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 $85,700.
Job Outlook: Employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 21 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing technological innovations, including improvements in lab tests and developments in genomics, which is the study of the whole genome, are giving counselors opportunities to conduct more types of analyses.
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:
To qualify for Genetic Counselor 2 title must be board certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics or the American Board of Genetic Counseling and possess California State Genetic Counseling ...
The position of Laboratory Support Genetic Counselor provides genetic consultation to providers requesting genetic testing and acts as a consultant to health care providers regarding highly ...
The Perinatal Genetic Counselor works as a member of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine clinic where he/she serves the needs of individuals and families in the community affected by or at risk for genetic ...
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.
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 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.
Genetic counselors hold about 2,600 jobs. The largest employers of genetic counselors are as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||43%|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||13%|
|Offices of physicians||12%|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||11%|
Genetic counselors work with families, patients, and other medical professionals.
Most genetic counselors work full time and have a standard work schedule.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for genetic counselors is $85,700. 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 $66,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $126,350.
The median annual wages for genetic counselors in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||$87,400|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||$84,680|
|Offices of physicians||$82,900|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||$79,490|
Most genetic counselors work full time and have a standard work schedule.
Employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 21 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 600 new jobs over the 10-year period.
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.
Genetic counselors who graduate from an accredited program and pass the board certification exam can generally expect the most favorable job prospects.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2019||Projected Employment, 2029||Change, 2019-29|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.