Genetic counselors calculate patients’ likelihood of contracting inherited diseases and disorders. This entails studying family histories and conducting genetic tests. These health-care professionals educate individuals and families about the risks they may face, and help them deal with those prospects.
Among the clients are couples who want to have children, but are concerned about the possibility of passing on birth defects or other disorders. There might be a family history of Down’s syndrome or another serious defect. Other patients want to know how vulnerable they are to various hereditary medical conditions.
Genetic counselors work in medical clinics and other health-care facilities. They spend most of their time in laboratories, analyzing genetic predispositions; and in clinical offices, meeting with clients. Some are employed in clinics specializing in neurology, oncology, pediatrics, prenatal care, and other fields. Others are administrators in clinics, professors in colleges, and researchers in pharmaceutical companies’ laboratories.
This profession, which requires a master’s degree, is challenging because practitioners must be expert in the science of genetic analysis and the psychology of counseling.
Genetic Counselor Job Description
Genetic counselors sit down with clients to learn about ailments, birth defects, disorders, and other conditions that run in their families. They explain genetic-testing options, how the procedures are conducted, and the findings that might result.
Some of the tests are extremely invasive, and may pose ethical questions. After a diagnosis is made, a client receives counseling about how to prevent or cope with a condition.The genetic counsellor job description includes the following:
- Meet with people to gather information about their medical histories and concerns
- Educate clients about how disorders and syndromes are passed from one generation to the next
- Discuss the risk factors involved with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s diseases, and other ailments
- Explain genetic tests that might help determine people’s chances of contracting hereditary conditions or passing them on to their children
- Recommend sonography, fetal-blood sampling, amniocentesis, and other tests
- Conduct the tests, then interpret the results and explain them to clients
- Provide information about birth defects and how they might be prevented
- Consider, and discuss with patients, options for treatment or therapy
- Provide emotional support
- Make referrals to other health-care professionals and service providers
- Maintain patient records and write reports
- Create and administer training programs for doctors, students, and others
- Take part in research projects involving medical genetics or genetic counseling;–Attend conferences and training sessions to obtain continuing education, and keep up-to-date on medical literature
- Join professional organizations like the American Board of Genetic Counseling and the National Society of Genetic Counselors
Genetic Counselor Prerequisites
A genetic counselor must be adept at assisting people who may be upset, fearful, or anxious. Patience and compassion are required, as a counselor may have to help people work through financial, marital, and other issues related to their medical conditions. Stressful situations include having to advise women to terminate their pregnancies. or tell people they are at high risk of life-threatening diseases.
How to become a Genetic Counselor
High school students who think they want to enter a health-care profession are advised to take science and math classes. Biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra are among the recommended courses. Psychology, sociology, and related subjects also are appropriate for prospective genetic counselors.
The next requirement is a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. A major in biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, or public health is recommended. Students may enhance their future employment prospects by volunteering at clinics during their undergraduate studies.
Also mandatory is a master’s degree from a two-year genetic-counseling program at an accredited institution. This involves not only classwork, but also internship training. Instruction is provided in counseling, birth defects, genetic screening, molecular genetics, prenatal diagnosis, research techniques, and other subjects. Although, master’s degree is the minimum requirement, some genetic counselors obtain a Ph.D.; as the result, these individuals have better job opportunities and higher wages.
Genetic Counselor Certification
Most employers want their genetic counselors to be certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. A master’s degree and clinical experience are the main requirements for certification. Counselors have to pass an exam each year, and receive continuing education, to maintain their certificates. At this moment, there are 31 certified programs in the United States.
Some states require genetic counselors to be licensed. Applicants must prove they have received the necessary degree and training. They also have to pass a nationally administered exam. In some cases, continuing education is necessary to be eligible or license renewal.
Genetic Counselor Salary
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Genetic Counselor Job Description SummaryHere is a short recap of the genetic counselor job description:
- Assess and counsel on inherited conditions
- Work with family physicians
- 4 year bachelor’s degree
- 2 year master’s degree
- Must be licensed to practice
- 41% employment growth by 2022