Getting started as a Childbirth Educator
Becoming a childbirth educator is an exciting and rewarding path, but not necessarily a straightforward one. Unless you work for a hospital or an organization which provides you with training requirements, a curriculum and materials, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the different career paths available to you, or you may not know even where to begin. Becoming a childbirth educator is, in essence, starting your own business, and it is important to take a long look at your goals, interests and lifestyle to determine exactly how childbirth education fits into your plans. It is also important to determine what audience you hope to reach as you begin your business and ensure that you have, or will develop, the skills and knowledge needed to best serve your potential clients. This article will give you a starting point on your journey to teaching childbirth classes, one of the most rewarding and important jobs you could choose.
First, consider some of the logistics of teaching:
Do I have time in my schedule to start teaching classes?
You will need to decide how many classes you will teach in a course (or how many hours of instruction per course), how long you will meet for each class (the total course hours divided by the number of classes), and factor in the time spent planning, organizing, and preparing for class, as well as the time spent interacting with clients outside of class. If, for example, you teach a 6-week class with each class lasting two hours, you will likely spend 5 or more hours per week (and maybe much more for your first few courses).
Where will I teach?
Many educators teach from their home. Consider whether you have the space you will need for everyone to gather, where your family can go during class, and factor in the time to clean and prepare your space each week. You can also explore the idea of partnering with a local business and teaching in their space (in exchange for marketing, an hourly fee or a percent of your course fee). Other locations to explore include community centers, schools, daycares or churches. Research the requirements and regulations for the facility and factor in any cost you will need to pay to use the facility.
How will I market myself and get students?
This is probably one of the biggest challenges that a brand-new educator will face. If you become certified, your certifying body may have a directory on their website where you can be listed, but these are usually nation-wide and may or may not be helpful in getting you clients. You will probably want to look into a wide range of other online directories for childbirth educators and doulas (as they often go hand-in-hand). Some options include childbirthexperts.com, americanpregnancy.org, babyprofinder.com, naturalbabypros.com and choicesinchildbirth.org. Create a free or low-cost, simple website for yourself that lists information about your class content and schedule. In addition, it is usually helpful to create brochures, fliers and/or business cards for yourself to distribute locally. Consider taking your marketing materials to the offices of doctors, midwives, chiropractors, as well as places like preschools, YMCAs, and other locations that may be frequented by young couples and parents.
Consider the financial costs, potential income and process before committing yourself:
Can I afford the startup costs?
While it is possible to keep costs low, there will inevitably be some cost involved in getting started. This might include the cost of training and/or certification, travel expenses to get to and from training, teaching materials such as workbooks, handouts, a curriculum, visual aids, etc., and the cost of designing and printing marketing materials. It is not necessary to feel like you have to have everything right away, but some materials will be necessary. Plumtree Baby has created an “Educator Starter Kit” that we feel has the most essential elements to get the ball rolling or you can start small and add supplies as you go.
How much will I make as an educator?
This varies tremendously. Educators who are well established and offer a steady schedule of classes can make a decent part-time income, while others may find that for the first year or so, their classes are small and not profitable. Depending on the length of the class, the depth of information covered and your expertise, you may find you can charge anywhere from $40 to $400 for each couple. Look at other childbirth education classes in your area and compare fees. As you become more established, you may be able to raise your fees to reflect your experience.
Should I be certified and if so, with which organization?
It is important to understand that there is no universal governing body that regulates childbirth education, in the way that careers such as nurses or public school teachers are regulated. A “certified” childbirth educator has completed some sort of program, but these programs and certifying bodies vary widely.
If you are teaching independently, there is no requirement that you need to be certified in order to teach. Anyone can write up lesson plans, make a schedule, and hold classes. There are, however, certain benefits to the training you receive from an organization, as well as maintaining an ongoing membership with an organization. Certifying organizations provide you with a community of other educators, resources, and some organizations provide very specific and detailed curriculum and materials. Your certifying body may also keep you motivated to continuously learn and improve, as continuing education credits are usually required every few years as part of your renewal requirements. If you work for another business (such as a hospital), they will likely have requirements for your certification and may only hire those who are certified through certain organizations. The primary drawbacks to certification are the cost and time, and some organizations restrict the materials and content of their educators, which does not allow for as much individuality or flexibility in your classes, but does maintain a uniformity to the method/program. Other organizations allow educators to create a course that best fits their clients’ needs, using materials and a course format of the educator's choosing.
The table below summarizes many of the certifying organizations that are available in the U.S.* In order to make the best decision for yourself and your goals, it is wise to contact and speak in person with a representative of the organization before committing to one, as well as talking with other educators who have gone through the process of training and certification. Philosophies, approaches and regulations vary widely.
*This list is intended to give you a starting point and is not guaranteed to be completely comprehensive. See the organizations’ websites for more information.
**Some organizations offer modified programs or fewer requirements for individuals who are in the healthcare field, or who have experience or other certifications.
***These are estimates based on information found on the organization’s website or from educators who have recently gone through the program. Most organizations have a “membership” or “enrollment” fee in addition to the one-time cost of training.
Though it may take awhile to sort through all of the organizations, teaching locations and other considerations, it will be worth it as you begin your journey as a childbirth educator. As we tell our clients, education and information bring empowerment and clearer direction. Your own time researching and reflecting will help you to be more confident in your choices, know where and how to market yourself and be ready to welcome clients into your first class. Educators, we would love to hear from you about your experience with training/certifying, getting start teaching or any other advice you may have to offer those who are just starting out.
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