Genetic Counselor

Cancer Genetic Counselor, Cancer Genetics Assistant, Cancer Program Consultant   More Names
Certified Genetic Counselor, Chromosomal Disorders Counselor, Clinical Coordinator, Pediatric Genetics, Coordinator of Genetic Services, Genetic Coordinator, Genetic Counselor, Genetic Counselors, Hereditary Cancer Program Coordinator, Medical Science Liaison, Mitochondrial Disorders Counselor, Pediatric Genetic Counselor, Prenatal and Pediatric Genetic Counselor, Prenatal Genetic Counselor, Reproductive Genetic Counseling Coordinator, Senior Genetic Counselor, Staff Genetic Counselor
Description

Advise individuals and families to support decisions, helping them with information, education, and reassurance. Also may assist with research concerning genetic conditions or genetic counseling.

Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized education, training and experience in medical genetics and counseling. They meet and interact with clients and other healthcare professionals in various clinical and non-clinical settings, including university-based medical centers, private hospitals, private practice, and industry settings. They provide counseling to pregnant patients and their family members about genetics in areas such as prenatal care and childbirth (i.e., obstetrics), pediatrics, oncology, and neurology. They help people understand and adapt to the implications of inherited, genetic contributions to disease.

The American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) lists the responsibilities of genetic counselors as providing expertise in clinical genetics, counseling and communicating with patients in matters of clinical genetics, and offering genetic counseling services in line with professional ethics and values. (Clinical means concerned with or based on actual observation and treatment of disease in patients rather than laboratory research, scientific experiments, or theory.)

Genetic counselors carry-out these responsibilities by interviewing patients - individually and as couples - to review medical records, obtain comprehensive patient or family medical histories, and document findings. They provide patients with information about the inheritance of conditions such as cancers of the breast, colon, ovarian; prostate cancer; cardiovascular disease; or diabetes. They also discuss options for medical tests to identify genetic conditions and their associated risks, and the benefits and limitations of these tests, with patients and families to assist them in making informed decisions.

Based on patients' decisions and agreements, genetic counselors work with physicians and laboratory technologists to order appropriate genetic and related tests such as sonograms. They analyze any genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific disorders or syndromes. They review and interpret laboratory results, discussing all findings with patients or physicians. They also will record their findings, recommendations, and patients' decisions.

As part of their ongoing professional development, they read current literature about developments in the field of genetics and patient counseling, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional organizations and conferences to keep up-to-date about developments in the field of genetics. They also may participate in genetics-based research projects and contribute to publishing new research findings as well as help populate databases with information in support of further research and analysis.

Genetic counselors are one of the new, emerging occupations that are spinoffs in recent years from discoveries and breakthroughs in such fields as genetics and medical research, biotechnology innovation, nanotechnology research and development, and next generation information technology. They play a specialized role in increasing technology-based medical knowledge and practice. Their advanced-level, specialized knowledge and skill puts this occupation at the high end of the healthcare career ladder.

Credentials Needed: Genetic counselors are required to have a master's degree in this field from an American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) accredited graduate-level program in order to be hired by an employer.

In at least seven states a genetic counselor also must be licensed to practice in the state. Part of this licensing process includes passing the certification exam to earn the Certified Genetic Counselor (CGC) credential sponsored by the ABGC. The list of states requiring licensing continues to grow each year. To find out what your state currently requires concerning licensing for this occupation, check with your State Department of Health. In most states earning the CGC credential remains voluntary, but is highly recommended and valued by potential employers as a further benchmark of competency as a genetic counselor.

Some Key Things to Remember: Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They help people understand and adapt to the implications of inherited, genetic contributions to disease. Genetic counselors in the United States are required to have a master's degree in this field from an American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) accredited graduate-level program. In a few states genetic counselors must be licensed to practice, but this list of states is growing.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
29% - Much faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $59,850 - $90,600    Hourly: $29 - $44
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements
General/Nationwide
State-Specific
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)
 
      

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Master's and Above (High School + 6 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

29% - Much faster than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $59,850 - $90,600

Hourly: $29 - $44