Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects.
Work Environment: Genetic counselors work in university medical centers, private and public hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and physicians’ offices. They work with families, patients, and other medical professionals. Most genetic counselors work full time.
How to Become One: Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics, and board certification.
Salary: The median annual wage for genetic counselors is $80,150.
Job Outlook: Employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 26 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of genetic counselors with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as a genetic counselor with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
Top 3 Genetic Counselor Jobs
Genetic Counselor - Los Angeles
- On Time Talent Solutions
- Los Angeles, CA
Genetic Counselor Los Angeles, California Los Angeles is a sprawling Southern California city and the center of the nation's film and television industry. Near its iconic Hollywood sign, studios such ...
Genetic Counselor - Cancer Program
- John Muir Health
- Walnut Creek, CA
The Genetic Counselor identifies families at risk, investigates the problem or disease present in the family, interprets information about the disorder, and analyzes inheritance patterns and risks of ...
- Human Longevity, Inc.
- San Diego, CA
Job purpose Human Longevity is seeking an inspired, intellectually curious, and mission driven Genetic Counselor to be an integral part of the longevity precision medicine care team. This individual ...
What Genetic Counselors Do[About this section] [To Top]
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 of Genetic Counselors
Genetic counselors typically do the following:
- Interview patients to get comprehensive individual family and medical histories
- Evaluate genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific genetic disorders
- 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, families, and other healthcare providers
- 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 and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.
According to a survey from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, most genetic counselors specialize in traditional areas of genetic counseling: prenatal, cancer, and pediatric. The survey noted that genetic counselors also may work in one or more specialty fields such as cardiovascular health, genomic medicine, neurogenetics, and psychiatry.
Work Environment for Genetic Counselors[About this section] [To Top]
Genetic counselors hold about 2,400 jobs. The largest employers of genetic counselors are as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||46%|
|Offices of physicians||11%|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||11%|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||10%|
Genetic counselors work with families, patients, and other medical professionals.
Genetic Counselor Work Schedules
Most genetic counselors work full time and have a standard work schedule.
How to Become a Genetic Counselor[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Genetic Counselors near you!
Genetic counselors typically need a master's degree in genetic counseling or genetics, and board certification.
Education for Genetic Counselors
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 2016, there were 33 master's degree programs in the United States that were accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Genetic Counselors
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 2016, 22 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.
Employers typically require or prefer prospective genetic counselors to be certified, even if the state does not require it.
Important Qualities for Genetic Counselors
Communication skills. Genetic counselors must be able to simplify complex findings so that their patients understand them.
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.
Genetic Counselor Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for genetic counselors is $80,150. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,070.
The median annual wages for genetic counselors in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||$95,870|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||$79,810|
|Offices of physicians||$79,360|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||$79,100|
Most genetic counselors work full time and have a standard work schedule.
Job Outlook for Genetic Counselors[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 26 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 300 openings for genetic counselors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Genetic Counselors
Because genetic counselors is a small occupation, the fast growth is expected to result in only about 600 new jobs over the decade.
Ongoing technological innovations, including lab tests and developments in genomics, are giving counselors opportunities to conduct more types of analyses. Cancer genomics, for example, can determine a patient’s risk for specific types of cancer. The number and types of tests that genetic counselors can administer and evaluate have increased over the past few years. Many types of genetic tests are covered by health insurance providers.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.