Menu Close

So You’re Confused about Requirements for the IBCLC Exam

Woman in blue blazer looking at IBLCE Exam requirements

My team and I have been talking to customers for years. But lately, people seem to be more confused than ever. Today, I want to tackle some issues that seem to confuse people about the requirements for IBCLC® exam.   

(Remember, I’m not an official representative of IBLCE, so you should always check their page for official information!)

There is no sequence for your journey

All that matters is meeting the requirements for the IBCLC exam. Read the IBLCE’s Candidate Information Guide to gain a broad overview of the IBLCE eligibility requirements. In general, each candidate must complete:

  • Health Sciences Education
  • Lactation Specific Education
  • Lactation Specific Clinical Experience

IBLCE does not prescribe the order in which you complete the requirements.

That being said, here’s my opinion about how you should structure your preparation.

I think it makes absolutely no sense to start delivering care before you’ve successfully completed your 95 hours of lactation specific course work.

Do you need to be a nurse to be an IBCLC?

A resounding NO on that one! I’ve explained that in much more detail.

Anyone can use any pathway. Sort of.

You can use Pathway 1, Pathway 2, or Pathway 3.

However, over many decades of doing this, I can tell you that almost always, there is one Pathway that makes the most sense for one individual. Otherwise stated, there’s the easier way, and the harder way.

Selecting health sciences courses

There is massive, ongoing confusion about what healthcare science courses will meet the requirements for the IBCLC exam. No one wants to take a course now, and then later have it rejected during the application process.

So, people email IBLCE and ask.

But IBLCE consistently responds by saying, “IBLCE doesn’t offer, approve, recommend or endorse any particular higher education institution or education provider of the Health Science Education courses.”

Here’s what I suggest. Make a table with at least four columns.

  • In the left-most column, write the subject that IBCLE requires. (For example, “anatomy.”)
  • Next column, copy and paste IBLCE’s description of what that course should entail.
  • Next column, copy and paste the description for the course you’re thinking will meet that requirement.
  • In the right-most column, list the place where you are taking or hope to take that course.

Now, look for alignment. Does the course you’re considering have a description that is very similar to the description that IBLCE requires? If so, you’re probably in good shape.

Frequency of the exam

The exam is offered in English twice a year. That’s all.

Time between registering and sitting

Some people seem to think they can register for the exam today, and then sit a few days later. Not at all. Not even close! It’s usually about 5 months or so.

Generally speaking, you need to register in the spring in order to sit for the exam in the fall. You usually need to register mid-November to early December in order to sit for the spring exam. These are general guidelines; you should check the IBLCE’s website for the up-to-date information.

Timetable for completion

I get this question all the time!

You need to complete your requirements for the IBCLC exam before you APPLY for the exam, not before you sit for the exam!

Similarities to other exams

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone ask me, “Is it like the NCLEX exam?”

No, it is not. It’s not even similar. As far as I can tell, there are only two similarities. Both have questions, and the questions are available on a computer.

I also hear, “Will the IBCLC exam shut off automatically like the NCLEX exam?” Nope.  Like I said, there are only two commonalities, and this is not one of them!

More thoughts on requirements for the IBCLC exam

I have spent hours explaining many of the ins and outs of the IBCLC exam. Listen to my podcast for more on requirements.

I’m also happy to guide you through in my free video series, How to Become a Lactation Consultant.

Are there still issues you find confusing about the requirements for the IBCLC exam? What are your questions?

Share this


  1. Martha

    Hello all. I would like to ask if I can take Occupational Safety and Security for Health Professional course. This is the only one I need. You have mentioned that we can buy a package which includes the 5 continuing education courses but I need only one. I already took the other four. Please let me know if I can take this course and how much it will cost. Thank you!

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Martha, thank you for your interest. At the current time, we sell only the package. I can ask one of the team to look at this and determine if that’s even possible, even the way the course is laid out on the “back end”. I don’t know if it can be “unraveled” or not. Ordinarily, I’d say no, it just takes too much staff time, but let me see if that’s a possibility. It’s after business hours here now, but stay tuned after the weekend. Thank you for reading, and that you for your interest in our products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.