"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."

In 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for genetic counselors was $95,770. The job outlook for genetic counselors is great, with a projected growth of 16% by 2032.

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

For more information

Outlook: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/genetic-counselors.htm

O*NET: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-9092.00

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!

See below for an example of admission course prerequisites that may be required at CA programs. Please research professional programs for the specific admission requirements. If you need guidance on how to search for schools, please see the Peer Advisors during drop-in hours. 

General Biology: Bio 161
General Chemistry: Chem 127, 128, 129 or Chem 124, 125, 126
Organic Chemistry: Chem 312 or 216
Biochemistry: Chem 314 (previously known as Chem 313) or Chem 369 (previously known as Chem 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

Last updated: 09/08/2022.

Cal Poly Genetic Counseling Student Interest Group

To get involved with the Cal Poly Genetic Counseling Student Interest Group, please email calpolygcsig@gmail.com or check out their social media pages:

Cal Poly Alumni in Genetic Counseling

Coming Soon!

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