Genetic Counselors

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 genetic counselor Jobs

  • Genetic Counselor, Accessioning (Remote) - Ambry Genetics - Aliso Viejo, CA

    Accessioning Genetic Counselors must possess a solid sense and basic understanding of molecular genetics concepts, molecular assays, and laboratory

  • Genetic Counselor I, Reporting (Bilingual - Japanese) - Ambry Genetics - Aliso Viejo, CA

    Interpret results from diagnostic testing in accordance with variant classification guidelines • Generate clinical test result reports that meet

  • Genetic Counselor II - Santa Clara Valley Medical Center - San Jose, CA

    Typical Tasks • Establishes a mutually agreed upon genetic counseling agenda with the patient and their family; • Elicits and obtains family

See all genetic counselor jobs

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 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 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.

Work Environment for Genetic Counselors[About this section] [To Top]

Genetic counselors hold about 2,400 jobs. The industries that employ the most genetic counselors are as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 39%
Offices of physicians 20
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 12

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.

Genetic Counselor 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 for Genetic Counselors

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.

Genetic Counselor Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for genetic counselors is $72,090. 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 $49,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $109,650.

The median annual wages for genetic counselors in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $69,780
Offices of physicians 69,210
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 62,980

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 29 percent through 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the growth will result in only about 700 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Ongoing technological innovations, including lab tests and developments in genomics, are giving counselors the 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 has increased over the past few years. Similarly, many types of genetic tests are covered by health insurance providers.

Genetic Counselors Job Prospects

Genetic counselors who graduate from an accredited program and pass the board certification exam can generally expect the most favorable job prospects. Ongoing innovations in genetic testing are likely to create demand for certified genetic counselors.

Employment projections data for Genetic Counselors, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Genetic counselors 2,400 3,100 29 700

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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