Genetic Counsellor Job Description, Skills, and Salary
Get to know about the duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and skills requirements of a genetic counsellor. Feel free to use our job description template to produce your own. We also provide you with information about the salary you can earn as a genetic counsellor.
Who is a Genetic Counsellor?
Although skilled professionals from a variety of areas can provide genetic counseling, those who identify themselves as genetic counsellors have received additional training. A genetic counselor assists people in comprehending and adapting to the physical, psychological, and familial ramifications of disease caused by hereditary factors. Genetic counsellors can work in genetic clinics or other specialized divisions. In oncology, ophthalmology, cardiology, metabolic clinics, and obstetrics, they frequently contribute to patient care as a member of a multidisciplinary team.
Family history taking, pedigree drawing, risk assessment, discussion of the natural history of the condition, psychosocial impact of the diagnosis, provision of patient education, discussion of options, addressing ethical issues, making a psychosocial assessment, and providing psychosocial support are all activities performed by genetic counsellors in the clinical setting. Other tasks that were seen to be acceptable for genetic counsellors included professional and public education, as well as newborn screening programs.
A genetic counselor is an expert in the field of genetics and also a member of a medical team whose job is to help you understand genetic testing, genetic diseases, and related topics so you may make informed decisions. Medical and emotional worries for you and your family is part of the job they can handle for their patients. Genetic counselors can as well answer questions and provide information about the following:
- The science of genetic disorders
- Your chances of contracting a hereditary disease
- Genetic testing
- Genetic disease management and prevention
- To better assess one’s risk of developing a genetic illness, the genetic counsellor collects personal and family health history.
- A genetic counselor can, in general, assist you and your family in making educated decisions.
- A genetic counselor can also educate those who are responsible for your care, such as your family and doctors
A genetic disorder or syndrome is inherited. For parents who are expecting children, counselors use genetics to predict whether a baby is likely to have hereditary disorders, such as Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis, among others. Genetic counselors also assess the risk for an adult to develop diseases with a genetic component, such as certain forms of cancer. Counsellors identify these conditions by studying patients’ genes through DNA testing. Medical laboratory technologists perform lab tests, which genetic counselors then evaluate and use for counseling patients and their families. They share this information with other health professionals, such as physicians and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.
According to a 2016 survey from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, most genetic counselors specialize in traditional areas of genetic counseling: prenatal, cancer, and pediatric. The survey noted that genetic counselors also may work in one or more specialty fields such as cardiovascular health, genomic medicine, neurogenetics, and psychiatry.
Genetic Counsellor Job Description
Below are the genetic counsellor job description examples you can use to develop your resume or write a job description for your employee. Employers can use it to sieve out job seekers when choosing candidates for interviews.
Genetic counselors typically carry out the following duties:
- Interview patients to get comprehensive individual family and medical histories
- Evaluate genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific genetic disorders
- Write detailed consultation reports to provide information on complex genetic concepts for patients or referring physicians
- Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits, and limitations with patients, families, and other healthcare providers
- Counsels patients and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance regarding genetic risks and inherited conditions
- Partake in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics and genomics
- Identify specific genetic disorders or risks through the study of genetics.
Essential Skills of Genetic Counsellors
- Communication abilities: Genetic counselors must be able to explain complicated findings in a way that their patients can comprehend.
- Compassion: Patients may seek guidance on issues such as family care or major illnesses. When communicating their findings, genetic counselors must be attentive and caring.
- Skills in critical thinking: Genetic counselors examine lab results to decide the best course of action for a patient or family. They apply their genetics understanding to correctly analyze hereditary hazards.
- Ability to make decisions: Genetic counselors must utilize their knowledge and experience to identify the best way to communicate their findings to patients.
Steps to Becoming a Genetic Counsellor
To be successful in their chosen profession, aspiring genetic counselors often need to have the following skills, which comprise all of the following steps:
Step 1: In high school, excel in science
Exploring the biological sciences is the first step toward becoming a Genetic Counselor. Instead of ending after achieving their state’s science requirements, high school students should take science classes every year.
Biology and two other science courses are required in most states for high school students. Take the highest level of science attainable after finishing the requisite science credits to improve your college applications. Chemistry, Physics, and advanced placement (AP) science classes are all options.
2nd Step: Get a Bachelor’s Degree
A Bachelor’s degree is required before you can pursue a degree in Genetic Counseling. When choosing a Bachelor’s degree, be sure it meets the entry requirements for the Master’s program you want to attend. During your undergraduate education, you may be required to complete specified classes.
Some Master’s programs require applicants to have taken Biochemistry, Statistics, and Advanced Genetics as undergraduate courses. A specific major is not required for most Master’s programs. Aspiring Genetic Counselors, on the other hand, usually major in a biological degree like Genetics, Biology, or Biochemistry.
3rd step: A Master’s Degree in Genetic Counseling is a great way to advance your career.
A Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling or Genetics is required to become a board-certified Genetic Counselor. The majority of Master of Science (MS) in Genetic Counseling programs last two years.
Classroom study, clinical internships, and fieldwork are all part of master’s degrees. Internships and fieldwork in clinics and hospitals provide hands-on experience. You’ll work with patients and help them diagnose genetic problems.
Students learn more about genetic testing, counseling strategies, ethics, prenatal genetics, and clinical genetics in an MS program in Genetic Counseling. You can also look into several specializations within the subject of Genetic Counseling. Cardiology, neurology, hematology, pediatrics, oncology, and obstetrics are some of the subspecialty areas.
The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling should accredit the Master’s program you complete (ACGC). In North America, there are roughly 40 ACGC-accredited programs. You may not be eligible for board certification if the program is not accredited.
Step 4: Obtain your certification as a Board-Certified Genetic Counsellor
Genetic Counselors must be licensed in around half of the states in the United States. The qualifications for licensure differ, but you’ll almost always need to be certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC).
Even if your state does not require licensing, employers typically prefer to hire board-certified Genetic Counsellors.
Becoming certified requires you to pass an exam. The exam is computer-based and administered at an approved testing center. You have four hours to complete 200 multiple choice questions, including 170 scored questions. You need to answer a minimum of 125 questions correctly to pass the exam.
Step 5: Submit an application for a position as a genetic counsellor
Start looking for Genetic Counseling jobs once you’ve earned your certification. Approximately 43% of Genetic Counselors work in hospitals. Physician offices, medical labs, outpatient care facilities, and universities are all common employers.
Genetic counseling is a new career compared to other healthcare professions, and it is in higher demand in some areas. In 2019, there were 2600 Genetic Counselor positions available in the United States.
If you are unable to find work in your current state, you may need to relocate. Washington, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey are some of the states having the most opportunities for Genetic Counselors.
Step 6: Keep Your Education Going
You must meet specific continuing education requirements to keep your Genetic Counseling certification current. Every five years, the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) requires Genetic Counselors to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). As an alternative to completing CEUs, you can take a test.
The American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) refers to Certified Genetic Counselors as “Diplomates.” Recertification is the responsibility of each Diplomate within the time span permitted. You must also keep your contact information up to date and be aware of the most recent ABGC laws and regulations.
Where can a Genetic Counsellor work?
Genetic counsellors may be employed in specialist genetic centres or within other specialist units. They can also work in the following settings:
- Cancer, prenatal, peds, adult, specialty hospitals, and private clinics.
- Clinics that specialize in vitro fertilization (IVF).
- Laboratories for genetic testing
- Companies that provide health insurance are regulated by the State Department of Public Health.
- Positions that need you to work from home and counsel over the phone.
- Having a private practice
- Research settings.
Genetic Counsellors Salary Scale
In May 2020, the median annual wage for genetic counselors was $85,700. Half of the workers in a given occupation earned more than that amount, while the other half earned less. The bottom 10% of earners made less than $66,930, while the top 10% earned more than $126,350.
In May 2020, the following were the median yearly incomes for genetic counselors in the top industries where they worked:
Medical and diagnostic laboratories — $87,400
Hospitals; state, local, and private — $84,680
Offices of physicians — $82,900
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private — $79,490.