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The Costs for Becoming an IBCLC, from Top to Bottom

Calculating costs for becoming an IBCLC

Just like any other endeavor in life, getting your IBCLC® certification isn’t cheap. Furthermore, the cost varies from individual to individual and from country to country. As you calculate the costs for becoming an IBCLC, consider two main factors:

  • What goods or service do you need to lay out money for?
  • What factors can affect the costs of those goods or services?

The pathway you pursue

The pathway you choose can impact the total costs for becoming an IBCLC. If you choose:

  • Pathway 1, you are probably planning to accrue clinical hours on-the-job.
  • Pathway 2, you’re going back to college to get a degree in lactation. That means you should expect to spend the kind of money that college degrees cost these days.
  • Pathway 3, you may (note, MAY) need to pay your IBCLC mentor. You might not.

Fees for healthcare science coursework (if you have not already completed them earlier)

If you are a healthcare professional as defined by IBLCE®, the IBLCE presumes you have had the healthcare science courses. You may be all set. Otherwise, you’ll need to budget for completing those courses now.

IBLCE requires some of these healthcare science courses be taken at a college. When estimating the costs for becoming an IBCLC, understand that the price for a college course varies substantially. For courses that can be taken elsewhere (I offer some) the cost is substantially less. 

The course fees for your lactation-specific coursework

In all likelihood, the largest costs for becoming an IBCLC are related to your lactation-specific course.

Shop for course fees. You’ll need a total of 95 lactation-specific educational hours; that’s the minimum requirement, no matter which Pathway you pursue. The only way to compare prices is to divide X by Y, where “X” represents the dollars you spend, and “Y” is the number of hours you can earn. Figure out how much money it will cost per educational hour.

Some people assume that taking 2 credits here, 3 credits here and 5 credits there (until all 95 hours have been accumulated) is “cheaper.” But this hodge-podge approach carries some serious risks. Nearly all of the people who tell me they have failed the IBCLC exam also tell me they took the hodge-podge approach, rather than enrolling in a single comprehensive course.

As you might imagine, registration fees for a comprehensive course vary substantially. Even from the same company!

Shop carefully, and remember that cost is one but not be the only factor that should drive your decision.

The costs of books, learning resources, or materials

In my courses, I provide dozens of free, credible resources. I also provide some of those resources online. I’ve created many myself. However, that’s not nearly enough. (And despite what you might initially think, the Internet is not necessarily the most credible source of information.

The costs of becoming an IBCLC start mounting when you realize how many resources you will need. Of the thousands of IBCLC candidates I have taught, I’d say that most spend at least $500 to $1000 (USD) on books and resources to prepare for the exam. Some have spent much more.

The fees for the IBCLC exam

The fee for your IBCLC exam depends on whether you’re a first-time test-taker or a re-certifier. And, the fee for the IBCLC exam depends on what country you live in. Check IBLCE’s fee structure.

The costs for travel, if needed

As you anticipate the costs for becoming an IBCLC, remember that you might incur travel expenses to take the exam itself. Let me give you an example.

A few years ago, when I signed up for my own IBCLC exam, the closest testing center I could locate was in the District of Columbia. The mere thought of driving 20 miles into the city during rush hour made me shake! So I signed up to take the exam in Frederick, Maryland. It’s about a 40-mile drive from my home. I drove up the evening before, got a good night’s rest, and arrived at the exam site calm and rested. But that was a travel expense.

Other miscellaneous expenses

There are all sorts of expenses, great and small, that figure into the costs for becoming an IBCLC. Some people need to obtain and pay for transcript(s); some people need to pay for childcare; some people need to pay for parking at the exam site.

You might not incur any of these miscellaneous expenses, but since I promised you a top-to-bottom summary of expenses, I’m just saying … be prepared!

In short, here’s what US-based test takers should know: You’ll be spending thousands — not hundreds, but thousands — of dollars to get your IBCLC certification. 

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  1. Charisma

    I work as a postpartum nurse in the hospital and helps in breastfeeding with our new mom and babies. What is the most cost effective and fastest way to become IBCLC. Thank you.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Hi Charisma. The short answer to you question is this. As a nurse, it’s highly likely that the speediest and most cost-effective way to qualifying for the IBCLC exam is to use Pathway 1. And, you’re right in luck! I am running a free webinar on January 16th. Here’s what to do:
      (1) Visit the registration page here:
      (2) Sign up; please be ready to write a specific question for me, and
      (3) Show up and interact with me and others who are applying for the IBCLC.
      If you truly can’t come, sign up anyway, and we’ll send you the replay!
      I go into fairly good detail on how to accomplish the whole thing, from start to finish, with pertinent details that will leave you feeling completely confident that you’ve got all of your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed!

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