Becoming a Doula: Training and Certification Requirements

Do you have a natural inclination towards offering care and support? Are you enthusiastic about infants and observing their entrance into the world?

If so, being a doula could very well be the fulfilling career path you’ve been searching for! But wait a second — don’t you need medical qualifications to become a doula?

Do doulas go to medical school? Though doulas are not required to attend medical school, many doulas hold some form of certification in the form of educational training and workshops with organizations like DONA International and reputable online programs.

A medical background may not be a legal requirement to become a doula, but if you’re serious about pursuing this kind of role, it can be hugely beneficial to your personal development and your clients to get everything you can out of the training process.

If you’re interested in learning even more about doulas, be sure to our Top Questions About Doulas article.

Now, let’s look at what is needed to become a fully certified doula, plus how much you can expect to earn, insurance concerns, and more.

What Is Required To Become a Doula

Certificates and hours of training are not strictly required to become a doula, but possessing the proper credentials helps inspire confidence in potential employers and clients that you are devoted to providing women and families with this unique kind of support.

Here’s what becoming a doula can entail.

Doula Education Requirements

Depending on the type of doula role you wish to fulfill, you may be required to observe a specified number of births and attend classes on childbirth education (for birth doulas).

You may also attend breastfeeding classes, study home visitation principles, and attend classes or workshops on how to care for infants and mothers (for postpartum doulas).

Doula Training and Certification

Doula training can take the form of online distance learning, in-person tutoring, or both, and it can see you work through modules on the challenges of perinatal care, birth, feeding, etc. as well as shadowing an experienced doula, reading literature, attending webinars, and more.

It’s recommended that choose a doula training workshop that has been approved by DONA International, the world’s largest doula training and certification organization, to certify that your training has met the highest professional standards.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Doula?

It can take around 16 hours of in-class doula training. This may be spread over an intensive few days or a more expansive course and doesn’t include the hours attending births, self-paced reading, and study time.

Ultimately though, the length of doula training varies for different organizations and will depend on which aspect of doula training you wish to study (antenatal, birth, or postpartum doula).

A doula helps a pregnant lady do exercises using an exercise ball.

How Much Does It Cost To Become a Doula?

Using the latest online training programs as an example, prices can start at around $150 for basic birth doula training programs and up to $1,000-$4,000+ for more advanced training courses that offer complete programs that include breastfeeding and infant massage training and certification, for example, which can widen your career prospects as a trained doula.

Doula Insurance

Doulas should ideally be covered by general liability insurance in addition to professional liability (which includes malpractice as a subset).

As doulas are not licensed to carry out any kind of medical procedures, prescribe medications, or provide medical advice, professional liability is advisable but not always a requirement.

Depending on which state you live in, doula insurance of this kind may cost between $100-$200 for yearly coverage.

Can Doulas Work Independently?

Absolutely! Certified doulas have the option to set their own working schedule and control their client load.

They must also incur the cost of their own legal fees, marketing costs, insurance, and other expenses. Here’s a great post about working as an independent doula.

Doula Certification Online

For those without access to a local doula workshop or hospital-run program in their area, there are many online organizations, such as New Beginnings Doula Training, that run training programs complete with certification equivalent to a one-year course at a traditional college.

What Is the Best Certification for a Doula?

According to the career expert Zippia, an ICD Doula Certification awarded by ICEA (International Childbirth Education Association) came out on top, followed by a Birth Doula Certification from DONA International (based on an analysis of job postings).

How To Become a Certified Doula

If you have the passion for it, you can easily become a certified doula in the following steps:

  1. Apply for a doula training program or workshop (ideally one approved by DONA International).
  2. Attend a short admissions interview.
  3. Start your in-person course or a part-time online program at your own pace.
  4. Attend at least one in-person childbirth education class.
  5. Receive your hard-earned certification!

In the meantime, soak up all you can by attending doula circles and baby fairs, shadowing experienced doulas, and talking to pregnant women to complement your training.

Postpartum Doula Training

Postpartum doula training encompasses all aspects of post-birth care, including (but not limited to) assisting the new parents with coping skills, aiding the mother’s physical recovery, and providing support with breastfeeding and latching issues.

Training will include classroom and in-person practice as you work closely with families, learning hands-on techniques about the mother’s postpartum care.

A team member will evaluate your hands-on progress and you may be asked to complete additional coursework or exams relating to the postpartum transition.

How Much Do Doulas Make?

A doula’s annual salary may range anywhere between $40,000 and over $100,000 depending on where you live, your experience level, skills, training, and certification.

How Much Do Doulas Make an Hour?

Most doulas will set their own hourly rate based on experience or prefer to charge a flat rate for every birth they attend.

Depending on the working location, doulas could make $20 or upwards of $65 per hour.

How Much Do Doulas Make Per Birth?

According to the Wildwood Birth Collective, it’s not uncommon for birth doulas to charge a flat rate per birth of between $500 and $2,000 based on experience and training.

Data from the International Doula Institute highlights the typical range in flat fees per birth based on large city locations and smaller rural areas.

Related Questions:

Are Doulas Covered by Medicaid?

As of 2022, at least 17 US states are in the various stages of consideration, planning, or implementation of Medicaid doula reimbursements with six states actively reimbursing for doula services under Medicaid, according to the National Health Law’s Doula Medicaid Project.

Where Do Doulas Work?

Doulas typically work in hospitals, birth centers, healthcare clinics, and private practices.

Birth and labor doulas specifically may also work for or in partnership with organizations that offer childbirth and pregnancy guidance in the local community.

Conclusion

In summary, becoming a certified doula starts with having a passion for caring for and supporting new mothers and their babies.

After this, it’s up to you to expand on your knowledge and inherent skills through training and relevant classes and by observing births.

Doula education can look different depending on where you live, your budget, and what you wish to get out of doula training.

While it’s not critical for prospective doulas to have a medical background, working toward those credentials will open up new career avenues for you. Good luck on your doula training journey!