This section is for anyone who is considering genetic counseling as a profession or anyone who is currently enrolled in a genetic counseling training program. Each section features frequently asked questions from current and future students. There is also additional information regarding applying for graduate programs, job hunting, and professional links. If you are interested in speaking to a genetic counselor in Texas, please email us at email@example.com for a list of counselors you can contact.
So you’re thinking about genetic counseling?Genetic counseling is an exciting and competitive career field. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions, tips for applying, and where to get useful information regarding the training required to become a genetic counselor.
How do I become a genetic counselor?You are required to complete two years of graduate training in a Master’s-level program that has been accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC). Following completion of a training program, certification in genetic counseling is offered by the ABGC through an examination offered on an annual basis. By passing this examination, you are considered a certified genetic counselor (CGC).
Some states also require licensure for genetic counselors. Licensure is different from certification; certification is a professional designation provided by a credentialing board (ABGC) that identifies as an individual as meeting educational and examination standards. Licensure is regulated by a state board or agency and protects the integrity of the genetic counseling profession. To learn more, please check out Licensure on the main TSGC site.
How do I find genetic counseling programs?There are currently over 30 genetic counseling programs in the U.S. and Canada. A full list can be found on the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) website athttp://gceducation.org/Pages/Accredited-Programs.aspx. Additional helpful information is available through the Prospective Students link that can be found on the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) website at http://www.nsgc.org.
The ABGC website (http://www.abgc.net/) is also a very useful resource for finding out more information about accredited genetic counseling programs. There is also a link dedicated to information for future students, including career and certification information.
What makes a competitive candidate for a genetic counseling program?Programs typically consist of 4-10 students per class. They can be both smaller and bigger. To stand-out in the application process, it is beneficial for a candidate to have experience through shadowing in the field or related volunteer work. You can find a genetic counselor in your area by going to the NSGC website and following the link entitled “Find a Counselor” on the drop-down “Resources & Publications” menu. Genetic counselors listed on this site are available for contact and can be asked about opportunities to become involved with shadowing or interning. Experience in client advocacy can also be beneficial. Examples include working/volunteering with a crisis hotline or Planned Parenthood.
All applicants must take the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). A Subject Test of the GRE may be recommended but not required; this is dependent upon the specific program. A GPA of 3.0 or greater is required. Successful applicants generally have a GPA of 3.5 or better and GRE scores in the 75% range. However, in general genetic counseling programs consider the entire application when selecting applicants to interview. The following undergraduate or graduate coursework is strongly recommended:
Depending on your location, you might be able to attend conferences or meetings that genetic counselors attend. This can be a great opportunity for networking or finding out more information about the programs to which you are considering applying.
Application materials for the following fall semester are typically due December, January, or February. Specific information regarding deadlines can be found on the program websites.
An interview is required as part of the application process at the majority of programs. Interviews take place in early spring and final notification of admission to the program is done on the same day as all of the genetic counseling programs in the United States.
Also on the “Career” drop-down menu is a link entitled “How to Become a Genetic Counselor.” This has more thorough information about the profession and the application process.
Is there a program in Texas?
Yes! There are two ABGC-accredited programs in Texas. For more information about these programs, please reach out to one of the program directors:
Univeristy of Texas Genetic Counseling Program:
Baylor College of Medicine Genetic Counseling Program:
Dan Riconda, MS, CGC
Salma Nassef, MS, CGC
Are there conferences I can attend in Texas?Check back to our website for most up to date information regarding upcoming conferences.
Where can I find more information about applying?
Program directors at each individual program are a great resource for your questions. Their contact information should be available through their program’s website.
The NSGC and ABGC websites also have a lot of information about certification, accreditation, and the career of genetic counseling in general:
ABGC PO Box 14216
Lenexa, KS 66285
401 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Once you are a member, there are many resources available to you through the link entitled “Students” on the “Members Only” drop-down menu. These include information on listserv membership, how to get involved at the Annual Educational Conferences (AEC), board certification, scholarships available through NSGC, and how to look for employment opportunities.
What are the benefits of being a student member of TSGC?The TSGC is a great resource for education and networking. TSGC holds its own AEC in different locations throughout Texas where genetic counselors and other healthcare providers who collaborate with genetic counselors meet and present different topics for discussion. If you are considering staying in Texas as a professional, TSGC provides an opportunity for connecting with other Texas counselors and learning about job opportunities.
Being a member of TSGC also gives you access to information regarding Texas licensure for genetic counselors and the chance to advocate for legislative issues impacting this profession. See the section on Licensure for more details.
What past genetic counseling students have said about being members of the TSGC:“Being involved in TSGC helped me to appreciate the large, active network of genetic counselors in Texas who are working to promote the genetic counseling field and inspired me to consider how I could get involved when I graduated.” – UT GCP program graduate
“Attending the TSGC AEC during graduate school gave me a great perspective on how genetic counselors go beyond their tradition roles to advocate for this field and educate the patient community.” – UT GCP program graduate “The TSGC helped me, as a student, see all the possibilities for a genetic counselor right here in the Lone Star state.” – UT GCP program graduate
How do I start my job search?The NSGC website is a great resource for this information. Members can access the “Job Connection” site through the “Member Center” tab at nsgc.org. Listings of positions usually include the job ID and title (GC, clinic coordinator, research coordinator; full-time vs. part-time), requirements (typically “Must have Master's degree in Genetic Counseling and must be a BC/BE Genetic Counselor”), description of job, and contact information.
- NSGC Job Search Manual and Perspectives Newsletter: Can be ordered through NSGC’s publication’s section click here
- Genetic meetings/conferences: The NSGC website provides a list of upcoming regional and national meetings. This is a great place to establish contacts in the locations you are considering for employment and network with potential employers and colleagues. Some conferences have a bulletin board with job postings. The NSGC annual AEC always has a job post board where you can browse for possible positions and possibly arrange an informal meeting with the contact person for the position, if they are in attendance.
- Asking around: The genetic counseling community is very inter-connected. Ask supervisors and program directors about potential opportunities or about the possibility of creating a job for yourself.
How do I decide on the right position for me?
There are many things to take in to consideration when starting your job search. These include:
- Location: do you have a particular city or region in mind?
- Type of position: prenatal, pediatric, cancer, adult, nontraditional
- Setting: academic, corporate, private practice
Professional Status Surveys (PSS) are also available through the NSGC website on the “About Us” drop-down menu. If you are a member, you have access to the most recent PSS. The PSS provides extensive information derived from practicing genetic counselors throughout the world, describing demographics, salary, job satisfaction, and other interesting facts that you may find valuable in your career pursuit. If you are not a member, you can purchase the PSS.
"Genetic Counseling: Is the Career For You?" Webinar
Genetic counselors are professionals who have specialized education in genetics and counseling to provide personalized help patients may need as they make decisions about their genetic health. Today, there are more than 4,000 certified genetic counselors.
Genetic counselors have advanced training in medical genetics and counseling to interpret genetic test results, and to guide and support patients seeking more information about such things as:
- How inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families.
- How family and medical histories may impact the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
- Which genetic tests may or may not be right for them, and what those tests may or may not tell.
- How to make the most informed choices about healthcare conditions.
The Texas Society of Genetic Counselors hosts an annual webinar about the profession, job opportunities available to genetic counselors, and how to become a genetic counselor. You can view the 2019 webinar here.
Shadowing opportunities are an excellent way to observe genetic counselors and the healthcare roles they serve. If you are interested in learning more about shadowing opportunities, please contact Sarah Noblin at Sarah.J.Noblin@uth.tmc.edu for more information.