How to Become a Geneticist
Geneticist Careers & Degrees

A geneticist is a specialist in the field of genes and heredity.

A geneticist has a background in science, usually within chemistry or biology.

If you are interested in biology, genetics, and the wider applications of these subjects, then you might like to become a geneticist.

There are many different fields you could work in as a geneticist.

Many are employed by colleges as teachers and researchers.

Some geneticists work in labs where they perform research and testing, such as paternity tests.

Others may become genetic counselors.

These are just few of the paths you could choose to follow as a geneticist.

Education Requirements to Become a Geneticist

There are two different ways to become a geneticist.

The option you choose will depend on the kind of work you want to do.

If you are interested in research, teaching, and laboratory work then you should look to attaining a PhD in genetics.

You would start this process by first completing a four year bachelor’s degree with a major in genetics or biology.

You would then go on to graduate study, such as a master’s program, then on to a doctorate in the specific area of genetics you are interested.

To work one on one with patients who are suffering from a genetic disorder you will need to become a medical doctor.

You will need to first complete a four year bachelor’s degree, and then go on to complete four years of medical school.

You’ll then need to complete an internship, then a residency that has a focus on the area of genetics you are interested in.

Geneticist Job Description

The career possibilities for a geneticist are as board and varied as the field of genetics is itself.

Genetics is a relatively new field of science, and there is much research work yet to be done.

For this reason, there is a lot of funding in this area and lots of opportunity to conduct research.

Many geneticists are employed by colleges.

Here they will teach classes in the school semesters, then complete their own research throughout the year.

They also publish papers in academic journals.

Some geneticists work in labs.

Here they may do research into new areas of genetics performing functions like DNA tests and other specialized experiments.

They could look for results for medical testing, in the instance that it’s suspected a patient has a genetic disorder.

A genetic counselor provides a service to a couple which has a risk of passing on a genetic disorder to their children.

They will speak with the parents about the risk of passing on the disorder to any children they might have, as well as come up with strategies to avoid or treat it if possible.

Here are some of the fields you could work in when you become a geneticist:

  • Teaching
  • Genetic researcher
  • Research assistant
  • Genetic counseling
  • Animal breeding consultant
  • Biotechnology
  • Forensics

Geneticist Salary and Career Path

There are many different paths you can follow as a geneticist.

If your goal is to work in a college, then you will probably get your first paid job as a graduate teacher while you are completing your postgraduate studies.

Upon completing your PhD, you will be able to work as an instructor and progress towards tenure.

You’ll also have more opportunities to peruse your own research.

Those in laboratory setting will often start out as research assistant, then go on to have greater responsibilities.

They could go on to work as a supervisor, or to conduct their own research projects.

A geneticist with a medical degree may work one on one with patients, or work in research to help treat and prevent genetic disorders.

They may also go on to work as a genetic counselor.

The median salary of a geneticist is between $64,000 and $87,000 a year for those working in research.

A college professor could expect to earn a median salary of $94,000 a year.

A medical doctor would earn closer to $116,000 a year.

Some similar roles to that of geneticist include:

When you become a geneticist, you can look forward to a long career that will offer you many different options and opportunities over the years.

You will also have the chance to help improve the health and life qualities of those who suffer from genetic diseases.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$84,310
$61K
$70K
$84K
$98K
$114K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Arizona$82,150
California$103,840
Colorado$90,850
Connecticut$101,130
District of Columbia$83,610
Florida$63,030
Illinois$84,190
Indiana$80,500
Maryland$70,820
Massachusetts$83,060
Michigan$74,840
Minnesota$80,860
Missouri$80,010
Nevada$97,030
New Jersey$87,260
New York$92,940
North Carolina$73,530
Ohio$79,510
Pennsylvania$80,050
Tennessee$77,100
Texas$86,070
Washington$85,990
Wisconsin$82,590

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $103,840.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $103,840
Connecticut - $101,130
Nevada - $97,030
New York - $92,940
Colorado - $90,850
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Genetic Counselors, OCC Code 29-9092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a geneticist?

Geneticists are biologists specialized in studying genetics.

They study genes and the way genes are transmitted from generation to generation, how mutations appear, and how genes are activated on inactivated.

Many geneticists study the role inherited genes play in disease and health.

Other geneticists work to identify at-risk animal species by calculating the reproduction and survival rate in order to conserve and manage species.

Some geneticists try to genetically modify plants that can adapt to specific environments.

Geneticists usually work normal business hours but may have to work overtime to meet a project’s deadline.

Like all scientists, geneticists need a solid scientific and academic background, but also attention to detail, perseverance, critical thinking, communication, and writing skills.

Those who also hold management positions need additional skills, including leadership and organizational abilities, because they have to complete administrative tasks, such as budgeting.

QuestionHow much does a geneticist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for biochemists and biophysicists, in general, was $93,280 in May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary widely depending on the specialty, the field of employment and the employer.

Those who work for colleges, universities and professional schools earned $55,210 while those who work in the field of wholesale trade earned $114,930.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a geneticist?

Geneticists usually start their training by earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or a related field.

Geneticists who work in research labs typically also need a Ph.D.

Tuition costs for college programs vary depending on the school and the program itself.

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

Ph.D. programs cost somewhere in the range of less than $30,000 and more than $40,000 a year.

QuestionWhat is the demand for geneticists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of biochemists and biophysicists is expected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028.

As genetic research is increasingly used in developing new medicines and treatments, the demand for geneticists is expected to grow.

However, research funding is, in part, dependent on the federal budget and the competition for research funding may be strong.

Those who hold a Ph.D., have graduated from a reputable college but also have some post-doctoral experience should have better job prospects.

Having research articles published in scientific journals can also give you an advantage over your competitors on the job market.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a geneticist?

Geneticists typically hold a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or a related scientific field and a Ph.D. in their fields of expertise.

Bachelor’s degree programs are usually 4 years long while a Ph.D. can be earned after 3-6 years of post-graduate study.

Many undergraduate programs will give you the chance to work in a university laboratory, thus helping you earn some real-life research experience.

Doctoral programs help you build strong analytical thinking and critical thinking skills and teach you how to plan and manage a research project.

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