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How To Start A Career In Genetic Counselling

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Genetic counselling is a process designed to advise individuals and families at risk of genetic conditions. It involves talking about genetic conditions and family medical history with a healthcare professional who is qualified in both genetics and counselling. 

Genetic conditions are caused by changes or errors in genes and these conditions can be inherited from one or both parents.

Genetic counselling will help you understand and manage hereditary diseases and their causes, birth defects, and pre-existing conditions in the family. Simply, genetic counselling helps individuals and families understand genetic conditions and how they can adapt and plan for the future.

What Do Genetic Counselors Do?

Genetic counsellors help individuals and families understand how birth defects, genes, and diseases run in the family. They help you interpret the results of genetic tests and help you make informed decisions.

Genetic counsellors help people prevent and prepare for genetic disorders such as down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, cleft palate, and heart defects that can be identified during pregnancy.

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Genetic counsellors will review your medical and family history, help you figure out how the condition is inherited, provide information about genetic testing, and advise you on the support services available.

Importance of Genetic Counseling

  • Better Understanding

Genetic screening tests can help estimate the likelihood that a fetus can be born with a disease. Genetic counsellors are there to effectively convey this information and help couples understand the potential benefits and preventive measures.

  • Early intervention

Genetic testing can reveal a hidden genetic change that puts you at risk of developing a fatal disease. Counsellors will help you understand the cause of this condition and what you can do to prevent it from developing or spreading.

  • Appropriate Tests

A counsellor can help couples determine which test is best for their pregnancy. This will be important if the prenatal screening test gives an abnormal result.

  • Decision Making

Consultants will help you understand testing options, diagnoses, and underlying causes of genetic disorders, and will guide you through all decisions related to genetic testing or family planning.

 

Skills Required To Be A Genetic Counselor

Genetic counsellors often possess certain qualities such as the ability to show compassion and empathy, critical thinking ability, efficient decision-making skills, and communication skills.

 

  • Compassion

Patients seek advice regarding family care or serious illness, so counsellors need to be empathetic and compassionate.

  • Critical thinking

They analyze laboratory results to find out how best to counsel a patient and use their applied knowledge of genetics to properly assess inherited risks.

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  • Decision making

Counsellors need to use their knowledge and experience to determine how to appropriately convey their results to their patients.

  • Speaking skills

They need to communicate complex findings so that patients can understand the extent of a health problem.

Educational Qualifications And Certificates Required

A genetic counsellor is a health care professional with specialized training in medical genetics and counselling.

There is no specific undergraduate degree course in genetic counselling, however, an undergraduate degree in the biological sciences or an area in the sciences is often required as the first step to becoming a Genetic Counselor. 

To become a genetic counsellor, you must complete a masters degree program in Genetic Counselling.

In the U.S, the degree must be from an American Board of Genetic Counseling (ACGC) accredited program. Once you have earned your Master’s in Genetic Counseling, you will then be eligible to sit for the state certification exam. After the certificate is awarded, you will be a certified genetic counsellor.

Career Prospect In Genetic Counseling

Employment in genetic counselling is expected to grow 21% between 2019 and 2029. 

Some career paths include:

  • Medical sciences
  • Health Education
  • Cancer genetic counselling
  • Cardiovascular genetic counselling
  • Chromosomal disorder counselling
  • Neurogenetic counselling
  • Pediatric counselling
  • Psychiatric counselling

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Genetic Counselors Salary

Genetic counsellors earn an average annual salary of $81,880. The salary typically ranges between $61,310 and $114,750.

Universities that you can apply to for a masters degree in Genetic Counselling

 

If you need further guidance on degree options in Genetic Counseling and advice regarding schools to apply to for your degree, please click here to chat with our counsellors. 

 

 

Read related article: 10 Rewarding Top Careers Not Often Talked About

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