Genetic Counselors: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 28% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
The American Board of Genetic Counseling provides certification for genetic counselors. To become certified, a student must complete an accredited master’s degree program and pass an exam. Counselors must complete continuing education courses to maintain their board certification.
Median pay: How much do Genetic Counselors make?
$74,120 Annual Salary
$35.64 per hour

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and support to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions.

What do Genetic Counselors do?

Genetic counselors typically do the following:

  • 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
  • Counsel patients and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance regarding genetic risks and inherited conditions
  • Participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics and genomics

Genetic counselors identify specific genetic disorders or risks through the study of genetics. 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.

Counselors 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.

Careers for Genetic Counselors

  • Cancer genetic counselors
  • Cardiovascular genetic counselors
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Chromosomal disorders counselors
  • Genomic medicine genetic counselors
  • Mitochondrial disorders counselors
  • Neurogenetic counselors
  • Pediatric genetic counselors
  • Prenatal genetic counselors
  • Psychiatric genetic counselors

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