What does a Genetic Counselor do?

Unlike many other health science professions, genetic counseling focuses on empowering patients with knowledge. As a genetic counselor, you can spend a great deal of time interacting with your patients to ensure that they fully understand the ways genetics affect their lives.

As a genetic counselor you can:

  • Educate individuals, families, and communities about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research in genetic counseling
  • Explain family history and the chance that a condition will occur or recur
  • Counsel an individual or family to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition

Find Your Own Niche

Genetic counselors work in a variety of clinical, laboratory, and research settings. They work with patients and families across the lifespan.

As a genetic counselor, you have many career options, including:

  • Counseling pregnant women, couples planning a pregnancy, couples who are at risk for having a baby with a genetic condition, or women who have experienced pregnancy loss
  • Counseling parents, families, children and teenagers who have, or may have, genetic conditions such as sickle cell disease, deafness, developmental disabilities, or birth defects
  • Counseling people with medical and genetic conditions, or a family history of a condition such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Huntington disease, or Alzheimer disease
  • Advising physicians and others who order genetic testing about the most appropriate genetic test or about how to interpret a test

Genetic counselors also work in public health settings to improve access to services and determine public policy; as teachers in high schools, colleges and universities; as researchers who explore and find solutions for unanswered questions in genetics; as consultants for pharmaceutical companies; or in private practice.

If you want to be respected by doctors and admired by your peers, if you want your work to be intellectually challenging and emotionally rewarding, genetic counseling may be the career for you.

To find out more about a career in genetic counseling, take a look at the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) website.