A fifth of all midwives can expect debts of more than £10,000 when they graduate, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says.
A poll of 345 final year students found a total of 65% were in debt, with 46% describing being able to repay it as a bigger concern that not getting a job.
Breaking debt levels down, the survey claimed that 18% owed more than £10,000, while another 28% were between £7,000 and £10,000 in debt.
More than 85% of those polled blamed the bursary system for their plight, saying it did not give them enough money. A further 31% thought they needed an extra £4,000 a year or more.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, said: "This survey underlines what the RCM has been saying and campaigning about for some time - that morale amongst student midwives is plummeting because of their accumulated debts and uncertainty about getting a job after graduating.
"A one-year job guarantee for newly-qualified midwives would ensure that they are brought and welcomed into the profession and NHS trusts."
The government is currently consulting on plans to replace the bursary with a means-tested system- an unpopular measure in the poll, with 59% against the plan. Of the proposals on offer, 38% of students said they would prefer to be employed on the minimum wage.
"My girlfriend would love to take up midwifery, but at 37 with a mortgage, there is no way she could afford to start training with the bursary as it stands. Very unfortunate with the shortfall in midwives at the moment" - Steve, Tamworth