What is a Geneticist

A geneticist is a biologist who studies genes, heredity, and the variations of these within particular organisms. In the medical context, they focus on human genes, particularly in the relation between genes and particular diseases, identifying hereditary susceptibility, or potential causes and mutations of viruses and bacteria. Their work focuses on methods of improving the survival rate of humans from various hereditary diseases, determining medications that alter particular DNA strands in order to offset or improve a genetic disorder, or gathering evidence in support of a genetic study.

Work Environment

The work environment for geneticists tends to be in a laboratory setting. These areas will be clean, brightly lit, and generally comfortable areas. Some who engage in genetic counseling may also meet with patients to discuss potential hereditary health risks, or may work in a forensic milieu and need to offer expert testimony.

Despite the varied potential environments, however, the laboratory will often be a common denominator, with the need for research and study being foremost in the field.

Work Schedule

As a general rule, geneticists will work a standard eight-to-four or nine-to-five day, making a forty-hour work week. Occasional needs outside of these hours may arise, for example when offering testimony or during a rare genetically-related medical emergency, however these will be few and far between. Most geneticists will not need to put in overtime other than in cases of time-sensitive tests.

Geneticist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for geneticists is moderately promising, with an expected sixteen percent growth rate in the coming ten years. This is due in part to growth in the field overall, with improved testing and greater research and understanding of the effects of genetics in medical contexts. Coupled with this is the overall growth in all medical fields, the growing population of the United States, and a greater push among private drug manufacturers for developing new and innovative treatments.

Geneticist Salary: Factors and Influences

The average annual salary for a geneticist is currently around $68,000, ranging from $40,000 for the lowest paid to more than $110,000 on the higher end. These wages are affected by the experience of the geneticist, the education they hold, their geographic location, and the industry in which they work. Specialization plays a role as well, in so far as it dictates the industry worked and the level of education potentially required. Indeed, there seems to be no one factor influencing a geneticist’s salary more than any other; they all have significant potential impacts.

Education and Specialization 

The education required for geneticists is dependent on the field of work they wish to engage in. Those who wish to engage in genetic research, for instance, will need a bachelor’s degree in biology with a broad range of science courses at least; to work as a senior-level researcher or director of research, they will need a graduate degree, often a doctorate. To work as a clinical geneticist, they will need a doctorate in medicine, as well as passing a medical licensing exam. Genetic counselors require at least a master’s degree in genetic counseling as well as a license in the same.

The education attained will help dictate the individual’s position in their business of choice; those with a doctorate in genetics will attain a higher position, and thus bring a higher wage. Similarly, a more specialized education (for example, receiving a doctorate in genetic counseling with a focus on prenatal diagnosis) will bring a higher wage due to the increased demand for specific services.

Experience and Position 

Experience is a dominant factor influencing geneticists’ salary, with neophytes earning around the $40,000 range, while veterans in the field earn upwards of $100,000. Generally speaking, those with more than twenty years’ experience earn the highest salaries.

Position is a factor in a geneticist’s salary as well, though this is often dictated more by education than anything else. A more knowledgeable geneticist will be offered a higher position, and thus a greater salary.


Industry has a significant impact on salaries, offering differences of nearly $50,000. State governments, for example, may offer wages of around $52,000, while working for the Federal Executive Branch can see an average wage of more than $100,000. Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing offers a distant second-highest wage, at $76,000. 


Location is always a factor influencing wages, with states that have a higher cost of living offering higher wages. Maryland tops the geneticist charts, with averages around $107,000. The District of Columbia has the second highest, at $103,000, while California takes the third position at $91,000.