Genetic counselors typically need a master's degree in genetic counseling or genetics, and board certification.
Genetic counselors typically need a master's degree in genetic counseling or genetics.
Coursework in genetic counseling includes public health, epidemiology, psychology, and developmental biology. Classes emphasize genetics, public health, and patient empathy. Students also must complete clinical rotations, during which they work directly with patients and clients. Clinical rotations provide supervised experience for students, allowing them to work in different work environments, such as prenatal diagnostic centers, pediatric hospitals, or cancer centers.
The American Board of Genetic Counseling provides certification for genetic counselors. To become certified, a student must complete an accredited master's degree program and pass an exam. Counselors must complete continuing education courses to maintain their board certification.
As of 2015, 20 states required genetic counselors to be licensed, and other states have pending legislation for licensure. Certification is typically needed to get a license. For specific licensing requirements, contact the state's medical board.
Compassion. Patients may seek advice on family care or serious illnesses. Genetic counselors must be sensitive and compassionate when communicating their findings.
Critical-thinking skills. Genetic counselors analyze laboratory findings to determine how best to advise a patient or family. They use their applied knowledge of genetics to assess inherited risks properly.
Decisionmaking skills. Genetic counselors must use their expertise and experience to determine how to share their findings properly with patients.
Speaking skills. Genetic counselors must be able to simplify complex findings so that their patients understand them.