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Become A Genetic Counselor

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Working As A Genetic Counselor

  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Getting Information
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • $73,878

    Average Salary

What Does A Genetic Counselor Do

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and support to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions.

Duties

Genetic counselors typically do the following:

  • Interview patients to obtain comprehensive individual family and medical histories
  • Evaluate genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific genetic risks
  • Write detailed consultation reports to provide information on complex genetic concepts for patients or referring physicians
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits, and limitations with patients and families
  • Counsel patients and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance regarding genetic risks and inherited conditions
  • Participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics and genomics

Genetic counselors identify specific genetic disorders or risks through the study of genetics. A genetic disorder or syndrome is inherited. For parents who are expecting children, counselors use genetics to predict whether a baby is likely to have hereditary disorders, such as Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis, among others. Genetic counselors also assess the risk for an adult to develop diseases with a genetic component, such as certain forms of cancer.

Counselors identify these conditions by studying patients’ genes through DNA testing. Medical laboratory technologists perform lab tests, which genetic counselors then evaluate and use for counseling patients and their families. They share this information with other health professionals, such as physicians. For more information, see the profiles on medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians and physicians and surgeons.

According to a 2014 survey from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, approximately three-fourths of genetic counselors work in traditional areas of genetic counseling: prenatal, cancer, and pediatric. The survey noted that the number of specialized fields for genetic counselors has increased. More genetic counselors are specializing in fields such as cardiovascular health, genomic medicine, neurogenetics, and psychiatry.

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How To Become A Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics, and board certification.

Education

Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics.

Coursework in genetic counseling includes public health, epidemiology, psychology, and developmental biology. Classes emphasize genetics, public health, and patient empathy. Students also must complete clinical rotations, during which they work directly with patients and clients. Clinical rotations provide supervised experience for students, allowing them to work in different work environments, such as prenatal diagnostic centers, pediatric hospitals, or cancer centers.

In 2014, there were 31 master’s degree programs in the United States that were accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The American Board of Genetic Counseling provides certification for genetic counselors. To become certified, a student must complete an accredited master’s degree program and pass an exam. Counselors must complete continuing education courses to maintain their board certification.

As of 2015, 20 states required genetic counselors to be licensed, and other states have pending legislation for licensure. Certification is typically needed to get a license. For specific licensing requirements, contact the state’s medical board.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Patients may seek advice on family care or serious illnesses. Genetic counselors must be sensitive and compassionate when communicating their findings.

Critical-thinking skills. Genetic counselors analyze laboratory findings to determine how best to advise a patient or family. They use their applied knowledge of genetics to assess inherited risks properly.

Decisionmaking skills. Genetic counselors must use their expertise and experience to determine how to share their findings properly with patients.

Speaking skills. Genetic counselors must be able to simplify complex findings so that their patients understand them.

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Genetic Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

84.2%

Male

14.9%

Unknown

1.0%
Ethnicity

White

55.8%

Asian

14.1%

Hispanic or Latino

13.6%

Black or African American

11.8%

Unknown

4.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

54.5%

French

18.2%

German

9.1%

Korean

9.1%

Carrier

9.1%
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Genetic Counselor Education

Schools

Arcadia University

14.0%

Sarah Lawrence College

9.3%

Howard University

7.0%

University of Wisconsin - Madison

7.0%

University of California - Berkeley

4.7%

Stanford University

4.7%

Northwestern University

4.7%

University of California - San Francisco

4.7%

University of South Carolina - Columbia

4.7%

California State University - Los Angeles

4.7%

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

4.7%

Johns Hopkins University

4.7%

University of Cincinnati

4.7%

Grand Valley State University

4.7%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

4.7%

University of Texas at Arlington

2.3%

Queens University of Charlotte

2.3%

University of Florida

2.3%

Montclair State University

2.3%

Elon University

2.3%
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Majors

Mental Health Counseling

34.1%

Genetics

14.8%

Biology

12.5%

Health Care Administration

5.7%

School Counseling

3.4%

Public Health

3.4%

Nursing

3.4%

Education

3.4%

Psychology

2.3%

Medicine

2.3%

Business

2.3%

Law

2.3%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.3%

Management

1.1%

Information Sciences

1.1%

Physiology And Anatomy

1.1%

Food And Nutrition

1.1%

Molecular Medicine

1.1%

Family Therapy

1.1%

Health And Wellness

1.1%
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Degrees

Masters

64.2%

Bachelors

12.6%

Doctorate

12.6%

Other

7.4%

Associate

2.1%

Certificate

1.1%
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Real Genetic Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Genetic Counselor Reading Health System West Reading, PA Dec 09, 2016 $108,837
Genetic Counselor Reading Health System West Reading, PA Oct 17, 2016 $106,750
Genetic Counselor Reading Health System West Reading, PA Dec 09, 2016 $106,750
Genetic Counselor-Regional Medical Specialist Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc. Englewood, NJ Aug 01, 2014 $86,000
Genetic Counselor Esoterix Genetic Laboratories LLC Santa Fe, NM Jan 20, 2014 $82,270 -
$99,195
Genetic Counselor Ambry Genetics Corporation Aliso Viejo, CA Jun 25, 2014 $82,000
Genetic Conselor Ambry Genetics Corporation Aliso Viejo, CA Apr 21, 2014 $82,000
Genetic Counselor Apollogen, Inc. Irvine, CA Sep 13, 2016 $80,000
Genetic Counselor Wentworth-Douglass Physician Corporation Dover, NH Oct 10, 2016 $80,000
Genetic Counselor Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Feb 15, 2011 $78,540
Genetics Counselor Kelly Services, Inc. Bethesda, MD May 02, 2012 $77,762
Genetics Counselor Kelly Services, Inc. Bethesda, MD May 02, 2011 $77,762
Genetic Counselor University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Oct 12, 2016 $75,314
Supervisor, Genetic Counselor Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT Sep 07, 2015 $67,372
Supervisor, Genetic Counselor Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT Sep 19, 2015 $67,372
Genetics Counselor I Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX Sep 07, 2016 $67,200
Genetic Counselor II Center for Medical Genetics, PLLC Houston, TX Oct 01, 2011 $66,895
Genetic Counselor II Center for Medical Genetics, PLLC Houston, TX Sep 01, 2011 $66,895
Genetics Counselor Quest Diagnostics Incorporated Worcester, MA Aug 21, 2014 $61,300 -
$107,500
Genetics Counselor Quest Diagnostics Incorporated Marlborough, MA Oct 01, 2014 $61,300 -
$107,500
Genetic Counselor Norton Healthcare Louisville, KY Jun 14, 2016 $60,923
Genetic Counselor University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT Feb 14, 2013 $60,328
Genetic Counselor Reproductive Genetics Institute, Inc. Chicago, IL Sep 05, 2014 $60,000
Genetic Counselor Florida Hospital Orlando, FL Oct 26, 2011 $59,521

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Top Skills for A Genetic Counselor

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  1. Cancer Genetics
  2. Clinical Genetics
  3. Family History Assessment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintained statistics for cancer genetics and prenatal diagnosis program and pregnancy follow-up.
  • Trained medical residents in genetic risk assessment and counseling.
  • Established an in-home patient care program that provided more resources and personal care to sickle cell patients.
  • Facilitate perinatal bereavement support group in conjunction with experienced social worker.
  • Interviewed, evaluated and counseled patients and their families for risk of genetic disorders, congenital anomalies, and mental retardation.

How Would You Rate Working As a Genetic Counselor?

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Top Genetic Counselor Employers

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