Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who combine their passion for science and desire to help others to provide specialized expertise in many areas of medicine and industry. As a genetic counselor, you learn to assess risk for a variety of genetic conditions based on an individual’s medical and family history. Genetic counselors discuss genetic testing options and support informed decision making by providing education to patients on genetic concepts and potential testing results at a level the patient can understand. Genetic counselors also use their counseling skills to support individuals and families throughout the diagnostic process to help patients address the emotional implications of their diagnosis. Genetic counselors can work in many areas of medicine including prenatal care, pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, neurology, and others. Genetic counselors can also have non-clinical roles, which include working for research studies, genetic testing laboratories, insurance companies, and in public policy just to name a few.

  • Percent Change in Employment, Projected 2018 - 2028 27%Genetic counselors

  • 10% Other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

  • 5% Total, all occupations

Note: All Occuations include all occupations in the U.S. Economy

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Outlook and demand

Demand for genetic counselors is projected to grow 27 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing technological innovations, including lab tests and developments in genomics, has increased the utilization of genetic testing across many areas of healthcare. This increase in the number and types of tests available to patients has increased the need for genetic counselors, who are able to identify appropriate testing based on a patient’s history, explain the testing and results implications to patients and providers.

Employers look for professionals who can: 

  • Demonstrate critical thinking including the ability to assimilate, analyze, synthesize, and integrate concepts and to problem solve in a timely fashion.
  • Explain complex concepts, medical procedures and test results to patients and families while providing emotional support
  • Educate medical professionals and others regarding genetics and genetic conditions that impact daily living

Paths that can lead to this career

An M.S. in Genetic Counseling is required for genetic counselors entering into the profession, and genetic counselors need to be certified. Please note, this program requires an application to National Match Services and interview process for admission, as well as an application to the UAB Graduate School.

High School

If you're currently in high school and interested in becoming a genetic counselor, you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

Undergraduate

If you're currently an undergraduate and interested in becoming a genetic counselor, you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

  • Complete any bachelor degree with a B or greater in the following prerequisite courses:
    • Biology I
    • Biology II
    • Biochemistry
    • Genetics
    • Statistics
    • Psychology
  • Find opportunities to job shadow and interview a genetic counselor to complete an application requirement.
  • Gain paid or volunteer experience in a crisis counseling or peer counseling setting, or with individuals with genetic conditions or risk, special needs, or chronic illnesses.
  • Earn research or teaching experience in biology or genetics.
  • Study and schedule a time to take the GRE exam. UAB's code for the GRE is 7801.

Graduate

If you already have a bachelor's degree, the following courses will help you in this program:

  • Biology I
  • Biology II
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Statistics
  • Psychology

Job titles and employers

Did you know?

With programs like theAlabama Genomic Health Initiativeand thePrecision Medicine Institute UAB is bringing precision medicine to Alabama and beyond.

Genetic Counselor

Places of work for this career:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
  • Physician Offices
  • Colleges and Universities

To find out detailed salary information and more information on this career, you can explore the Department of Labor's O*Net database..

Organizations to check out for this career:

Next steps

Explore

Find out more information about the Genetic Counseling program.

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