April 13, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Hua Lou Ph.D.: Given how Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson are saving the world, biotech companies are very attractive to graduates.
Hua Lou Ph.D.: Communication and teamwork.
Hua Lou Ph.D.: This is a question that is a little difficult for me to answer for the following reasons. First, I do not usually get the salary information from our graduates. Second, depending on where our graduates go after getting their PhD, there is a rather wide range in salary. If they continue their research training by pursuing a postdoctoral position, their salary would follow the NIH guideline, which is $53.7K for 2021. If they get a position in industry, their salary could be up to $100K.
Rebecca LeShay: I think the trends we will see are going to reflect trends in the job market, as a whole, such as reduced availability of jobs and possibly the growth of remote jobs. However, as many genetics services are provided in-person via clinical or lab sites, I think we will continue to see a large proportion of genetics positions that are in person. In addition, as many of these roles are deemed essential services, there continue to be open positions for genetics providers.
Rebecca LeShay: Some technologies being regularly discussed in the genetics community are whole genome sequencing and RNA analysis, both of which may help us improve yield for known pathogenic mutations (disease-causing genetic changes). In the realm of oncology, tumor testing is becoming increasingly important for determining treatment. For prenatal patients, there is ongoing research to effectively expand current tests to evaluate for additional genetic conditions in the fetus, based on fragments of placental DNA in maternal blood.
Rebecca LeShay: Demand in clinical genetics is expanding faster than graduates can fill jobs, both as genetic counselors and medical geneticists. I do not know as much about laboratory genetics, but I suspect there may be significant growth in that field, as well, as new labs are founded, and existing labs expand. I suspect that we will continue to see increased demand for genetics specialists for the next several years, if not longer.
Gillian Hooker Ph.D,: The genetic counseling job market continues to be strong. One of the biggest shifts we've seen during the pandemic is many genetic counselors are shifting to telehealth, making job applicants with experience in this area more valuable than ever. Patients are not only more receptive to these models than ever before; in many cases they are asking for them.
Gillian Hooker Ph.D,: On the clinical practice side, technologies for providing services by telehealth are innovating rapidly and enabling secure, reliable access to genetic counselors.
On the genomic technologies side, the range of different tests available to support patients seeking answers about genetics continues to grow in size and complexity.
-One major area of innovation is in the area of cancer screening tests - over the next few years we will see many tests entering the market aiming to identify patients with cancer biomarkers in their blood. These tests will be used for patients with cancer, to learn more about their tumors, patients who have been treated for cancer, to determine if their cancer has come back, and patients who have never had cancer, to screen for new cancers. Genetic counselors will be well positioned to help patients determine whether they are candidates for these tests and/or to help them identify the right tests for their personal and family history.
-The prenatal testing options also continue to grow and increase in complexity. Many of these tests are becoming more routine and ordered by OB-GYNs. Genetic counselors are increasingly focusing on patients for whom the test results are concerning or require follow up.
-The applications of genetics to human health continue to expand into new areas of medicine. Accordingly, genetic counselors are moving into new areas at a rapid pace, specializing in areas such as neurology, cardiology, nephrology, immunology, ophthalmology, endocrinology, etc. - bringing genetic expertise to the teams of providers caring for patients in these areas. --With new treatments, such as gene therapies, the demand for genetic experts continues to grow.
Gillian Hooker Ph.D,: All signs are that it will continue to increase. The field of genetic counseling has arisen to help bring innovation into the clinic, bridging the gap between genomic technologies and the human beings who can benefit from them. As long as scientists continue to innovate, opportunities for genetic counselors will continue to grow.