4 Steps to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse (2024)

Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses are unique among the different types of nurses because they have a very specific job: to help deliver healthy babies and get moms through the process safely. In essence, they are doing what some might consider the most important nursing job of all — bringing new lives into this world. Read on to find out how to become a labor and delivery nurse, the education requirements, the average labor and delivery nurse salary, and more.

What Is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

L&D nurses begin as registered nurses (RNs) and may become nurse practitioners or other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). But ultimately, they pursue some level of specialty training to help pregnant women deliver babies.

Unlike many general staff RN jobs, where the kind of patient care you administer runs the gamut, L&D nurses have a very specific function – working with women about to give birth.

While most labor and delivery nurses work in hospitals, more and more birthing centers are opening throughout the country.

For anyone who's interested in becoming a labor and delivery nurse, the good news is that position will always be in demand, whether it's in a hospital, birthing center, or clinic. You can choose this fulfilling and gratifying career track by gaining experience as a registered nurse and specializing in L&D.

4 Steps to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse (1)

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

L&D nurses work with just a few expectant mothers per day, monitoring their progress and handling whatever new development comes their way.

After birth, they continue to care for the mothers until they are released from the hospital. This care is more complex for mothers who give birth via C-section or have other medical complications.

Some of the primary responsibilities of an L&D nurse include:

  1. Monitoring both the baby’s and mother’s vital signs, including heart rate and blood pressure
  2. Timing contractions
  3. Identifying and assisting with handling complications
  4. Helping to administer medications and epidurals
  5. Aiding in inducing labor
  6. Coaching new mothers throughout the duration of the labor and delivery
  7. And, of course, there’s also a lot of hand-holding, encouragement, and comforting going on in birthing rooms as well.
4 Steps to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse (2)

Why I Love Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse

"As a labor and delivery nurse, I am a part of someone's birth story three nights a week. Whether it is the most joyful moment or one full of sorrow and grief, it is my job to step into their vulnerability and provide the best care. This specialty is full of ups and downs, but the connection that I have with my patients will continue to be my why."

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary

The median annual salary for all RNs is$81,220 per year, or $39.05 per hour,according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2022, though conditions vary by area. Labor and Delivery nurses will typically earn around that salary, with some earning more, depending on the location and type of institution. Those with advanced skills and experience can earn more as well.

Highest Paying States for Labor and Delivery Nurses

$130,215/yr or $62.60/hr
New Jersey
$129,803/yr or $62.41/hr
$128,800/yr or $61.92/hr
Massachusetts $127,754/yr or $61.42/hr
$127,625/yr or $61.36/hr

Source: ZipRecruiter

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

1. Become a Registered Nurse

Before you can specialize or choose to remain in a particular hospital unit like L&D, you must first become a registered nurse. To do so, you must graduate from a study program that your State Nursing Board approves. Many registered nurses earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or complete anassociate degree program.

2. Pass the NCLEX

Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN. From there, you can begin practicing and look for opportunities to gain experience in L&D units.

3. Advance Your Education

Additional education is required beyond the RN degree program to advance in this career. Some choose to becomenurse practitioners in obstetrics and gynecology. These highly specialized nurses are needed to handle high-risk patients, special circ*mstances, and complications.

Another route L&D nurses can take is to become certified nurse-midwives. That requires earning certified nurse-midwife and certified midwife designations through the American Midwifery Certification Board.

4. Earn Certifications

Another way to bolster your credentials as an RN is to earn a certification in your field of interest. For L&D nurses, that would usually be the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification through the National Certification Corporation. Becoming a certified labor and delivery nurse can give you an edge and make you more marketable.

>> Explore L&D Certification Review Materials*

What is the Career Outlook for Labor and Delivery Nurses?

With so many nurses coming into retirement age in the next decade, the nursing shortage is here to stay for a long time. And because L&D nursing is physically demanding, requiring long shifts, it’s particularly suited for new nurses who have to, in a sense, labor right alongside their patients.

In other words, as far as job prospects go, specializing in L&D will help power up your job security even more. To get an idea of just how many nurses will be needed, consider that theBureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, equating to almost 177,400 new nurses.

What are the Best Labor and Delivery Nurse Programs?

We selected an expert panel of nurses to determine the best nationwide labor and delivery nurse programs. Their methodical approach yielded 10 of the best L&D nurse programs available.


This list is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Reputation
  • NCLEX pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Acceptance rate, when available
  • Only ACEN or CCNE-accredited schools are eligible

Labor and delivery nurses complete various levels of education, so this list takes into account all degree levels.

Nurse Panel

Our selection panel is made up of 3 Registered Nurses with years of experience and multiple degrees:

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines, MSN, BSN, RN, BA, CBC

Because individual nursing pathways and careers take various forms, the following labor and delivery nurse programs are ranked in no particular order.

Top 10 Best Labor and Delivery Nurse Programs

1. University of Pennsylvania

  • Annual Tuition:$56,212
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is among the nation's oldest and most well-respected universities. With a low student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1, Penn students get a high level of one-on-one time with professors. Future labor and delivery nurses should consider the undergraduate BSN, a four-year degree with good NCLEX outcomes. Those looking to further their education should consider Penn's top-notch nurse-midwifery or women's health MSN programs.

2. University of Michigan Ann Arbor

  • Annual In-State Tuition: $7,925 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $26,452
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

While probably best known for its sports, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is also one of the best public universities. U-M boasts one of the best undergraduate nursing programs, a four-year, affordable BSN for Michigan residents. The university also offers several nurse-midwifery MSN options, so labor and delivery nurses can further specialize in their education and career. U-M graduates also join an extensive alumni network which could make it easier to gain labor and delivery experience early on in your career.

3. Columbia University

  • Annual Tuition: $89,858
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 15 months

Located in New York City, Columbia University is known for regularly producing high-caliber graduates who become experts in their field. Those interested in becoming labor and delivery nurses through Columbia take a non-traditional route. The university offers a pre-licensure MSN for those with non-nursing undergraduate degrees. Earning an MSN could make it easier to land in labor and delivery early on. Columbia also offers a DNP in nurse-midwifery for those who want to earn the highest level of education possible.

4. University of Texas at Austin

  • Annual In-State Tuition: $12,040
  • Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $43,460
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

With over 51,000 students, the University of Texas at Austin is one of the larger schools that future labor and delivery nurses might attend. As with other schools on this list, the University of Texas at Austin boasts a solid BSN program, and the school's connection with the extensive University of Texas system means students could gain clinical experience at some of the top hospitals in the region. Similarly, local Texas hospitals might prefer to hire a recent Texas graduate, making this an excellent choice for anyone interested in labor and delivery nursing in Texas.

5. University of North Carolina

  • In-State Tuition: $32,255
  • Out-of-State Tuition: $91,120
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

The University of North Carolina is among the top public schools. Great for research and healthcare, nearly every type of nurse can succeed with a degree from UNC. The BSN, available in a traditional four-year or an accelerated four-semester option, prepares students for success in any field. Those who can take advantage of UNC's low in-state tuition should definitely consider this top-ranked program.

6. Emory University

  • Annual Tuition: $53,070
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

As one of just two CRNA schools in Georgia, Emory University's nursing department is held to extremely high standards. Its BSN program prepares students for any nursing career, including Labor and Delivery. Additionally, the nursing school also offers graduate degrees in nurse-midwifery and women's health, which are common advancement paths for L&D nurses.

While the costs are steep, Emory notes that students do not pay the cost of attendance. Instead, this high cost is used as a bar before determining financial aid, and most students pay a lower rate than what's listed.

7. Yale University

  • Annual Tuition: $67,119
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

An Ivy School located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University regularly offers financial aid to students who struggle with tuition, making this a surprisingly affordable option for many students -- assuming they get through the highly competitive admissions process. While Yale doesn't have an undergraduate program for nurses, its nurse-midwifery and women's health NP program rank among the best graduate degrees in the labor and delivery field.

8. University of Washington

  • Quarterly In-State Tuition: $4,026
  • Quarterly Out-of-State Tuition: $13,302
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

The only West Coast school to make this list, the University of Washington is a regional leader in healthcare, and nursing students gain valuable clinical experience at the school's healthcare facilities. Aspiring labor and delivery nurses without a nursing license should enroll in the BSN, one of the best undergraduate programs in the region. Those looking to continue their education should pursue a DNP in nurse-midwifery or women's health clinical nurse specialist. The University of Washington also offers state residents lower tuition rates since it is a public school.

9. New York University

  • Annual Tuition: $37,918
  • Online: No
  • Program Length: 4 years

Created in 1831, New York University is among the best research universities worldwide, great for any labor and delivery nurses looking to advance their careers and earn graduate degrees. Of course, labor and delivery nurses must first earn an undergraduate degree and gain experience. Through NYU's BSN, students complete an excellent nursing program, gain clinical experience at some of the best hospitals in New York, and graduate with connections to local healthcare facilities.

10. Aspen University

  • Annual Tuition: $9,750
  • Online: Yes
  • Program Length: 1 year

Aspen University is primarily an online school, so only licensed nurses with an associate degree should consider this option. However, Aspen's online RN-BSN is among the best out there, perfect for RNs with an associate degree looking to increase their earning potential. This flexible program also makes it easy to keep working while earning the degree, and the program cost is incredibly low. Completing an RN-BSN program could prove to be an excellent long-term move for labor and delivery nurses.

Where Can I Learn More About Labor and Delivery Nursing Careers?

To learn more about L&D nursing careers, take advantage of the resources available through the professional associations related to this field. The leading group for L&D nurses is:

The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) aims to improve and promote women's and newborns' health and strengthen nursing through advocacy, research, and education.

You can also check out our article on How to Become an OB Nurse, which is a related nursing specialty!

Labor & Delivery Nurse FAQs

  • What does a labor and delivery nurse usually do?

    • A labor and delivery nurse cares for pregnant people during labor, delivery, and postpartum. They can also assess pregnant people for signs of premature labor or other pregnancy complications. Labor and delivery nurses also provide newborn care and parental and caregiver education, including bathing, grooming, health, and feeding.
  • How do I become a labor and delivery nurse?

    • In order to become an L&D nurse, earn your RN, then apply to work on a labor and delivery ward. Some hospitals allow L&D nurses to apply directly out of school, while others may prefer nurses to have some experience on the general med/surg floor.
  • Is labor and delivery nursing hard?

    • Labor and delivery nursing can have challenging situations, such as pregnancy complications, but it’s highly rewarding.
  • Is a labor and delivery nurse the same as a midwife?

    • No. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse who has gone through a master’s program to become an advanced practice registered nurse.
  • How long does it take to become a labor and delivery nurse?

    • Becoming an RN can take 2-4 years, and it is possible to apply directly to the L&D ward right out of school. However, some healthcare facilities may require a year or two of medical or surgical experience.
  • What personality traits are needed to be a labor and delivery nurse?

    • Labor and delivery nurses must be able to pivot quickly, manage time effectively, communicate, handle high-stress situations, express empathy, and work well with doctors, patients, and families. A passion for pregnancy is also helpful for L&D nurses.

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$70,000 - $90,000 Associate Bachelors Bedside RN Labor and delivery

4 Steps to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse (2024)


4 Steps to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse? ›

While there are different ways to become a labor and delivery nurse, a common traditional path may include: Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in an accredited program. Passing the National Counseling Licensing Exam (NCLEX) and becoming a registered nurse (RN).

How I became a labor and delivery nurse? ›

While there are different ways to become a labor and delivery nurse, a common traditional path may include: Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in an accredited program. Passing the National Counseling Licensing Exam (NCLEX) and becoming a registered nurse (RN).

What skills do you need to become a labor and delivery nurse? ›

L&D nursing requires empathy, critical thinking, decision-making, and communication skills. Most L&D registered nurses have some general medical-surgical nursing background. L&D nurses must be able to communicate well with patients, families, and other health care providers.

How to answer why I want to be a labor and delivery nurse? ›

I'm passionate about empowering mothers and helping them through the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth, so entering a career in labor and delivery has helped me work more toward this mission."

Why become an L&D nurse? ›

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Labor & Delivery nurse is the unparalleled sense of joy and fulfillment that comes from assisting mothers as they bring new life into the world. Witnessing the miracle of birth and being a part of that transformative experience is a unique privilege.

How hard is labor and delivery nursing? ›

Working as a labor and delivery nurse certainly has its challenges—from being in a fast pace work environment where you need to constantly monitor patients and help make quick decisions to dealing with a tragic loss. It can be challenging, hard, and stressful.

How hard is it to get into labor and delivery nurse? ›

Is it hard to get into labor and delivery nursing? Nursing in general is competitive, and labor and delivery nursing is a popular specialty in the field. However, specialized experience and certifications can put you at a competitive advantage.

What are the two main roles of a labor and delivery nurse? ›

A labor and delivery (L&D) nurse supports patients during and after birth under the supervision of a nurse midwife or physician. They also care for infants immediately after delivery.

What are the stages of labor? ›

The first stage starts when labor begins and ends with full cervical dilation and effacement. The second stage commences with complete cervical dilation and ends with the delivery of the fetus. The third stage initiates after the fetus is delivered and ends when the placenta is delivered.

What is a labor and delivery doctor called? ›

An obstetrician provides care during pregnancy and delivers babies. A gynecologist doesn't treat people who are pregnant or deliver babies, but specializes in the female reproductive system. It's common for healthcare providers to combine these two areas of medicine. This is called obstetrics and gynecology or Ob/Gyn.

Is it worth being a labor and delivery nurse? ›

Labor and delivery nurses can earn between $73,860 to $93,070, which is the average for registered nurses working in various settings, making it a lucrative career. In addition, full-time labor and delivery nurses can have additional benefits such as vacation pay, health insurance, and retirement funds.

What should a labor and delivery nurse say in an interview? ›

Share about a time when you had to advocate for your patient. Explain how you communicated your concerns and how the situation was resolved. This is one of the most important labor and delivery nurse interview questions, as it reveals key details regarding a candidate's moral standards and clinical judgment.

Where do L&D nurses make the most money? ›

Highest paying cities for Labor and Delivery Nurses near California
  • Panorama City, CA. $4,006 per week. 39 salaries reported.
  • Sacramento, CA. $3,390 per week. 54 salaries reported.
  • Bakersfield, CA. $3,126 per week. 338 salaries reported.
  • Modesto, CA. $2,910 per week. ...
  • Torrance, CA. $2,760 per week. ...
  • Show more nearby cities.

How many days a week do L&D nurses work? ›

Three 12-hour shifts per week are common, allowing labor and delivery nurses to have sufficient time off during the week or to pick up overtime hours. Labor and delivery nurses are needed at all hours, so some shifts may span overnight and early morning hours while others will be during the day.

What is the difference between an OB nurse and a L&D nurse? ›

These include neonatal nurses, who care for mothers immediately before, during, and after labor; and labor and delivery nurses, who focus on providing care during delivery. Unlike those specialists, an OB nurse provides care starting during the early stages of pregnancy or even when a woman is trying to conceive.

What is the difference between a maternity nurse and a labor and delivery nurse? ›

For example, they may work in an obstetrician's office, offering maternity care to mothers-to-be. Labor and delivery nurses, however, focus specifically on labor, birthing, and the immediate postpartum process. In addition, they're involved in active and post-labor recovery stages, infant nursing, and neonatal care.

What is a NICU nurse? ›

Neonatal nurses care for infants with various medical and surgical conditions. They usually work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) within a hospital, but can work in other healthcare settings as well. These nurses provide daily care for infants, such as feeding, bathing, and changing diapers.

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