Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts about financing school. After many conversations with my colleagues, I am absolutely in the minority on these thoughts – but I have had these same beliefs for over 15 years and they have not steered me wrong. I can also tell you that by not taking out loans, my family and I are better off financially because we don’t have any debt.
Even if you decide to take out loans, these tips will serve you to help save as much money as you can so that you can take out only the money that’s necessary.
Midwifery school is expensive – no matter the path. My graduate degree cost $56,000 in 2012-2014. I paid for $18,000 in cash for my first year of school, while the military paid for the remaining balance. I even have copies of the tuition checks I wrote to remember how hard I worked to get the cash in my checking account before the balances were due.
Before you think I took the easier road without loans, I served in the United States military for a 2.5 year service commitment in return for paying for school (in the end, I served almost 7 years on active service).
With recent inflation and economy swings, I felt this was the right time to share what I would recommend to someone I was having coffee with that was considering a career in midwifery and wondering: “How to do it without thousands of dollars in debt?”
Do not be fooled that the current government administration is going to pay back student loans. Student loan repayment programs in exchange for work are legitimate, but the government is not going to be able to assume your debts.
Now, if loans are how you do it, do it – because we need midwives. But please try to get out of that debt as fast as possible so you can experience the financial freedom on the other side.
With that disclaimer, here are my tips!
1. Make a budget.
We’re going to get nerdy here really fast. After I graduated nursing school, I became a little obsessed with finances and getting out of debt. I spent hours and hours reading or listening to financial experts and decided I would get out of debt and stay out of debt.
Look at your current budget (both monthly and yearly) and see where you can cut some expenses.
- Consider cutting paper towels out of your grocery budget in exchange for reusable dish towels.
- Make all your coffee at home and limit coffee purchases outside the house.
- Make your own lunches at home.
- If you do eat out, eat off the kid’s menu to save money and drink only water.
- Shop at Wal-Mart and stop going into Target (this really saves money!).
- Buy used books or borrow books for school.
- Shop used stores for your clothes and shoes and ask family to gift you things for school for your birthdays or holidays if they are the gift giving type.
Even $5000 a year can add up to $15,000-20,000 over 3-4 years. That is a year of tuition at an average school. It’s the small daily dollars that add up over the years – take time to see where your money is going and where you can cut back.
Not sure how to budget? Check out Dave Ramsey’s How to Budget.
2. Figure out which path is for you and then save, save, save.
Between the time you apply and start midwifery school, most people have about a year. But a lot of people decide to attend midwifery school long before that. A lot of labor and delivery nurses, doulas, women that have had a midwife attend their birth and lactation consultants know they want to be a midwife early in their journeys. Start saving as soon as you set your goal to learn how to be a midwife.
Use these questions to figure out what path might be right for you:
- Which type of midwifery track are you interested in? CPM, CM, or CNM?
- Where do you plan to work? Homebirth, birth centers, clinics, hospitals or a combination?
- Do you want an online or in-person program, or a combination of both?
- Are you willing to move out of state or are you limited to in state options only?
- Do you plan on applying to more than one program? (i.e. a dual certification for Women’s Health or Family Practice with your midwifery degree)
- Do you want a Masters or a Doctorate degree?
- Do you want to secure your own clinical sites or have the schools do it for you?
- If you waited 2 years before applying to school and saved some money, what kind of difference would that make in the amount of loans you take out?
Once you’ve picked out some programs, start doing your research on tuition, books, and other fees across your potential programs – there are ALWAYS extra fees. You should know exactly what your tuition bill is going to look like across each school you are considering applying for.
Lastly, I have two opinions to offer. I offer these opinions because colleges are a business with a financial bottom line. No one at the college is going to offer you these opinions but they can save you thousands of dollars.
My opinion is that no one really cares if you have a Doctor of Nursing Practice and the majority of professionals don’t know what the degree is and aren’t going to pay you more because it’s on your resume. If you just want to catch babies and be a midwife, get your training through a Masters degree and be content with that. Do not let someone convince you that you need to spend $30,000 to get more initials behind your name that will not make a difference to you a newly graduated midwife.
My other opinion is that dual certification is not necessary for midwives because midwives practice women’s health and family practice within their scope. It’s a lot more money at the end of the day for something you can teach yourself or learn your time after graduation with mentors, that is well within your scope of practice. Save yourself the time and money and focus on only your midwifery training.
Again, these are just my opinions.
3. Start your scholarship search.
There are so many scholarships. You might apply for 20 different scholarships and only get one – but all of that money is less money that comes out of your pocket. Most people will create a generic essay and then tailor that generic essay to each scholarship’s specific requirements.
In the monthly newsletter, I try to keep a running list of scholarships in the student section with upcoming dates to help students out. Look to your local nursing and healthcare organizations in your states as well.
4. If possible, work while you are in school.
I worked full time through 90% of my midwifery school because I needed the income to pay for tuition and living. I would go to school all day then work night shifts to accommodate the school and work schedules. I found that the night shift always had more pockets of time to do some homework. And when I could sleep for 12 hours straight during these marathons of work and school, I did. I didn’t have kids at that time so I know that’s not possible for everyone, but most people can do some work while they are in school.
I know some schools tell you not to work in school but I have always disagreed with this. I think a day of work a week is probably fine for most people. More competent or organized individuals could probably work more. Or, during school holidays and breaks you could pick up extra shifts.
Everyone has different stuff on their plates and you have to do what is reasonable. But the hard work is for a short time period and that hustle pays dividends in the future when you can keep more of your paycheck instead of paying off your loans.
5. Sell some stuff or find ways to make some extra cash.
- Host a garage sale and put a sign in your front yard that says: Help me go to midwifery school! Talk about supporting your community.
- Sell your stuff. We all have too much stuff; take a solid look around your house, get yourself an ebay account and start selling. Take clothes, shoes, accessories to local used shops for cash. You can always buy something again in the future if you really need it.
- Be a driver for Uber or Lyft – cash by using your car has never been easier. A couple hours a week can add up.
6. Write out a plan for your expected training.
There is nothing like a map that makes you realize what’s involved in the journey. Sit down with the programs you are interested in and write down how many months the schooling will take you. Factor in living expenses, rent, food, your ability to work or not work, and the help you have around you if needed (family, childcare, ability to work and how often). This should take you a couple hours and you may need to create more than one map based on the schools you are comparing.
Review your plans with your partner and see what you think is best for you. Then get to work.
- Before jumping into midwifery feet first – go shadow a midwife for a few days in clinic and during a labor and delivery shift (if possible!). See the breadth of what a midwife is doing in person and let that echo around your ambitions of midwifery school for a few weeks. Ask the midwife about her schedule, work-life balance and hobbies. People often think midwives catch baby after baby all day – in reality, that’s only about 5% of the job. That 5% is NOT the reason midwives burnout – an important consideration in the profession!
- Consider a part time program plan. Part time offers you benefits such as:
- Smaller course loads each semester (and smaller tuition payments)
- Allowing time for concurrent work or family life
- Maximizing use of employer tuition benefits
- Balancing work and family is difficult in midwifery school but that struggle continues afterwards. Ensure that your partner, family, kids, friends, etc…know your desire to learn the art of midwifery and what kind of lifestyle and schedule that demands after schooling is over. Are you okay with working holidays and nights, as well as shifts from a few hours to 24 hours – sometimes even more depending on your practice? If you don’t want to be awake at 3am, midwifery may not be the best choice for you. About 40% of births happen at night time.
- Take your time to save up for school and take your time working through school. It’s not a sprint. It will be a phase of your life that is full of hard work, late hours, and tired mornings – heck, I started drinking coffee in midwifery school for this reason. But it is a phase that is so worthwhile!
- Think about what kind of community or which city are you planning on practicing in? I’ve practiced in Texas, Colorado, Virginia and Alaska. Every single place has been different. Don’t discount moving out of state to go to school or training. I didn’t want to pay $150,000 for a Doctorate degree in midwifery back in 2012 in Texas, so I moved to Colorado for my training. I stand by that decision today and think it was crucial in the type of training I was able to receive.
- While you’re saving…go to some local midwife gatherings. This is the start of your networking (which is a lifelong endeavor) and midwives are a wealth of knowledge about their community, job opportunities, scholarship prospects (and they’re awesome people).
- For midwifery schooling and scholarship options, check out the MAKE MORE MIDWIVES page and make sure you get the newsletter to stay on top of all of the scholarships and tips that I share each month.
I hope these tips help you wherever you are on your journey.
If I can ever help you on your journey, send me an email: email@example.com. It’s my honor to offer you any wisdom I can.