Six-Figure Jobs: Genetic Counselors Earn Up To $250K
This includes responsibilities like:
· Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
· Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
· Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition.
What kind of person do you need to be to get into this field?
Genetic counseling is a field of science, and you should be prepared to perform rigorous scientific studies. If you don't like science, it's probably not for you. It requires a Master in Science degree, which can be earned from one of 31 accredited programs in the United States. A research project, or thesis, needs to be completed to attain the degree as well.
Yet genetic counseling also requires strong interpersonal skills. Most of the time, future genetic counselors are required to shadow a licensed genetic counselor to get a sense of how they'll be interacting with patients. Again, even though this is a science degree, genetic counselors are highly focused on their interactions with patients. It's not just about getting the information to patients -- it's also how you're delivering the information.
What are the roles these genetic counselors will play?
With medical technology advancing at such a rapid pace, and the focus on healthcare stronger than ever, it's easy to see why people would need genetic counselors. Jennifer Malone Hoskovec, President for the National Society of Genetic Counselors, sees the field growing for a number of reasons. Typically only used in pre-natal or pediatric settings, she believes the field will grow exponentially with the increased knowledge of genetics.
"I see genetics in general as being a sub specialty of every specialty of medicine," she told AOL Jobs. "I see them going off into eye disorders, neurology, partnering with physicians across the health spectrum."
But the growth will probably not stop there. As genetic testing becomes more powerful and more accurate, genetic counselors may have to guide other areas.
"There's an emerging role for genetic counselors in policy and insurance," she says. "How do we write policy on genetic tests? They're very expensive, and knowledge helps. Policy, healthcare insurance healthcare, have very specific knowledge, and I see genetic counseling infiltrating different fields."
As the technology advances, and becomes a more prevalent indicator of risks for disorders, genetic counselors will have to be trusted to advise us on our best moves.
"We are learning so much more about the genetic basis of disease," Hoskovec says. "Historically, we knew more about rare disorders. Now, we know more about common disorders and genetic disorders. With emerging technology we need people who can translate."