Unsurprisingly, work experience students don't get to be in the labour ward alongside the heaving and straining mum! So what do we do instead?
First of all, any hospital experience will be good – perhaps some time in a ward to get a general feel for the hospital setting. Contact your local hospital's Head of Midwifery and ask if you would be able to get some time within the unit.
Another possibility is to seek more general health care experience. Other wards in a hospital, care or nursing homes and any community outreach that works with mothers and families would be invaluable.
If this isn't possible, a voluntary role at a hospital would be good. You see, it's important to demonstrate that you are eager and willing as well as good with people, friendly and helpful. Nothing shows that off like volunteering in a social provision organisation!
If your hospital's a no-go (and it probably will be because hospital work experience is hard to come by!), try local parent groups, baby cafés or breastfeeding groups. This will make for very grounded and practical experience with your patient cohort.
Another possibility is that of independent midwives or other birth professionals, such as doulas. With any luck and the consent of all involved, you may even be able to attend a home birth!
For those of us with a bit more spare cash, you could instead consider a gap year, volunteering to help with and observe midwifery in other countries. There are dedicated companies online that arrange these kinds of trips with many different packages so shop around and see what you can find.
Finally, if you just can't find any baby or birth-centric experience, try anything that involves social care, support or nursing care. Local homes and support agencies are very likely to be able to help you find something so send out some feelers!
Writing a CV
In the world of job-seeking, your CV is your calling card: the document that lists your skills, your education, your professional development and past roles held. It's incredibly important that you give it the attention it needs so that you can shine through as the right worker for the job.
Not only should you concentrate on your CV out of personal and professional pride, but you must consider the especial expectations that modern job-seeking lays upon a CV.
Firstly, you are one of many. Many, many, many people and a bad CV will get yours discarded straight away. It may be that your formatting is unprofessional, that you've made some silly mistake, that your English isn't up to scratch or that you forgot to include that great placement you did a few years ago which would have made you a shoo-in for the role.
Another problem is that of 'key words'. For jobs that get a lot of applicants, your CV may well be skimmed by either humans or computers looking for particular phrasings or a mention of certain skills, qualities or education.
Again, poorly-written and badly thought-out CVS will be discarded. You've got to take the time to make sure you've included everything that's needed and that it is presented attractively.
So, as CVs are so important, we're going to start at the very beginning. We're going to go so far back to the beginning that it will seem silly but believe me - we see a lot of CVs and boy, do people need to go back to the beginning. I will even admit to checking my CV the other day and finding that I was guilty of something incredibly basic in this category.
First things first, check your contact details! You would be blown away by the number of people who don't remember to add their name, telephone number, home address and email address. These kinds of details are so fundamental that, ironically, they're easy to forget and leave out (I was guilty of not including my email address!).
We recommend starting afresh when writing a shiny new CV so get that document open and start at the top. Enter your name, left-justified and slightly larger than the rest of the writing, and then enter your address, telephone number and email address on the right.
And whilst we're at it, let's think about professional presentation. Is your email address a professional one? Professional emails use only your name as 'handle'; firstname.lastname@example.org ain't going to cut the mustard.
Use one of the reputable and free email services online to make an email address that uses just the standard spelling of your first and last name. If you're having trouble signing up for this because your name is common, use initials, birth year or underscores to make it unique.
Another good thing to check is your voice mail settings. Firstly, is it all properly switched on and working? I lost out on a job once because my phone didn't notify me that I had a voice mail inviting me to interview. That stung, I can assure you!
Similarly, is your voice mail greeting functional and professional? I bought a second-hand phone recently and greatly confused a caller as it still had a message spoken by the opposite sex, giving a totally different name!
Check both of these and if you're in any doubt, ask a friend to check them or listen again, putting yourself in your employer's shoes – would you hire you?
Finally, there are four basic sections that every CV needs before it gets any more complicated; your job history, your professional skills, your education and qualifications and a mention about references.
Add these section headings in this order and where appropriate, copy and paste your details across from before. If you want to rewrite them entirely, that's fine – just put in the headings and read on.
Delicious details—filling your midwifery CV
Whether you're rewriting old content or scribing new stuff from scratch, this section will help you ensure the very best goes under your headings.
Generally, your job history (or 'professional experience', if you're including work experience and placements) is written in reverse chronological order. Start with your most recent or current job and work your way back.
To get a good sense of your experience, employers need to know where and for whom you worked, your job title, start and end dates of the role and a summary of the job.
You shouldn't have more than a few sentences for each job summary. If you have more, pare back as much as you can. Sometimes this is difficult to do but, where in doubt, think about which parts of the job most relate to the one you're applying for and keep anything else short and sweet.
Not everyone has a skills section as some people prefer to keep their skills woven into their job descriptions. For healthcare jobs, however, a skills section is valuable as you can use it to highlight your 'hard skills'; that is, the things you can actually do. In midwifery, these are things like X Y and Z. Don't worry too much about soft skills for this section as these are demonstrated in your cover letter, at interview and after you're employed.
Of course, if you're early on in your career, it's okay to add a few soft skills to pad this out. However, your degree course should have supplied you with plenty of hard skill experience to talk about as well! Bullet points look best for this section.
As with jobs, educational opportunities are written in reverse chronological order. If you've just graduated, this list will start with your degree course and work backwards to your A Levels. Don't worry over much about including your GCSE grades, especially if you're struggling to keep your CV lean – at this stage, they are less important.
Should you be a mature midwife with many courses under your belt, then again work in reverse chronological order and feel free to omit irrelevant courses. Deciding how to get this last part right depends on whether your CV is overflowing or not so do use your judgement in doing so.
Finally, references. Unless the job advert is specific about this, you don't actually need to include details of references. They'll ask for these after inviting you for interview and you've become a viable prospect!
However, right now would be a good time to dash off some polite emails to your references and ensure that they are able to give you a reference!
Getting your CV from rudimentary to riveting
There are three key areas to work on to make sure that your CV makes the grade: your use of English, the way you style your content and the formatting of the document.
Using good English
Hopefully, taking your degree has meant that your writing skills have had a good exercise over the years so you won't be struggling to remember back to GCSE on 'how to write formally'. And there aren't many things you need to do to write a good CV.
First off, check your spelling. Use your word processor's spell-check and make sure it's turned to UK English, rather than US English. Get a friend or relative to read it too – something that might look right to you may be the thing they notice as a glaring no-no!
Secondly, read it out loud to yourself. Properly out loud. This is the absolutely best way to catch any bad sentences. Be careful here as sentence may sounds natural to you and therefore okay, right?
Not necessarily, especially if you're a very informal, relaxed person. Think about how it would sound in someone else's mouth – would it sound right if your old English teacher read it out loud? Or would it sound too formal or informal? You're aiming for formality without pomposity.
Thirdly, be careful to avoid the passive voice and redundancies. The passive voice can seem like it's the most formal way to write but it isn't for CVs. You shouldn't be writing things like 'A 3 year course in midwifery was taken by me from 2008-2011'; it should be ' I took a 3 year midwifery course between 2008 to 2011.'.
See how the 'subject' (that is, you!) goes at the front of the sentence, rather than at the end? That's writing in the active voice and it sounds much better. Newspapers write in the passive voice. You write in the active voice!
Avoiding the passive voice goes hand-in-hand with avoiding redundancies. For instance, it's easy to clog up job descriptions with phrases like 'Duties included', 'Role included' or ' I was responsible for.....'. These are redundant – obviously, the things you are writing about are the things that you had to do in your job!
This is important not only because it makes for a better read but because space is always at a premium in CVs. It's just about acceptable to go to 2 pages of A4 these days but anything more than that is too much!
Styling your content
When it comes to entering your information, it's important to make it readable. We're not only worrying about what you're putting in but also how you present it. Have a look at what you've written for your job descriptions and skills section. If you've got several longer sentences, it's okay to keep these as a short paragraph (although if any sentence longer than 20 or so words, you should split them into two sentences).
Alternatively, if you're a lean, mean writing machine and your sentences are very short, you can consider using bullet points. These are a lovely way of making your information exceptionally readable and punchy.
Finally, we need to consider the way your document looks. Paper should always be white or a pale off-white with the font in black – no exceptions. This is a formal document and flashy colours aren't appropriate. In British CVs, we also don't include personal pictures and, for heaven's sake, don't use any 'funky' clip art.
Fonts need to be at a 10 or 12-point weight and of a standard and widely-used format, like Arial, Times New Roman or Verdana. Some people have a bit of a bugbear about Comic Sans as they find it unattractive – you may wish to avoid this. Also, make sure you save it as a .doc file – these are the most universally easy documents to open.
Lastly, make sure your CV isn't overflowing with earnest snippets of information. 'White space' is your friend.
White space is the gaps around your paragraphs.
Like that, see? It's a real boon in any writing outside of academia because you're giving people (literally) space to think. When writing's crammed into small spaces, our brains switch off.
Present each morsel in an attractive mini-package, wrapped with white space, and the reader will thank you. Obviously, balance this with the need to keep your CV under 2 pages as well. Creative use of line-spacing or minimising the font size of blank lines may help you here.
Writing your cover letter
When I was a nipper, I thought cover letters were stupid. I thought they were thankless, repetitive jobs, designed to suck the job-seeking soul from me. Why, oh why, did we have to write a letter that basically restated the same things from the CV? It turned out that no-one had properly explained cover letters to me. A cover letter is your chance to really emphasise just how and why you will be the best choice for the job. Try using these sections in order to make your cover letter a powerhouse of persuasion.
Why do you want this job?
To start, you need to get them fired up – tell them all about your passion for this position. Why do you want this job? Why didn't you go for that other one? What makes this role special? Hopefully, you should have at least some idea about this!
How your CPD matches it
Next, draw their attention to all the ways in which you've already shown responsibility and have trained in exactly what they're looking for! Don't worry if you're new to midwifery because your degree will have provided you with placements you can use in lieu of continued professional development. Read through the job specification and find the requirements you can demonstrate previous experience in.
What you hope the role will bring
Towards the end of your cover letter, you can start to personalise it with a little enthusiasm! You already know why you want this job and it's likely you've dreamt of it over the years. This next short paragraph is where you tell your prospective employer about your hopes.
If you want to get some specific training from it, tell them. Alternatively, if you think a certain facet of the experience it brings will help you in specialising, tell them that. Or perhaps you're just really passionate about the kind of work they do (e.g. providing community education). Don't gush or get scary about it but do show some passion.
Lastly, you can tell them a little about yourself. A little amuse-bouche of personal qualities to give them an appetite for meeting them. If you're a highly organised type, tell them about that. If you're exceptionally friendly and find it very easy to put patients at ease, let them know. Again, as above, don't go over the top. Just give them a couple of sentences that helps them get a feel for the kind of worker you are.
Your cover letter should end with an invitation for contact. Remind them of your telephone number and email address so they can swiftly contact you with any queries.
General preparation for interviewing
Every interview requires a certain amount of preparation, regardless of whether it involves midwifery. If you're feeling confident, midwifery-specific preparation is below; If not, consider the next 5 headings as a check-list that allows your attention to avoid the mundane needs of interview and focus on putting your best foot forward!
Check your route
It's really important that you check your route. If it's somewhere you've never been before (and you have time), doing a dummy run may not be the craziest idea. At the very least, check a map and get a feel for the area. Another issue you may not have thought of is checking to ensure there are no unusual road closures or transport changes. If you get public transport, check the provider's website and the council's site to make sure nothing untoward had been planned. If you're driving, make sure your fuel tank is full the day before.
Clothes and grooming
Another simple piece of preparation: getting your outfit ready the day before. This is worth prioritising early on as you may decide you need a haircut or to go to the dry cleaner. Start thinking about this during the earlier stages of job application to ensure everything is definitely ready before invitations start coming in.
I don't think this bit of advice is given often enough in job-seeking advice. De-stress a bit! The evening before, do something that's going to make you happy. Half a bottle of wine, a good film, a long bath, a manicure, seeing friends....whatever will relax you and make you feel like a confident, worthy individual who deserves that midwifery job, gosh-darn it!
Yes, I know role playing is tooth-grindingly, achingly awkward and horrible but it's a really, really good idea. Get a friend (perhaps with that bottle of wine) and have a dry run. By doing this, you can get all your silly little mistakes out of the way and address them before they become crucial. Fiddling, excessive umm-ing and ahh-ing and correct levels of eye contact are all things you can sort out with a role play.
Positivity is another important trait for your friend to look out for. Us Brits don't always find that positivity comes naturally – after all, we're socially trained to see any pride in ourselves as excessive boasting. So, be careful. It's okay to want to stay modest but you must be sure that you don't frame all your replies as self-deprecatory whinging. Stay modest but stay confident in yourself too.
Check for competency tests
Competency tests are not a given for every interview but in sectors like healthcare, it's very possible. These will also depend on the kind of midwifery job you're applying for but they may appear. Ring ahead and double-check if nothing is mentioned in the information they sent you.
Another very important part of interview preparation is getting your information up and together. This is imperative for those who want to avoid the dreaded umm-ing and ahh-ing. The aim here is not to write a script that you stick to rigidly, regardless of actual questions asked. Instead, you're looking to compile your information in a simple and accessible way that you can draw on as needed.
First, have a look at the organisation's website. Who are they, why do they do what they do and what are they trying to do? Have any big changes recently been announced? Or have they had to respond to media attention of late?
It's likely that the interviewer will ask your opinion on a related aspect so find out what it could be in advance and think of an appropriate answer. It is also very likely that they will have a CQC report or similar. Dig out the last one, read through for any controversial areas and see if there's an organisational response to addressing said issues.
Your skills, abilities, experiences and knowledge
This is the beefier job in interview preparation and so, so, so important. Devote a couple of hours to this and Future You will be very grateful. Every question at interview is designed to test the above (along with your soft skills) so having some idea of your answer beforehand will be really useful.
Skills are your 'hard skills' – the actual useful things you can do as a worker, like equipment use and procedure competence. Abilities run alongside experience to show that you have actually achieved and performed the skills you claim and finally, knowledge refers to the areas you know about.
You can either approach this information gathering via these four categories or try applying them to each role, placement and study you've had. The latter is probably the best way of doing this if you're a Thorough Theodore.
A nice way of corralling all these is to use STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Response. By using these categories, you will cover every part of information your interviewer could want to know: in what context did your experience happen, what were you meant to do, what did you do and what happened after?
The STAR method also works well for assembling good answers to everything else: questions about your previous job roles, education and placements, future goals and, that classic, your biggest weakness.
Preparing for a midwifery interview
As an applicant for a very specific, professional role, there are a couple of things to think about that will really help your application!
First, if possible, make a pre-interview visit to the unit or organisation. Contact them and see if the Ward Manager or relevant manager is available to do so. This is a nice way of getting a feel for the ward culture (e.g. is it hyper-strict and professional or a bit more relaxed?) and for making a list of any intelligent questions you want to ask at interview.
In the interview itself, you will get asked on your ideas about a variety of things relating to midwifery so get preparing!
• It's likely you'll be asked about the difference between midwifery and nursing.
• You'll probably be asked about recent midwifery-related events in the news (or maybe any event in the news, so start paying attention if you don't already!)
• You may be asked about recent government policies that will affect midwifery – again, keep up to date and form an opinion!
• Your reflections and expectations on what day-to-day-midwifery involves.
• Harder questions regarding various clinical scenarios – for example, complications, conditions not compatible with life, co-morbidity or colleagues in conflict.
What Midwifery CPD is available?
CPD for midwives is varied and widely available. The NMC requires you to undertake 35 hours of CPD every three years – not too arduous! You also have to keep a good record and comply if they decide to audit your CPD record. This is separate from your prep practice standard (that is, post-registration education and practice) of 450 hours of practice a year.
This CPD is non-negotiable. You must complete it in order to stay registered with the NMC and therefore able to practice. Undoubtedly, your natural interest in midwifery will mean that you undertake plenty of CPD anyway!
One option is to undertake further education by going back to university and completing an M.A. or Ph.D. in the area. Different universities offer a range of post-graduate study in different areas so visit UCAS and shop around!
If you don't have time to commit to a full course, there are many modules and open days on offer from universities too. For instance, courses on sexual health, mothers that become seriously ill during pregnancy, screening, clinical skills, international studies, and mental health are all provided across the country.
Whichever option you choose to pursue, there's plenty of choice!
Typical midwifery career progression
Career progression depends greatly on the aspect of midwifery you are most interested by! You may:
- specialise in an area of midwifery, like breast-feeding, home birthing or screening
- strengthen your general midwifery capabilities to move up to consultant level and improve general practice
- move into management and facilitate midwifery provision for your organisation
- become involved in specialist voluntary roles e.g. working abroad to support other countries in developing their midwifery
- education and research as a lecturer, trainer or academic
- community-based roles, such as becoming a health visitor
Should you decide to stay as a standard midwife, working their way up the NHS ladder, the NHS describes the available path as roughly:
Midwife - Delivery suite manager - Head of midwifery - Consultant - Director of maternity services.
By the time, you get to Delivery Suite Manager, you're looking at a salary of between £40,000 and £50,000!
Best of luck!
So, whatever your standing on the midwifery ladder, we hope this article has clearly laid out your next steps. Whatever role you're aiming for, use our guide to look for the best job postings, get your CV squeaky-clean, write a powerful cover letter and wow them at interview. We know you'll do well—good luck!