Genetic Counselor Education and Career Pathways

By | July 16, 2023
Genetic Counselor Education
The genetic counselor education begins with a Bachelor’s degree in a suitable field followed by a Master’s degree in genetics, biostatics, biology, nursing, or psychology.

This article provides exhaustive information on the genetic counselor education, including the certification you need to have to get into the career, and other information to help you decide if becoming a genetic counselor is what you want.

If you are interested in becoming a genetic counselor, then you will need to have certain education and advance your career in whatever field you choose, including private practice, academic institution, hospital/hospice care, or public health department.

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Why Choose Genetic Counselor Career?

The main reason you may choose the genetic counselor is for the fact that it provides you with the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.

You will be able to help them understand their family history, learn how they can prevent diseases, and find ways to manage their condition.

It is not only a rewarding job but also a very lucrative one.

Genetic Counselor Education Requirements

To become a genetic counselor, you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree in genetics, biostatistics, biology, nursing, psychology, social science, or other related fields.

After obtaining your degree, you must then complete a Master’s program in genetics, biostatics, biology, nursing, or psychology.

To get into a graduate school, you need to apply through the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

In addition to these requirements, you may also need to take additional courses such as: Genetics, Biostatistics, Medical Terminology, Human Genetics, Molecular Biology, Bioethics, etc.

Finally, after completing all these requirements, you must pass the National Board Certification Exam.

Genetic Counselor Continuing Education

You must continue your education by taking continuing education classes.

These include topics like: Ethics, Legal Issues, Health Policy, Clinical Practice, Public Relations, Communication Skills, Professionalism, and others.

Genetic Counselor Certification/License

After completing the required training and passing the certification exam, you will receive a license from the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) which allows you to use the title “genetic counselor”.

Genetic Counselor Career Pathways

There are different career pathways for genetic counselors, depending on where you want to work. Some of the most prevalent career pathways are as follows:

  1. Private Practice

This is when you start working at a private clinic or office. Your clients would be patients who have been referred to you by their physician. 

2. Academic Institution

This is when you work at an academic institution. Most institutions offer some type of fellowship for those interested in becoming genetic counselors. 

3. Hospital/Hospice Care

This is when you work in a hospital or hospice setting. 

4. Public Health Department

This is when you go out into the community to educate families about hereditary disorders. 

5. Federal Government

This is where you work for the federal government.

6. Research Institute

This is when you do research in the field of genetics. 

7. Other

This includes any other career path that you might consider.

How to Advance your Genetic Counselor Career

There are ways to advance your career as a genetic counselor, they include:

  1. Attend Conferences

One way to advance your genetic counselor career is to attend a genetic counseling conference.

This is where you meet new professionals and gain more knowledge about the field.

There are many organizations that specialize in helping genetic counselors.

2. Network with Others

Another way to advance your career is to network with others, you can contact people you know or find people online.

You could ask questions about their experiences in the field. Ask if they know anyone looking for a job.

If there is someone you know who has just started out in this field, it would be good to give them advice.

It is important to remember that networking does not mean asking for favors. It means being helpful to others.

3. Take Online Courses

It is possible to advance your career by taking online courses. Many universities offer free online courses.

They usually cover subjects like: Genetics, Biostatics, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Medical Terminology, etc.

The best thing about these courses is that you can take them anywhere and anytime.

4. Volunteer

Volunteering is another great way to help yourself, you can volunteer in schools, hospitals, clinics, and even libraries.

You can help teach children about genetics. Also, you can also help families learn how to deal with genetic conditions.

5. Become Certified

Becoming certified is one of the best ways to advance your career. Certification helps you stand out from other genetic counselors.

It shows employers that you are qualified.

6. Get Involved With Professional Organizations

You can get involved with professional organizations. These organizations provide support to genetic counselors.

They also help promote the profession. By getting involved with these organizations, you can become part of the team. 

How to Find a Good Genetic Counselor School

Searching for a good school for genetic counselors can be difficult. You have to think about what kind of school you want to attend.

Do you want to attend a private school? Or do you want to attend a public school?

You should also think about whether you want to attend a university or college.

Some schools only accept students who plan on attending graduate school after graduation.

Here are what you can consider when choosing a school for a genetic counselor career:

  1. Interests

If you decide to go to graduate school, then you need to search for programs that match your interests.

You can start searching for programs by contacting professors at your current school, you can also research graduate schools online.

2. Accreditation

If you decide to go straight into the workforce, then you should consider going to an accredited program.

Accreditation ensures that the school meets certain standards set by the American Board of Genetic Counselors (ABGC).

3. Location

You should choose a location that is close to home so that it can be easy for you to commute to class.

Also, you should choose a location that offers financial aid. Financial aid is very beneficial because it allows you to focus more on your studies.

4. Programs

You should choose a program based on its curriculum. Look for a program that includes both theoretical classes and clinical training.

A program that includes both theoretical and clinical classes gives you the opportunity to practice counseling skills.

5. Cost

Cost is another factor that you should consider when choosing a school for genetic counselor education.

Make sure that you compare costs between different schools before making a decision.

How to be Successful in your Genetic Counselor Career

There are many things you can do to be successful in your career as a genetic counselor, these include:

  1. Network

Try joining social media websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Join professional organizations and post articles about your work experience.

These activities will give you opportunities to meet other professionals and gain valuable contacts.

2. Stay Current with Technology

Technology has changed over time. As technology changes, so does your job. Keep up-to-date with new technologies so that you can stay relevant.

If you don’t keep up-to-date, you could lose out on potential employment opportunities.

3. Be Flexible

It is important to be flexible. The field of genetics is constantly changing. Your job may change from year to year.

You might even switch careers later in life. Being flexible helps you adapt to any situation.

4. Learn more about Genetics

It is essential to learn more about genetics. Genetics affects everyone. Understanding how genetics work can help you better know why people behave the way they do.

Learning more about genetics can also help you become a better genetic counselor.

What Does a Genetic Counselor Do?

A genetic counselor provides information to patients regarding their family history.

They also provide education to families about inheritance patterns.

Finally, they provide support to families during times of crisis.

Qualities of a Good Genetic Counselor

Some of the good qualities of a good genetic counselor include:

  1. Knowledgeable

The best genetic counselors have extensive knowledge about genetics. It is important to know what causes disease and why a person develops a particular condition.

2. Patient

A good genetic counselor must be patient. They need to listen carefully to each client and answer all questions honestly.

3. Empathetic

Empathy, which is the ability to feel for someone going through difficult situation, is very important in the profession of genetic counseling.

A good genetic counselor must make themselves available to clients at all times.

4. Confident

Confidence is key to being a good genetic counselor. This means that a genetic counselor must believe in his/her abilities.

Genetic Counselor Salary

According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Genetic Counselor is $83,231 per year in the United States.

Genetic Counselor Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of genetic counselors is expected to expand at a rate of 26 percent between 2020 and 2030, substantially faster than the average for all occupations.


Genetics plays a large role in our lives. Knowing about this science can help us live healthier lives; becoming a genetic counselor can open doors to exciting career options.

This post has provided detailed information on the education you need to have to become a genetic counselor and how to have it and advance your career.