- Becoming a genetic counselor requires an undergraduate degree with course work related to genetics and sciences.
- Genetic counselors also need to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program.
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 more than 100 percent and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics projects a growth rate of 29 percent for genetic counseling positions through 2026. But, there is still a great need for more genetic counselors.
For many genetic counselors, the first step to becoming a genetic counselor is to earn an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree that includes coursework related to genetics, biochemistry, psychology and statistics. Ideal candidates also have experiences such as patient advocacy, counseling, scientific lab or healthcare volunteer work.
Training to become a genetic counselor then involves earning a Master’s degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). These programs vary in length, but are typically 2 years long and include the following:
- Clinical experience in various genetic specialties
- Coursework in human genetics, psychosocial counseling, bioethics, research methodology, genetic testing technology and more
- Research and/or other independent study projects
- Additional activities including education, advocacy experiences, case conferences, etc.
Upon completion of a degree, certification through the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) or Canadian Board of Genetic Counselling (CBGC) demonstrates that the individual has met the standards necessary to provide competent genetic counseling. Many employers and states require genetic counselors to be board-certified. In the United States, licensure may be required depending on your local state laws.