Midwife Versus Obstetrician: Differences and Similarities

January 13, 2014

Babies are beloved everywhere, and so it’s no surprise that many people considering a medical career want to work with expecting mothers. It’s important to decide how you want to achieve this admirable goal – will you work as a midwife or as an obstetrician?  Here are some things to consider before you begin your journey:


The amount of time it takes to become a midwife is considerably less than that of an obstetrician.  You can begin working in midwifery as soon as you earn your associate degree.  Ultimately, you will have to return to school to earn your Master’s degree to become a nurse-midwife, but you’ll already be immersed in the field of midwifery.

Gap medics student George assisting the midwife on placement in TanzaniaBecoming an obstetrician takes substantially longer amount of training due to the specialized nature of this career path.  You’ll pursue four years of undergraduate study, then another four years of medical school.  Afterwards, your residency will entail another four year stint.  At the end of these twelve years of training and practice, you will be officially certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology as an obstetrician.  

Day-to-Day Routine and Responsibilities

Both the midwife and obstetrician have a number of similar responsibilities.  Both provide routine check-ups on their pregnant patients. They both order tests that monitor their patients’ (and babies’) health, including ultrasounds and blood screenings.

A midwife’s ability to provide care ends when a patient’s pregnancy becomes complicated.  Only an obstetrician can perform pregnancy-related surgery, such as a caesarean section, or handle multiple births.  While a midwife can be present, she is not certified to attend to complicated pregnancies.

In addition, midwives and obstetricians view pregnancy and delivery in philosophically different ways.  For obstetricians, this experience is a clinical one that is best managed as a medical condition treated at a hospital; midwives generally view pregnancy as a natural state monitored in a minimally intrusive environment, such as a home or birthing center.  

Job Market and Salary

Caring for new borns at Nakornping Hospital Obstetrics and Gynaecology departmentThe fields of midwifery and obstetrics are poised to grow 25% over the next ten years, meaning that both of these careers will be highly in demand.  Salaries, however, are dramatically different.  The average midwife earns up to $70,000 per year; the average obstetrician brings home a much higher annual salary of $290,000.  These salary differences are due to the high-risk nature of an obstetrician’s work, risks that the midwife is not trained in or certified to take.

Before you begin a career bringing babies into the world, consider whether becoming a midwife or obstetrician is right for you.  What is your philosophy about the birth experience? How long are you willing to commit to school? Are you willing to supervise and see through a high-risk pregnancy with all its complications, or are you more interested in a more hands-off approach to pregnancy?  Once you can answer these questions, you’ll know which medical path is right for you.  Whatever choice you make, your primary job will be making women feel comfortable and confident as they deliver their new bundles of joy. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.