"To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease."  —Andrew T. Still, MD, DO


"As a family physician, my job is listening to people's stories."
—Jon S. Hallberg, MD

Genetic Counseling

Career Info

"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 close to 5,000 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.

Most genetic counselors work in a clinic or hospital and often work with obstetricians, oncologists and other doctors. Like doctors, genetic counselors can work in a variety of settings and provide different services. They may provide general care, or specialize in one or more areas, including:

  • Prenatal and Preconception – for women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant
  • Pediatric – for children and their family members
  • Cancer – for patients with cancer and their family members
  • Cardiovascular – for patients with diseases of the heart or circulatory system and their family members
  • Neurology – for patients with diseases of the brain and nervous system and their family members.
  • And more

Additionally, some genetic counselors focus on research, including collecting information such as detailed family histories and pregnancy information, that helps researchers and advances care for people with genetic conditions."

Source: National Society of Genetic Counselors - "Who are Genetic Counselors?"

Education and Training

"Genetic counselors typically receive a bachelor's degree in biology, social science, or a related field, and then go on to receive specialized training.  Master's degrees in genetic counseling are offered by programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC).

These specialized programs are currently offered at approximately 40 schools in the United States and Canada. Click here to learn more about genetic counseling training programs."

Source: National Society of Genetics - "Interested in Becoming a Genetic Counselor?"

Course Requirements

Note:  Admission prerequisites vary by institution.  Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites.  Check requirements carefully!

General Biology: Bio 161
 
General Chemistry: Chem 127, 128, 129 or Chem 124, 125, 126
 
Organic Chemistry: Chem 312 or 216
 
Biochemistry: Chem 313 or 371
 
Genetics: Bio 303 or 351
 
Statistics: Stat 217 or 218
 
Psychology: Psy 201 or 202
 

Recommended Coursework

Medical Terminology: Kine 297

Sociology: Soc 110

Developmental Psychology: Psy 256

Upper-Division Biology: Cell Biology (Bio 452), Developmental Biology (Bio 405), Molecular Biology (BIO/CHEM 475)

Biomedical Ethics: Phil 339

Epidemiology: Hlth/Kine 298

Cal Poly Alumni in Genetic Counseling

Coming Soon!

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