Genetic counseling is a rewarding career, as evidenced by the explosive growth in genetic counselors; since 2006, the number of genetic counselors has grown by 86 percent. But, there is still a great need for more genetic counselors.
Genetic counseling provides the challenge of staying current in the ever-evolving world of genetics and the ability to connect with and empower patients, supporting them through an often-difficult and confusing process.
In addition to meeting and talking with patients at length – taking a detailed family history, helping with decision making and providing emotional support – genetic counselors spend a lot of time gathering more information. Genetic counselors communicate with laboratories regarding what tests are offered and what is required to obtain a test, advocate for patients with their insurance companies to help ensure their tests are covered, and notify patients of test results. Many genetic counselors also do research, which helps advance patient care.
Genetic counselors typically receive a bachelor’s degree in biology, social science or a related field, and then go on to receive specialized training, earning:
- A master’s degree in genetic counseling from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), which may include:
- Course work in genetic counseling and related fields, such as:
- Human genetics
- Birth defects
- Counseling techniques
- Genetic tests
- Clinical training in the field
- Independent study
- Research projects
- Additional activities such as case conferences, grand rounds, journal clubs and seminars
Learn more about genetic counseling training programs
Certification through the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC), demonstrates that the individual has met the standards necessary to provide competent genetic counseling. Many hospitals and clinics insist their genetic counselors be ABGC-certified.
Additionally, some states require genetic counselors to be licensed.
Learn more about the benefits of becoming a genetic counselor