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Genetic Counselor Job Description, Career as a Genetic Counselor, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Training/Educational Requirements: Master degree and certification

Median Salary: $58,184 annually

Job Prospects: Good

Job Description

A genetic counselor works with patients to fully understand their family history. They work with couples who want children to understand their risks of certain genetic disorders. They work with patients to understand certain genetic disorders and diseases pertaining to them. They spend a great deal of time evaluating the family history and what it means from a genetic point of view.

Genetic counselors spend a great deal of time consulting with their patients. They go in-depth with understanding the family history of each patient. They must have patience while they thoroughly record the medical history of each patient, and spend time evaluating the data. They work in a scientific–based role where they take the information gathered, and apply it to their evaluation of what the family history means for each individual.

Patients come to genetic counselors to understand their risks for certain diseases. The genetic counselor walks them through the history and helps determine what, if any, risks exist due to genetics and medical history. Patients also come to genetic counselors to understand their risk in passing on certain birth defects or genetic disorders to their unborn children. Genetic counselors assess any risks that may be posed to a family, particularly as it applies to their children.

Genetic counselors also work in a support role to their patients. They work with patients through the process, and help them with more difficult aspects and findings. They provide support as patients go through extensive and sometimes invasive genetic tests. They support patients if they find out they or their children are at risk for certain genetic diseases or disorders. Not only are genetic counselors members of the healthcare team, they also work with patients and support them through the process.

Training/Educational Requirements

It is required for genetic counselors to have a master’s degree, because this position involves a great deal of detail and knowledge. It is preferred that the master’s degree be in human genetics, counseling, or a related field. Having coursework and training in the field of genetics is important to the success of this position, since this knowledge is called upon regularly.

It is also strongly recommended and sometimes required that genetic counselors have certification. Having certification helps an individual to get hired easily. It is helpful to keep up with training offered to genetic counselors since this is an intricate and involved profession. As part of the healthcare industry, it is important for genetic counselors to attend training seminars and conferences to keep their skills and knowledge fresh.

How to Get Hired

The best way to get hired as a genetic counselor is to have experience. Although it is required to have proper education, having experience in genetic counseling prepares an individual for this role and ensures they get hired. There are a variety of environments and employers genetic counselors can work for including a laboratory, a clinic, performing research, education, in a commercial establishment, and through a diagnostic lab working with third parties.

Having experience within a couple of these environments fully prepares the genetic counselor for the next step in their career. Working within a variety of environments provides excellent experience and allows the genetic counselor to become well-rounded, increasing their chances of getting hired.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

There is much growth to be had in the field of genetic counseling. This is an area that has potential growth and job openings. Those interested in the field of genetic counseling should have no problem finding a job, due to good potential for growth, especially for those already involved in this field.

The environment a genetic counselor works within createa a path for career development. Genetic counselors can start off in a research role, and then move into a diagnostics role. They cover a range of environments and job types before they move onto dealing with patients directly. There are many options for genetic counselors, and great potential for growth.

Working Environment

The typical working environment for genetic counselors varies widely. Most of the time, individuals in this role maintain some sort of laboratory work. They have a lab as part of their job responsibilities, or they spend all day in one. If they work with patients directly, they have an office and a lab where they perform research and diagnose genetic predispositions. If they work in a research role or in a diagnostics role, they spend their day in a lab and do not have much interaction with people.

The different roles genetic counselors serve in contributes to the variance in the environments. Most genetic counselors spend some time performing research in a laboratory which requires concentration and minimal distractions. If dealing with patients, particularly when working in a support role, a comfortable office is expected where consultations take place.

Salary and Benefits

The average annual salary of a genetic counselor is $58,184. There is a wide variance based on experience, employer, and location of the genetic counselor. The salary can range between $54,305 and $65,011 per year. In general, genetic counselors receive paid vacation and sick days, as well as medical coverage from their employer.

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