What is a Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors help families to assess individual or familial risks of various inherited conditions and diseases, including genetic disorders and birth defects. They offer advice and information to individuals, families, and to health care providers regarding the potential risks involved with these inherited conditions. For more information on job duties, please visit our genetic counselor job description page.

Work Environment

Genetic counselors will tend to work in hospitals and medical clinics, diagnostic laboratories, and in university medical centers. As such, their work environments tend to be enriching and comfortable areas, and their field means they rarely encounter communicable or infectious diseases.

Genetic counselors do require a strong degree of sociability, as much of their job involves working with people. They must associate with patients, families, and various medical professionals.

Work Schedule

Genetic counselors tend to work standard forty-hour work weeks, with an average eight hours per day, five days per week. As their work does not require emergency situations, they do not require any on-call or overtime, however they may offer hours slightly offset from the regular business hours, in order to accommodate patients’ and families’ schedules. While these hours may be offset, they will not be required to work late evenings, and rarely on weekends.

Mean Annual Genetic Counselor Salary

The average annual genetic counselor salary is $55,820. This figure is calculated by adding all the salaries within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of workers in the field. Individuals who fall in the lowest 10% of all genetic counselors can expect to make less than $25,540 each year whereas others with more experience in the top 10% can expect $85,790 or more.

Genetic Counselor Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$55,820 per year
$26.84 per hour
Top 10% Salary$85,790 per year
$41.24 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$25,540 per year
$12.28 per hour
Number of Jobs, 20122,000

Genetic Counselor Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for genetic counselors is brilliantly promising, with an expected 41 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. This is significantly faster than the 10 percent average for all occupations, and is due in part to the growing population, as the United States increases in the coming years, and in part due to the increased awareness, knowledge, and research in this field. Genetic counseling is a rather new area in the health care industry, and as it increases in knowledge and available offerings, more people will take advantage of genetic counselor services. It will be further aided by recent national changes in health insurance, increasing the number of people who can visit the hospital and helping them to improve their overall health.

What Affects Genetic Counselor Salary

Genetic counselor salary, as a new field, has a wide range, from $25,540 up to $85,790. This range brings a mean annual wage of $55,820, affected by many factors including education, experience, the industry worked, and the geographic location. Specialization is not a factor, as the newness of the field means it has not branched into many subspecialties.

Education and Specialization 

Genetic counselors require a master’s degree in genetics or genetic counseling in order to have the necessary qualifications. Those with this can expect to earn an average wage, but will greatly benefit from a Ph.D. in either of these areas; there are fewer genetic counselors with this level of education, and a greater need for research to advance the field.

Specialization, as mentioned, is not yet an area for genetic counselor salary advancement, as the career is too new. However, one can expect that as genetic counseling expands and develops, this may become something to consider.

Experience and Position 

Experience is one of the largest factors influencing genetic counselor salary, primarily due to the fact that there are very few genetic counselors overall. There are currently around 2000 genetic counselors in the United States, and those who have greater experience with the field can expect higher wages than those new to it.

Position is only a minor consideration for genetic counselor salary; as mentioned, there are comparatively few counselors in the country, meaning there are very few departments for genetic counseling. Those with a Ph.D. can pursue teaching in a college or university alongside their practice.


The industry worked has a major impact on genetic counselor salary, making differences of nearly $20,000. Those working primarily in colleges, universities, and professional schools can expect salaries of $63,230, while those in specialty hospitals average $68,120. The highest-paying industry is in medical and diagnostic laboratories, offering a mean annual wage of $71,350, significantly higher than those working in physicians’ offices, who earn $52,960.


Location is the final major factor affecting genetic counselor salary, with a range of $25,720 in Iowa to $78,130 in Nevada. New Jersey offers the second highest state wage, at $71,510, and Washington comes in third at $69,800.

With the newness of the field, there is a dearth of information on the metropolitan level; Las Vegas is the only metropolitan area represented in Nevada, which has the previously mentioned $78,130. Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA has the second highest, at $74,560, followed by New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ, at $71,250.

Genetic Counselor Salary