What does a Genetic Counselor do?

Genetic counselors provide information and support to those who have birth defects or genetic (inherited) disorders, or who are at risk for such conditions. Genetic counselors may conduct research on the cause or treatment of disorders, or they may work to help families and individuals cope with the condition.

What might a Genetic Counselor do in a workday?

Genetic counselors:

  • explain the likelihood that other family members will experience the same disorder.
  • help individuals and families choose the best course of action, given the level of risk, family goals and ethical or religious values.
  • evaluate family medical histories to determine the role of heredity.
  • help individuals and families learn the facts and understand how to manage the disorder.
  • perform research in the field of medical genetics and genetic counseling.
  • educate and inform other health professionals and the general public.

Developing a Career as a Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors seeking further education may specialize in molecular, biochemical, medical or population genetics or psychology. They may specialize according to types of conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, cancer or mental retardation. They often work for universities, at research centers and teaching hospitals, and private health care practices, while some are employed by public health organizations or government agencies with specific genetic health interests.

How much salary do Genetic Counselor's make?

Annual Mean Wage

How do I become a Genetic Counselor?

Students interested in becoming genetic counselors should prepare by taking the most challenging high school courses available in science, math and English, including advanced placement courses.

Genetic counselors have master’s degrees in genetic counseling and are nationally certified. The requirements for admission to master’s-level programs vary by school, but most applicants have undergraduate training in biology, chemistry or behavioral sciences.

Recommended Activities

Many genetic counseling applicants volunteer with organizations that provide advice and services to individuals with physical, emotional and/or developmental disabilities, or organizations that provide crisis intervention services.

Where else can I learn about becoming a Genetic Counselor?

Professional Associations

American College of Medical Genetics
7220 Wisconsin Avenue
Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 718-9603

National Society of Genetic Counselors
401 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 321-6834

American Board of Genetic Counseling
P.O. Box 14216
Lenexa, KS 66285
(913) 895-4617

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