Completion of the Human Genome Project has ushered in a new era of genomic medicine. The emphasis on personalized medicine resulting from the genomic revolution will increase opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing a career in genetic counseling. Genetic counselors are health care professionals who have specialized education and training in the field of medical genetics.
As health care professionals, genetic counselors help individuals and families understand and adjust to a genetic diagnosis or the possibility of having a hereditary disorder. Genetic counselors interpret family history information and educate patients and professionals about genetic diseases. As specialized counselors, these professionals help patients and families understand genetic testing options and the implications of undergoing genetic testing. In addition, genetic counselors address psychosocial and ethical issues associated with a genetic disorder and/or a genetic test result.
As members of a health care team, genetic counselors serve as educators to their patients, to physicians, other health care providers, as well as to society.
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Genetic counselors obtain a Master of Science degree from an accredited two-year graduate program in genetic counseling. Following graduation, genetic counselors become certified through the American Board of Genetic Counseling after passing rigorous board examinations. Genetic counselors may work in a variety of clinical settings including pre-conception, prenatal, pediatrics, oncology, neurology and other medical specialties. Genetic counselors are often affiliated with teaching universities but many also work in private practice settings.
Genetic counselors also work in administrative, teaching, laboratory and research areas. Continued growth of the genetic counseling field is expected for many years. The emphasis on personalized medicine will increase the demand for genetic counselors who are specifically trained to translate complex medical and scientific information to families and other health professionals.
Genetic counselors typically earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year depending upon the position, their level of expertise, and area of the United States or world where they practice.
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