Genetic Counselor

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What is Genetic Counseling?

genetic counseling

Genetic Counseling is a field that provides information to patients and others who are concerned about their hereditary conditions. It is an educational process that aids patients and their family members deal with many aspects of the genetic condition including a diagnosis, information regarding symptoms, treatment and also, the mode of inheritance.

Genetic Counseling begins with diagnosis of the condition through various biochemical or cytogenetic analyses or DNA testing. The genetic counselor provides detailed description about the nature of the condition, mode of inheritance and probability of transmitting the condition to future generation to patient as well as the family members.

Quick Facts
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
2016 Median Annual Sallary$74,120
Typical Entry-Level EducationMaster's degree
Typical On-The-Job TrainingNone
Work Experience In A Related OccupationNone
Projected Job Openings 2014 - 20241,200
Employment Change 2014 - 2024700
Projected Growth 2014 - 202428.8%

A lot of reasons exist as to why go for genetic counseling. Pregnant mothers want to know whether their fetus’ is genetically healthy, couples having a history of a certain genetic condition want to know about incidence in future pregnancies or assistance in interpreting the results of a prenatal test. A genetic counselor is required to carry out the following duties:

  • Interacting with patients to get detailed medical, family as well as genetic history.
  • Evaluation of genetic information to identify families or certain patients predisposed to a particular genetic disorder
  • Making the patients and their families aware of their genetic status
  • Writing detailed consultation reports on complex genetic concepts for easy understanding of the patient and referring physicians
  • Discussing the testing options available
  • Talk about the incidence, associated risk, benefits and limitations with patients, families and healthcare providers
  • Carry out regular counseling of patients and family by ushering each and every minuscule detail regarding the genetic disorder and its mode of inheritance
  • Keep himself abreast with developments in the field of genetics and genomics around the globe
  • Participate in national and international conferences as well as professional organizations

Steps to Become a Genetic Counselor

  • Education and Coursework

    A master’s degree in genetics or genetic counseling is a must. Coursework typically includes:

    • Public health
    • Epidemiology
    • Psychology
    • Developmental biology
    • Emphasis on public empathy
    • Complete and supervised clinical rotations under different work environments like pre diagnostic centres, paediatrics hospitals and cancer institutions involving direct interaction with patients and clients

    Below is degree level percentage distribution for this occupation:

    • Master's Degree: 100%
  • Licenses & Accreditations:

    In the US, the American Board of Genetic Counseling certifies health professionals in genetic counseling after they have completed the master’s degree program and passed an exam. The professional must complete the set course work for becoming certified.

    Some states require genetic counselors to be licensed. In order to avail a license from the State Medical Board, a certificate is a prerequisite.

Job Outlook

Salary/Pay

Below are national percentile wage estimates for this occupation in United States.
PERCENTILE 10% 25% 50% 75% 90%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
Hourly Wage $21.90 $28.77 $35.64 $43.56 $50.37
Annual Wage $45,540 $59,850 $74,120 $90,600 $104,770

Industries with Highest Levels of Employment in This Occupation:

INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT PERCENT OF EMPLOYMENT HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 900 0.02 $35.84 $74,540
Offices of Physicians 600 0.02 $35.87 $74,610
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories 550 0.21 $37.99 $79,030
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 250 0.01 $31.99 $66,530
Outpatient Care Centers 140 0.02 $40.73 $84,720

Top Paying Industries for This Occupation:

INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT PERCENT OF EMPLOYMENT HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
Outpatient Care Centers 140 0.02 $40.73 $84,720
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories 550 0.21 $37.99 $79,030
Management of Companies and Enterprises 40 0.00 $37.26 $77,500
Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals 80 0.03 $36.64 $76,210
Offices of Physicians 600 0.02 $35.87 $74,610

States with Highest Employment Level in This Occupation:

STATE EMPLOYMENT LOCATION QUOTIENT HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANUUAL MEAN WAGE
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
California 660 2.13 $37.87 $78,760
New York 200 1.14 $35.89 $74,660
Massachusetts 190 2.76 $36.05 $74,990
Ohio 100 1.00 $32.26 $67,110
Florida 100 0.63 $34.99 $72,770

Top Paying States for This Occupation:

STATE EMPLOYMENT LOCATION QUOTIENT HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics.
Maryland N/A N/A $43.54 $90,560
Nevada N/A N/A $43.41 $90,300
South Carolina 50 1.30 $42.28 $87,950
New Jersey 50 0.66 $40.71 $84,680
Washington 50 0.88 $38.37 $79,800

Key Attributes

Every field has basic requirements for people having different skills, abilities and knowledge. Understanding these requirements will help you find right career path for you. Below are few such key attributes that a Genetic Counselor should have.

Skills

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  • Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Writing: Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Science: Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  • Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Active Learning: Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Learning Strategies: Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Social Perceptiveness: Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Coordination: Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Persuasion: Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
  • Negotiation: Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
  • Instructing: Teaching others how to do something.
  • Service Orientation: Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Complex Problem Solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making: Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Systems Analysis: Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Systems Evaluation: Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
  • Time Management: Managing one's own time and the time of others.

Knowledge

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  • Customer and Personal Service: Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Mathematics: Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Biology: Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
  • Psychology: Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Sociology and Anthropology: Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
  • Medicine and Dentistry: Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
  • Therapy and Counseling: Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
  • Education and Training: Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • English Language: Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

Abilities

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  • Oral Comprehension: The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Written Comprehension: The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Expression: The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Expression: The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Fluency of Ideas: The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
  • Originality: The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
  • Problem Sensitivity: The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Deductive Reasoning: The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning: The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Information Ordering: The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Category Flexibility: The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Mathematical Reasoning: The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
  • Flexibility of Closure: The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Selective Attention: The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Near Vision: The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Speech Recognition: The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Speech Clarity: The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

What They Do?

Tasks

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  • Analyze genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific disorders or syndromes.
  • Explain diagnostic procedures such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS), ultrasound, fetal blood sampling, and amniocentesis.
  • Provide genetic counseling in specified areas of clinical genetics such as obstetrics, pediatrics, oncology and neurology.
  • Assess patients' psychological or emotional needs such as those relating to stress, fear of test results, financial issues, and marital conflicts to make referral recommendations or assist patients in managing test outcomes.
  • Provide counseling to patient and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance.
  • Determine or coordinate treatment plans by requesting laboratory services, reviewing genetics or counseling literature, and considering histories or diagnostic data.
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits and limitations with patients and families to assist them in making informed decisions.
  • Interpret laboratory results and communicate findings to patients or physicians.
  • Interview patients or review medical records to obtain comprehensive patient or family medical histories, and document findings.
  • Provide patients with information about the inheritance of conditions such as breast, ovarian, prostate and colon cancer; cardiovascular disease; Alzheimer's disease; and diabetes.
  • Refer patients to specialists or community resources.
  • Write detailed consultation reports to provide information on complex genetic concepts to patients or referring physicians.
  • Design and conduct genetics training programs for physicians, graduate students, other health professions or the general community.
  • Collect for or share with research projects patient data related to specific genetic disorders or syndromes.
  • Engage in research activities related to the field of medical genetics or genetic counseling.
  • Evaluate or make recommendations for standards of care or clinical operations, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations, ethics, legislation, or policies.
  • Identify funding sources and write grant proposals for eligible programs or services.
  • Read current literature, talk with colleagues, or participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics.
  • Prepare or provide genetics-related educational materials to patients or medical personnel.

Work Activities

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  • Getting Information: Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings: Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events: Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People: Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
  • Processing Information: Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards: Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
  • Analyzing Data or Information: Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems: Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge: Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work: Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Interacting With Computers: Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Documenting/Recording Information: Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others: Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates: Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization: Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships: Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Assisting and Caring for Others: Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others: Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public: Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
  • Training and Teaching Others: Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
  • Provide Consultation and Advice to Others: Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
  • Performing Administrative Activities: Performing day-to-day administrative tasks such as maintaining information files and processing paperwork.

Job Zone

  • Title: Job Zone Five: Extensive Preparation Needed
  • Education: Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).
  • Related Experience: Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.
  • Job Training: Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.
  • Job Zone Examples: These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include librarians, lawyers, astronomers, biologists, clergy, surgeons, and veterinarians.
  • SVP Range: (8.0 and above)

Find Your State Licensing Requirements

Whether you need to complete an internship or a doctoral degree, licensing requirements may vary from state to state. Click name of state below to find licensing requirement for that particular state.

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