Doula Education and Careers

Learn how to become a doula with the right education program.

doula practices massage on expectant mother

A doula provides information, physical and emotional support, and advocacy for women and their partners during and after the birth process.

Unlike other practitioners such as obstetricians, nurses, and nurse-midwives, those with doula training do not give medical advice or have clinical duties.

However, they provide critical support and assistance during labor and birth, making the process easier for the midwife and the mother-to-be.

Career Overview

“Doula” is a word coined from ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves.” And whether a doula is male or female, that is what a professional with doula training does—helps the mother and her family during birth or the postpartum period.

A birth doula provides emotional support during labor and assists with breathing, positioning and relaxation.

A postpartum doula supports the entire family during the transition of caring for a new baby, providing education and information as well as newborn care and household assistance. Doulas may be hired directly by clients, they may work for a clinic or hospital, or they may be volunteers.

Education for Doulas

What You’ll Study in Doula School

If you’re wondering how to become a doula, the answer is easy: certification and doula training. A birth doula must attend childbirth education, breastfeeding and birth doula classes, as well as observe a specified number of births.

A postpartum doula also studies principles of home visitation and how to care for infants and mothers. Both types of doula will learn about cultural diversity, ethics and business practices.

Average Length of Doula Study

Typically, a birth doula needs to finish 7 to 12 hours of childbirth education, 16 hours of birth doula training, and attend at two to five births. A postpartum doula usually attends about 27 hours of postpartum doula education and assists two or more women with postpartum support. Some distance learning programs are available.

Average Doula School Tuition

Childbirth education and doula training courses generally cost between $300 and $500 total. There may also be additional expenses associated with breastfeeding classes, reading materials, organization membership, and certification fees.

Doula Certification

Doula certification is available from doula training programs and childbirth education organizations, such as DONA International or Birth Arts International.

Though it’s not always required, certification can open up a wider range of job opportunities and instill confidence in your clients. In particular, if you are looking for work with a hospital or birth center, you will need to hold appropriate professional credentials.

Some take it one step further by obtaining a massage therapy certification and specializing in infant massage, thus becoming Certified Massage Doulas. This allows them to offer prenatal massage therapy as a service.

Career Outlook

The career forecast is positive for those with doula training. Midwives and nurse-midwives are in increasing demand, with the practice of nurse-midwifery legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives reports that their goal was to have 20% of non-Cesarean births attended by nurse-midwives by 2020. DONA International, which is just one of several professional doula organizations, has more than 6,000 members from around the world.

Doula Salary

A doula’s salary varies greatly depending on geographic location, how much training and experience you have, and how many hours of work you do per week. However, fees for birth doulas generally run between $250 and $1000.

Many doulas choose to advance their skills and become registered nurses. You can search for nurse midwife salaries by state here:

Sources: American College of Nurse-Midwives, Birth Arts International, Childbirth International, DONA International, InnerBody.com, MyMidwife.org, Expert Q&A, Pregnancy Today, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291161.htm.