Genetic Counselors work with individuals seeking assistance in determining whether their genes are predisposed to a variety of inherited diseases or disorders.
These professionals determine an individual’s or a family’s risk in passing down genetic disorders or birth defects.
Individuals who want to become a Genetic Counselor will have a strong passion for the biological sciences and genetics.
Individuals pursuing this track will also benefit from being compassionate and empathetic when working with patients who are predisposed to a genetic disease or disorder.
They will need to use their communication skills when discussing results to their patients.
Education Requirements to Become a Genetic Counselor
Individuals who want to become a Genetic Counselor will need a minimum of a Master’s degree in order to apply for entry level positions.
However, some individuals continue their education to pursue a PhD in Genetic Counseling.
In addition to these educational requirements, individuals must also seek certification and licensure in order to become a Genetic Counselor.
There is no specific undergraduate program an individual needs to study in order to begin a career as a Genetic Counselor.
However, some helpful degrees to focus on during an undergraduate career include: Biology, Psychology, genetics, biochemistry or a closely related health care or science related field.
For the Master’s and PhD programs individuals need to focus their studies on Genetic Counseling.
A Master’s or PhD program in Genetic Counseling will include coursework in: Developmental biology, psychology, epidemiology, public health and human genetics.
These programs provide this coursework in a variety of settings including, lab work, counseling and research.
Certification is optional in many cases but recommended in order to provide better job prospects.
Some states actually require certification in order to qualify an individual for licensure.
Certification measures an individual’s competency in genetics and is administered by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABCG).
Visit ABCG for detailed information on certification.
Finally, individuals who want to become a Genetic Counselor may need to secure a license in order to work in this profession.
Licensure will depend on the state an individual works in.
the minimum requirement to become licensed includes completing a graduate genetic counseling program from an accredited institution and passing an exam.
Genetic Counselor Job Description
Genetic Counselors are experienced in evaluating an individual’s or a family’s risk for passing down a disease or medical disorder.
They are responsible for giving information and assessments to individuals or other health care professionals.
Genetic Counselors will begin an assessment by gathering genetic information from an individual; this is done through a variety of genetic tests and analyzing it through laboratory work.
They will also interview their patients to acquire a thorough medical history from individuals and their families.
Laboratory finding and the interviews will be evaluated and be written into a consultation report with the findings.
Genetic Counselors will then consult with their patients to present their findings and the likelihood someone carries a specific gene that will be passed down their offspring and cause a disease or disorder.
Consultations are followed by providing education and developing a plan if certain genes are found through genetic testing.
Genetic Counselor Salary and Career Path
In 2012, the median wage for Genetic Counselors was approximately $56,800 per year.
Exact wages will depend on a variety of things including whether an individual works at a private office or a state or federally funded hospital.
For example, Genetic Counselors working for a private specialty hospital can expect to earn a median wage of approximately $67,480 per year while those who work in a physician’s office can expect a median annual wage of approximately $47,790.
The job outlook for Genetic Counselors is expected to grow by 41 percent through the year 2022.
This is a much faster rate when compared to the average of all occupations which is approximately a 12 percent growth.
This rate will be assisted by the technological advances in medical technologies giving Genetic Counselors the ability to provide analysis on a variety of disorders and diseases, including the advancements in cancer genomics.
Individuals pursuing a career as a Genetic Counselor have plenty of good reasons to join this profession.
With a healthy income and job outlook, there is stability in this profession.
In addition, this career is a perfect fit for those who are interested in genetics as well as working directly with people.