One of the wonderful things about the world of the health care and medical professions is the variety and quantity of subfields. One great option that straddles the fields of genetics, medicine, and counseling is genetic counseling. With flexible job duties, opportunities for specialization, and direct patient interaction, genetic counselors bridge the gap between specialized knowledge and patient communication. Does this sound like it might be a good fit? Read on to learn about careers in genetic counseling.
What do genetic counselors do?
Genetic counselors meet with patients who are considering genetic testing. Genetic counselors help patients to determine the best course of action, based on factors such as the patient’s risk for certain diseases and their family health history. Genetic counselors can meet with patients before and after genetic testing, and part of their work may include helping individuals and families to process the medical, psychological, and familial consequences of their test results. Additionally, genetic counselors may conduct research, teach, work in marketing, or perform other non-clinical work. Genetic counselors often specialize in areas including prenatal, pediatric, oncology, neurology, ophthalmology, and psychiatry.
Where do they work?
Genetic counselors can work in several settings, including hospitals, medical centers, private clinics, laboratories, universities, and non-profits. Genetic counseling work is also conducive to telehealth, which means that genetic counselors can sometimes work virtually.
Who do they work with?
In addition to meeting with patients, genetic counselors work closely with doctors and other medical staff. Obstetricians, oncologists, and medical geneticists, as well as primary care doctors and other specialists, may refer patients to a genetic counselor. They also may work closely with the families of patients.
What is the job outlook for this profession?
Genetic counselors make around $84,886 per year (the median salary calculated by an NSGC survey). Employment is projected to grow faster than average in the coming years.
How do I become a genetic counselor?
Genetic counselors receive advanced training in both medical genetics and counseling, in order to fill both genetic expert and counseling roles. Education typically involves a two-year master’s program in genetic counseling, following an undergraduate degree. After earning a master’s degree, prospective GCs take a certification exam, and thus become certified genetic counselors.
In the Know: Professional organizations and resources
The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) is a primary resource for all things genetic counseling related. They have information on education, jobs, and policy relating to genetic counseling.
The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) is also a great resource to know about. As the accreditation board for graduate programs in genetic counseling, it has a directory of accredited master’s programs.
Lawrence Connections: Alumni in the genetic counseling field
Lawrence has several alumni with professional experience as genetic counselors! There is no better way to learn about the field than from professionals themselves, so check out these profiles on Viking Connect, Lawrence’s alumni platform. Feel free to reach out to any or all of these alumni!
- Viking Connect Carolyn Castonguay’s Profile (lawrence.edu)
- Viking Connect Kimberly Anderson’s Profile (lawrence.edu)
- Viking Connect Amy White’s Profile (lawrence.edu)
Wherever your career explorations lead you, thanks for taking a minute to learn about this valuable field!