What is a Genetic Counselor?
A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional who provides information and support to individuals and families who are at risk for or have a genetic condition. They are trained to help individuals understand the genetic basis of a condition, assess their risk of developing a condition or passing it on to their children, and make informed decisions about genetic testing, treatment, and family planning.
Genetic counselors work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They may work with individuals and families who have a personal or family history of a genetic condition, as well as couples who are planning a pregnancy or considering genetic testing.
Genetic counselors also play a critical role in advancing the field of genetics through research, education, and advocacy. They work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, geneticists, and researchers, to provide comprehensive care to their patients. Overall, genetic counselors are important members of the healthcare team who help individuals and families navigate the complex and often confusing world of genetics.
How to become a Genetic Counselor?
To become a genetic counselor, you typically need to follow these steps:
- Earn a Bachelor’s degree: You’ll need a Bachelor’s degree in a science-related field such as biology, genetics, or biochemistry. It’s also possible to major in a different field and take additional courses in biology or genetics.
- Gain experience in the field: Many genetic counseling programs require applicants to have some experience in the field, such as volunteering in a genetics clinic or working in a research lab.
- Complete a master’s degree program: You’ll need to earn a Master’s degree in genetic counseling from an accredited program. This typically takes two years of full-time study. During your program, you’ll learn about genetics, counseling, and medical ethics, and you’ll complete clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience.
- Get certified: After completing your master’s degree, you’ll need to get certified by passing the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) certification exam.
- Obtain a license: In some states, you may need to obtain a license to practice genetic counseling. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically involve passing an exam and completing continuing education.
- Seek employment: With your degree, certification, and license (if required), you can seek employment as a genetic counselor in various settings, such as hospitals, clinics, research labs, and private practices.
Genetic Counselor: Eligibility
To become a genetic counselor, you typically need to have a Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling from an accredited program. The eligibility criteria for admission to a genetic counseling program can vary, but most programs require:
- A bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology, genetics, psychology, or a related field.
- Coursework in biology, genetics, statistics, and psychology.
- Clinical experience or exposure, such as shadowing a genetic counselor or working in a healthcare setting.
- Strong communication skills and empathy to work with patients and families.
- GRE scores and letters of recommendation.
Benefits of Becoming a Genetic Counselor
Becoming a genetic counselor can be a rewarding career choice for several reasons, including:
- Helping patients: Genetic counselors work closely with patients and families to help them understand complex genetic information and make informed decisions about their healthcare. This can be a rewarding experience and can make a real difference in people’s lives.
- High demand: As genetic testing becomes more common, there is a growing demand for skilled genetic counselors. This means that job opportunities are likely to be abundant in the coming years.
- Competitive salary: Genetic counselors typically earn a competitive salary, with the median annual salary in the US being around $81,000 as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Diverse opportunities: Genetic counselors work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, research labs, and private practices. This means that you can choose a work environment that aligns with your interests and career goals.
- Constant learning: The field of genetics is constantly evolving, which means that there is always something new to learn as a genetic counselor. This can make the work exciting and challenging, and can also help you stay up-to-date on the latest research and technologies.
- Flexibility: Genetic counseling is a flexible career in terms of work hours, with many positions offering part-time or flexible schedules. This can be a great option for those looking for a work-life balance or who need a more flexible schedule for other reasons.
- Collaboration: Genetic counselors work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care to patients. This can provide opportunities for professional growth and development, as well as the chance to work in a supportive and collaborative environment.
Roles and Responsibility of Genetic Counselors
The roles and responsibilities of a genetic counselor can vary depending on the setting in which they work, but here are some common roles and responsibilities:
- Patient counseling: Genetic counselors provide counseling to individuals and families who are at risk for or have a genetic condition. They help patients understand the genetic basis of the condition, assess their risk of developing the condition or passing it on to their children, and make informed decisions about genetic testing, treatment, and family planning.
- Risk assessment: Genetic counselors assess a patient’s risk of developing a genetic condition based on their personal and family medical history, as well as genetic testing and other diagnostic tests.
- Genetic testing: Genetic counselors coordinate genetic testing for patients and interpret the results. They help patients understand the implications of the test results and provide support and guidance for any necessary follow-up care.
- Patient advocacy: Genetic counselors advocate for patients and their families by helping them navigate the healthcare system and access resources and support services.
- Education and outreach: Genetic counselors provide education and outreach to healthcare professionals, community organizations, and the general public about the genetic basis of disease, genetic testing, and other related topics.
- Research: Genetic counselors may be involved in research related to genetics and genetic counseling, such as developing and evaluating new genetic tests, or studying the impact of genetic counseling on patient outcomes.
Jobs and Salary of Genetic Counselor
|Genetic Counselor Median Salary (per year in INR)
|355,000 – 560,000
|400,000 – 900,000
|Sir Ganga Ram Hospital
|350,000 – 600,000
|300,000 – 500,000
|250,000 – 500,000
|Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital
|350,000 – 750,000
|350,000 – 500,000
|Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals
|350,000 – 700,000
|350,000 – 550,000
|Rainbow Children’s Hospital
|300,000 – 600,000
Genetic Counselor: FAQs
What is the difference between a genetic counselor and a geneticist?
A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional who specializes in counseling patients and families about genetic conditions, whereas a geneticist is a medical doctor or researcher who specializes in the study of genetics.
When would someone need to see a genetic counselor?
Someone might see a genetic counselor if they have a personal or family history of a genetic condition, are planning to start a family, or are considering genetic testing.
What types of genetic testing do genetic counselors coordinate?
Genetic counselors may coordinate a variety of genetic tests, including diagnostic tests, carrier testing, predictive testing, and prenatal testing.
Are genetic counselors licensed?
Licensing requirements for genetic counselors vary by state, but many states require genetic counselors to be licensed. Genetic counselors are also required to be certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) to practice.
What is the job outlook for genetic counselors?
The job outlook for genetic counselors is very positive, with the demand for genetic counseling services expected to continue to grow as genetic testing becomes more widely available and personalized medicine becomes more prevalent.