Genetic Counselor

Fastest Growing Jobs in America: Genetic Counselors

Have you heard of a genetic counselor before? There’s a chance you have, but if you’re like me and haven’t, read on to find out more! You’ve probably heard of a geneticist, and I can almost guarantee you know what a counselor does, but the merged field that creates genetic counseling is an industry not as widely familiar. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the genetic counseling industry is predicted to grow at a rate of 41% between 2012 and 2022, with an average starting salary of $56,800.

Most people are familiar with the idea that you don’t just inherit material possessions from your family, but you often inherit diseases through your genes as well. Knowing this can influence your life in two major ways: on the one hand you’re probably much more aware of warning signs and preemptive measures you can take. On the other hand, even though it might not be a the biggest surprise in the world to hear you’re the eighth woman in your family to develop breast cancer, until you’re diagnosed you’ll probably spend a lot of time worrying and stressing about whether or not you will inherit diseased genes. Here’s where genetic counselors come into play.

What is a genetic counselor?

A genetic counselor is a medical professional who has unique graduate degrees and experiences in both the medical genetics and counseling fields. They specialize in helping people understand and work with the medical, psychological, and familial implications of their family genetics.

A professional guide to navigating your genetic history and your medical future

Some of the work genetic counselors specialize in revolves around educating people about disease inheritance and interpreting family medical histories to identify the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence. They also help raise awareness about testing, management, prevention, resources, and research to encourage people to be proactive with their lives. Like the name suggests, genetic counselors provide extensive counseling services to their patients, supporting them as they come to accept the risk or condition they may have and promoting informed choices in regards to handling their health.

Although a genetic counselor can be consulted about most anything relating to genetics, the specialty areas their services are most commonly used for are:

  • Infertility Genetics
  • Cancer Genetics
  • Cardiovascular Genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis Genetics
  • Fetal Intervention and Therapy Genetics
  • Hematology Genetics
  • Metabolic Genetics
  • Neurogenetics
  • Pediatric Genetics
  • Personalized Medicine Genetics
  • Prenatal Genetics

Try it out!

Due to the increasing awareness of the genetic influence of certain diseases and conditions, the field of genetic counseling is expected to continue growing. To become a genetic counselor, you must pass a certification exam after receiving a master’s degree in Genetic Counseling from an ACGC accredited program. There are few undergrad major requirements, although genetic counselors typically have degrees in the medical sciences and healthcare related industries.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a genetic counselor yourself and want to test out the waters, or you are already a healthcare professional and want to acquire some new skills, try some of these simple courses to get a feel of genetic counseling and improve your interactions with clients. Don’t be a prisoner of your own genes, help yourself and others to get the needed advice and support.

Image Credit: Rick Gomez via Corbis