Shadowing a Doctor

September 16, 2016

No matter how much medicine evolves, childbirth is a fact of life – and with nearly 40,000 people registered as midwives in the UK, your future career path means joining a great big family! 

How to Become a Midwife

Before you leap into your future career, there’s the small matter of your midwifery course and degree. Typically, courses last three years full-time and include the elements of lectures, tutored sessions, exams, coursework, and practical experience – all of these are vital to developing the skills you need to excel in your future career.

So what should you prepare yourself for? We’ve put together our ultimate guide to how to become a midwife in the UK.

What to Expect from Your Midwifery Course

Course Requirements

The course requirements for each midwifery degree will differ slightly depending on the university you choose. Generally, admissions panels will expect a good A Level grade in a science subject, such as biology. As midwives require top-quality communication skills, some will also ask for a qualification in English language as well.

If you have taken different A Levels or have none at all, you can still study midwifery by completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma (often called an HE or access course). Check out our post here which explains these in more detail.

Don’t forget – as well as having the necessary qualifications, you will need to write a personal statement. You may be invited for an interview as well!

Content and Structure

What you learn on a midwifery course can be classed into one of these fields:

  • Preparing for midwifery: anatomy
    These will be modules about the science of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Preparing for midwifery: communication
    These modules will prepare you for the non-clinical skills you need to become a midwife – including communication, teamwork, and personal resilience. You may also be interested in taking modules about the societal or cultural factors surrounding pregnancy and birth. 
  • Placement
    Depending on your university and year of study, you will spend a proportion of your week on placement shadowing qualified midwives. As your knowledge and skill set increases, so will your involvement in the births that you see.

Hours of study

Which? University states that the average number of ‘contact’ hours midwifery students will have is around 14 per week, although this can be as high as 20 or as low as 13.  Like many other courses, students will be expected to use a proportion of their free time doing extra reading and completing assignments.

Your placement days, meanwhile, will often reflect the varied hours that a midwife can work – including night shifts!


Courses will be assessed through a combination of written exams, assignments and practical tests. The proportion of each will depend on your year of study, and your university.


Case study:

Course length
3 years, full-time

Between 10% and 20% of your time each year is spent in lectures, with placements in your first and third years.

There are only written exams in your first year. Your final assessments are approximately 75% coursework and 25% practical examination.



Where Should I Study Midwifery?

One of the biggest considerations of your university experience will be where you are going to study. There are lots of factors to bear in mind: location, course content, class size, and how successful graduates are in gaining employment. It’s important to weigh all of these up before you make your decision!

Here are some of the top universities to take a midwifery course:


Keele University has a great midwifery course with emphasis placed on studying ‘on-the-job’ – over half of your time in each year is spent on placement.
Find out more here


Huddersfield’s midwifery placements were rated ‘outstanding’ by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Find out more here


100% of the University of Bradford’s 2015 midwifery graduates had gone on to employment or further study within six months of graduating.
Find out more here

Edge Hill

Edge Hill’s midwifery course is 50% practical and 50% theory, and includes an elective placement which can be taken abroad.
Find out more here


Students studying midwifery in Nottingham can expect to undertake work shadowing in one of the five large NHS hospital trusts in the surrounding area.
Find out more here


Your final grade at Coventry is calculated from at least 50% work shadowing, and students spend an hour one-on-one with their supervisor every week.
Find out more here

Oxford Brookes

The midwifery programmes at Oxford Brookes have been accredited as Baby Friendly by UNICEF.
Find out more here

Sheffield Hallam

Sheffield Hallam has purpose-built accommodation for student midwives, including clinical suites with mock birthing facilities.
Find out more here


In 2014, 100% of midwifery graduates achieved a 2.1 or first class degree.
Find out more here


Students at the University of Surrey become a member of the midwifery community in one of five local NHS trusts.
Find out more here

Once You’ve Graduated

If you work hard and excel at your course, you should have no trouble finding graduate employment. However, some universities – either because of their careers advice service or their good reputation – have a higher rate of successful employment than others. It may not be a huge difference, but it’s definitely something to consider if you’re stuck between two great universities.

Most universities display these statistics publicly on their websites, but you can also use popular league tables such as The Guardian’s Good University Guide. 

Postgraduate Opportunities

Your midwifery course will put you in excellent standing to tackle the majority of cases you will see in your career. However, some midwives choose to take further study and increase their knowledge of a certain issue or demographic. Here are some examples:

Midwifery: Advanced practice, King’s College London

International Midwifery Studies, Edge Hill University

Midwifery: Contemporary Healthcare, Plymouth University

You could also study for a PhD in a research area you feel particularly passionate about.

Work Experience for Aspiring Midwives

Now that you’re a step closer to choosing your perfect midwifery course, it’s time to make sure you get an offer from them. The best way to do this is to show them your dedication – our work shadowing placements run 52 weeks a year in destinations across four continents, so whatever your schedule and wherever you live, there’s a placement to make your midwife dreams a reality.

Get in touch with us to find out more or secure your spot!


Case study:


“I just wanted to say a big thank you to Gap Medics – especially the team in Africa for a fantastic work experience placement back in July 2013. My work experience was pivotal in giving me the confidence to pursue my career in midwifery. I am now graduating with a first class honours in midwifery, and I start my first job as a registered midwife next month in London. THANK YOU!”

Aimée Humphreys


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.