Other Health Professions

Other Health Professions 

GENETIC COUNSELING

ABOUT GENETIC COUNSELING PROGRAMS

Genetic Counselors have multifaceted roles which include: identifying at-risk families, collecting extensive family medical histories, analyzing inheritance patterns and calculating probability of recurrence, providing information, counseling and support services, explaining genetic test results, serving  as patient advocates, educating patients, the public and health care professionals, and conducting genetics research/genomic technologies.

Genetic Counseling is a profession that is experiencing a growth rate of 29% from 2016-2026 according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is much faster than the average job outlook.  There are over 35 accredited Genetic Counseling graduate programs in the United States and Canada.  Becoming a Genetic Counselor requires the completion of a Master’s Degree from an accredited program, certification from the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABCG), and meeting state licensing requirements in order to practice.

 

SPECIALITIES

Genetic Counselors work in a variety of different areas but the largest specialty is prenatal genetics. Other specialties include; cardiovascular, cancer, genomic medicine, metabolic disease, neurology, pharmacogenetics, pediatrics and more.

Genetic Counselors can work in a variety of different settings including:

  • Research/Laboratories
  • Academic/Education
  • Industry
  • Government
  • Hospitals
  • Public Health
  • Healthcare Consulting
  • Private Practice
  • Non-Profits

RECOMMENDED COURSES

Prerequisite coursework varies by program, but they typically may require Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Statistics and a Psychology course.

One year of general chemistry with lab
-Chem 1A/1AL, Chem 1B/1BL, Chem 1C/1CL (or Chem 2 equivalent)

One year of biology with lab
-MCDB 1A/1AL, 1B, MCDB 1BL or EEMB 2L, EEMB 2, 3, 3L

Statistics
-PSTAT 5A or 5LS or PSY 10B

Additional biology courses required

-MCDB 101A (Genetics)

-MCDB 108A or 110 (Biochemistry)

Possible additional coursework

-Organic Chemistry

-Calculus

-Ethics/Bioethics

-Embryology

-Human Anatomy

-Human Physiology

-Medical Terminology

-Communication

-Spanish

-Psychology

REQUIRED ADMISSIONS TESTS

All Genetic Counseling programs in California require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).  Some may also accept the MCAT in lieu of the GRE.  Please check the admissions requirements of the programs you are interested in applying to.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

It’s important to have experience and/or exposure to genetic counseling prior to applying to graduate programs.  Some examples of experience can include the following:

  • Internships
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Peer counselor, resident advisor
  • Industry roles
  • Nurse, social worker or other health profession
  • Volunteer or paid experience (e.g. family planning clinic, student health center, crisis intervention center/hotline, domestic violence counseling, bereavement counseling, Peace Corps, etc.)
  • Advocacy related to genetics, helping disabled indviduals, or other groups 

APPLYING TO GENETIC COUNSELING PROGRAMS

In general, prospective students applying to Genetic Counseling programs will be evaluated based on the following:

  • GPA
  • Test Scores
  • Curriculum vitae (CV) -Research, Work, Internship and Volunteering Experiences
  • Personal Statement
  • Letters of Recommendation

RESOURCES

Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD)

Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC)

American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC)

National Society for Genetic Counselors (NSGC)

American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)

The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG)