How to Become a Genetic Counselor

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a genetic counselor?

Genetic counselors are professionals who provide genetic counseling to patients who have to make decisions about their health.

They usually help patients who want to know if they or their family members have a risk of passing down a disease or genetic disorder.

Genetic counselors need advanced training in genetics and counseling.

Their job consists mostly of providing information and emotional support to people who are at risk of developing a genetic disease or possess a genetic mutation.

They interpret genetic tests in order to be able to provide the best advice for their patients.

Genetic counselors usually work in a clinic or hospital and sometimes team up with other medical doctors and healthcare providers.

They can provide prenatal advice, pediatric care, counseling for cancer patients and their families, and advice for patients with neurological diseases.

Genetic counselors need a variety of sills, including compassion, and good communication and listening skills.

How much does a genetic counselor make?

The median annual wage for genetic counselors was $80,370 as of May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salaries in this field vary based on many factors, including the counselor’s education, level of experience and employer.

As a genetic counselor, you can earn anywhere between $50,000 and more than $100,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a genetic counselor?

Genetic counselors typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology, social science, or a related field, and graduate studies in genetic counseling.

A bachelor’s degree program with a major in biology can cost you anywhere between $10,000 and more than $50,000 a year.

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

Master’s degree programs in genetic counseling are available at several colleges accredited by the Accredited Council for Genetic Counseling.

A two-year program can cost you, in total, somewhere in the range of $23,000-$60,000.

What is the demand for genetic counselors?

According to BLS, the demand for genetic counselors is expected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028.

This growth is explained in part by the fact that new lab tests are now giving counselors the opportunity to provide more information about their patient’s genetic profile and risks.

Moreover, many of these tests are covered by health insurance so they are available to more people.

How long does it take to become a genetic counselor?

Genetic counselors typically need around 6 years of post-secondary education.

If you want to become a genetic counselor, the first step is to earn your bachelor’s degree, followed by a graduate program which usually can be completed in 2-3 years.

Many genetic counseling programs include 1 year of counseling internship.

After completing your graduate studies you may choose to become certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling by taking a certification exam.

Some states also require genetic counselors to be licensed.

Find a Program