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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:
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.
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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Genetic Counselor
Top Careers After Genetic Counselor
Hispanic or Latino7.5%
Black or African American1.1%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
Sarah Lawrence College9.8%
University of Wisconsin - Madison5.9%
University of Cincinnati5.9%
University of California - Berkeley3.9%
Ohio State University3.9%
University of the Sciences3.9%
University of South Carolina - Columbia3.9%
University of Maryland - Baltimore3.9%
California State University - Los Angeles3.9%
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai3.9%
Grand Valley State University3.9%
University of North Carolina at Greensboro3.9%
University of California - San Francisco3.9%
Santa Monica College2.0%
University of Arizona2.0%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
|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||Dec 09, 2016||$106,750|
|Genetic Counselor||Reading Health System||West Reading, PA||Oct 17, 2016||$106,750|
|Assistant Professor/Genetic Counselor||The University of Kansas Medical Center||Wichita, KS||Sep 20, 2015||$94,500|
|Program Coordinator/Genetics Counselor||Weill Cornell Medical College||New York, NY||Aug 24, 2016||$92,700|
|Program Coordinator/Genetic Counselor||Weill Cornell Medical College||New York, NY||Aug 24, 2015||$90,000|
|Genetic Counselor||Esoterix Genetic Laboratories LLC||Santa Fe, NM||Jan 20, 2014||$82,270 -
|Genetic Counselor||Ambry Genetics Corporation||Aliso Viejo, CA||Jun 25, 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, 2011||$77,762|
|Genetics Counselor||Kelly Services, Inc.||Bethesda, MD||May 02, 2012||$77,762|
|Genetic Counselor||Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc.||Englewood, NJ||Jul 08, 2013||$67,635|
|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|
|Genetic Counselor||Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc.||Salt Lake City, UT||Apr 15, 2013||$61,486|
|Genetics Counselor||Quest Diagnostics Incorporated||Worcester, MA||Aug 21, 2014||$61,300 -
|Genetics Counselor||Quest Diagnostics Incorporated||Marlborough, MA||Oct 01, 2014||$61,300 -
|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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