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The Best Master’s in Genetic Counseling Programs

Best Counseling Degrees - Top Master's in Genetic Counseling Programs
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By Staff Writer
Last Updated: May 19, 2020

Genetic counselors possess highly specialized knowledge and skills to help identify genetic disorders and related risks for patients. These medical professionals typically work with expectant parents or individuals who need information and guidance regarding hereditary disorders and diseases. Most genetic counselors specialize in traditional areas of the field, which include cancer, pediatric, and prenatal concentrations.

Prospective students in this area should attend regionally accredited institutions with programmatic accreditation from a genetics or genetic counseling accrediting body, such as the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counselors. Accreditation ensures that a school meets high academic standards and provides its pupils with a quality, worthwhile education. The genetic counseling programs included in this ranked list hold the appropriate accreditations and can help prepare you for a rewarding career.

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

Top 10 Master's in Genetic Counseling Programs
Rank University
1 Northwestern University
2 Johns Hopkins University
3 The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
4 Boston University
5 Ohio State University-Main Campus
6 Augustana University
7 Case Western Reserve University
8 University of Maryland Baltimore
9 Virginia Commonwealth University
10 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

 

What to Expect From a Master's Degree in Genetic Counseling

Students pursuing a master's in genetic counseling degree engage with diverse curricula covering genomics technology, cancer biology, reproductive health issues, and biomedical ethics. Depending on the genetic counseling school, master's students may need to complete in-person fieldwork and capstone projects for graduation. Learners usually need to complete multiple clinical rotations in hospital settings, including both observational sessions and hands-on appointments with patients. Most full-time students complete their master's in genetic counseling in two years.

Each aspiring genetic counselor must complete a master's degree and pass an exam to receive certification from the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Certification requirements vary among states, but most require genetic counselors to possess licensure before they can practice. Certification shows that a genetic counselor offers competent guidance and credible information for their patients. Hospitals and clinics typically require their genetics professionals to hold this certification.

Career Outlook for Genetic Counselors

Graduates of genetic counseling master's programs can find employment in hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, physician's offices, and educational institutions. They mostly work with adult patients who wish to learn about their potential for inherited diseases and related health conditions that might affect their families or children.

These professionals possess excellent communication skills due to their need to work directly with patients on a daily basis. Genetic counselors also work in teams with other health professionals, including physicians and clinical laboratory technologists, to carry out genetic testing processes and produce the most accurate information for their patients.

The job outlook for genetic counselors looks bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in this field to grow by 27% from 2018-28. Careers in this area of the medical field also pay well. Genetic counselors earned a median annual wage of $80,370 in 2018, $41,730 more per year than the median income for all other occupations in the United States.

Top Master's in Genetic Counseling Programs 2020

17

Indiana State University

Terre Haute, IN

In response to the rapid integration of genetics and healthcare, Indiana State University (ISU) provides a master's in genetic counseling. This two-year program combines training in medical genetics with foundational elements of psychological counseling. Through traditional classroom courses, laboratory research, and clinical experience, ISU offers an abundance of resources to bolster students' career goals.

Enrollees explore techniques of counseling, diagnostic genetics, embryology, and multicultural counseling. During the second year, clinical rotations begin in areas of interest that include pediatrics, prenatal, cancer, and other specializations. A capstone project allows the degree-seeker to research a topic of interest, collaborate with faculty, and present a publishable work of research.

Along with providing GRE scores and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better, each applicant for this genetic counseling program must possess substantial academic experience in science-based classes. The applicant must also have experience in a counseling-based environment and demonstrate an understanding of the genetic counseling field.

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16

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

New York, NY

The master's in genetic counseling at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) is sponsored by the university's department of genetics and genomic sciences. This multidisciplinary program supplies students with the clinical and research opportunities needed to gain hands-on experience while serving a broad scope of culturally diverse patients and families.

Coursework covers embryology; biostatistics; and culture, illness, and community health. Clinical rotations begin in the second semester and continue for the duration of the program. Rotations include areas of reproductive genetics, cancer genetics, and cardiovascular genetics. Throughout the program, students engage in a weekly case conference with faculty, genetic counselors, fellows, and laboratory staff. During the second year, learners attend a national conference focusing on genetic counseling.

Those interested in ISMMS's master's in genetic counseling must complete an application and supply GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. Applicants should have a science background and experience in a counseling environment.

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15

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

Denver, CO

University of Colorado's graduate program in genetic counseling offers comprehensive graduate-level training addressing the intricate individual, family, and societal impacts of the ever-changing landscape of human genomics. Students gain the skills to address the needs of patients and medical professionals while using genetic information to help parties make informed medical decisions.

This two-year program examines psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling, cytogenetics and molecular genetics, and human inborn errors of metabolism. Experiential work occurs in clinical settings, addressing issues such as prenatal genetics and hereditary cancer genetics. Students also take part in weekly departmental education meetings and a monthly genetic counseling journal club.

Each candidate for this master's in genetic counseling must possess an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, submit GRE scores, and have taken prerequisites in biology, chemistry, genetics, and psychology. All applicants must take part in an on-campus interview, regardless of their proximity to the university.

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14

Wayne State University

Detroit, MI

Offering students a foundation in counseling skills and scientific knowledge, Wayne State University's genetic counseling master's program trains competent, culturally diverse genetic counselors in hopes of broadening access to genetic services for Michigan residents.

Each student completes 35 credits from core courses, while the remaining 12 credits focus on clinical internships and a research project. Classes cover the principles of genetic counseling, human development, and teratology. Following the first semester, students take on 14-week clinical internships in each of the remaining semesters.

Those interested in applying for Wayne State's genetic counseling degree must submit GRE scores and official transcripts with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Prerequisite courses include two semesters of biology and chemistry, along with one semester each of genetics, biochemistry, statistics, and psychology. The admissions department strongly recommends that applicants possess advocacy experience in a counseling setting.

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13

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

The University of Arizona's master's in genetic counseling is offered through a partnership between the university's department of cellular and molecular medicine and the center for applied genetics and genomic medicine. This two-year degree features classroom-based coursework and experiential work with practicing genetic counselors and physicians. Coursework tapers as the focus becomes more directed toward practicum and research experience.

First-year courses include foundation of modern genetics, human histology, biostatistics in public health, and clinical cancer genetics. Early in the degree, learners begin research on their thesis projects. While the university does not require learners to publish their projects, students are encouraged to submit research projects for publication.

Prospective students must complete substantial prerequisite coursework prior to enrollment. Topics include biology, genetics, statistics, and chemistry. Applicants must also demonstrate an interest in the field through internships, volunteer work, or shadowing professionals in the field.

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12

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham, AL

In combining classroom and clinical experiences, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) offers a genetic counseling master's program that provides students with clinical training sites and service-learning opportunities. This interdisciplinary genetic counseling degree provides a versatile education that sees graduates landing careers in the public and private sectors.

During this 21-month program, students engage with a curriculum designed to investigate the successes and challenges of genomic medicine and counseling. Coursework includes classes in advanced medical genetics/genomics and theories of individual counseling. During the second semester, students begin practicum/clinical work, continuing for the duration of the program. The degree culminates with the submission of a publishable graduate research project.

While this program does not require an undergraduate science degree, applicants must complete various science-based prerequisites before enrolling at UAB. When applying, each prospective student must provide a personal statement, along with three letters of recommendation and GRE scores. The program admits 6-10 students each year.

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11

University of California-Irvine

Irvine, CA

Offered through University of California, Irvine's (UCI) department of pediatrics, this master's in genetic counseling sees graduates pursuing careers in research, public health, and education. This genetic counseling program, based in the clinical division of genetic and genomic medicine at the UCI Medical Center, has produced graduates since 1975. This two-year, full-time master's program traditionally admits 6-8 students per year.

Core courses for this six-quarter program covers genetic counseling practice and theory, teratology and embryology, cytogenetics, and hereditary cancer counseling. During the summer between years one and two, students gain experiential professional training running concurrently with scheduled coursework. Graduation requirements include a publishable research thesis and demonstration of competency in genetic counseling.

Students admitted to the program typically possess undergraduate degrees in physical or natural sciences with recommended academic prerequisites, including genetics and statistics. All candidates must provide GRE scores.

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10

University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

Pittsburgh, PA

The genetic counseling program at the University of Pittsburgh provides students with a strong foundation in clinical counseling, coupled with state-of-the-art training in the science of genetics. This master's in genetic counseling is rooted in three end goals: an understanding of the psychosocial elements of counseling, expansive clinical experience, and scientific training in genomics and genetics. This genetics counseling program admits about a dozen students annually.

Along with first-year coursework, learners engage in observational rotations, an online embryology module, and a human genetics seminar. Beginning in the summer between years one and two, degree-seekers begin a genetic counseling internship. During rotations, students gain exposure to clinics specializing in cardiovascular genetics, fetal diagnostics, and lysosomal storage disorders.

As a capstone project, degree-seekers complete thesis projects that engage faculty across disciplines. Prerequisites include several science-based undergraduate classes, including biology, chemistry, statistics, and psychology. Each candidate must provide GRE scores and transcripts demonstrating a cumulative 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

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9

Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, VA

Established in 1990, Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) genetic counseling program offers a full-time, campus-based master's program lasting 21 months. This 60-credit degree combines traditional coursework, hands-on clinical experience, and advanced research methods to prepare students for careers in this growing field. VCU graduates can secure certification through the American Board of Genetic Counseling.

Students enrolled in this master's degree in genetic counseling start their clinical training in their first semester, while also completing the majority of required coursework during the first year. Classes explore topics in intro to human genetics and techniques in genetic counseling. The latter half of the program dedicates itself to advanced clinical rotations and directed research.

Interested applicants must possess one year of undergraduate study in biology, chemistry, and behavioral science, along with one semester of genetics, biochemistry, and statistics. Admitted students typically possess a GPA in the 3.3-3.5 range. Candidates must also submit GRE scores.

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8

University of Maryland Baltimore

Baltimore, MD

Accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, University of Maryland, Baltimore, offers a full-time, two-year master's in genetic counseling. Directed at motivated students interested in becoming a part of a growing field in genetics, this program cultivates clinically oriented professionals working at the intersection of genetic science and its impact on families, individuals, and communities.

The first year focuses on coursework, covering topics like human genetics, clinical genetics, and clinical cancer genetics. During this time, students engage in a yearlong research class while volunteering with support groups. Clinical rotations begin in the first year and continue throughout the program. The second year emphasizes these rotations, along with weekly seminars and workshops.

Each candidate for this genetic counseling degree must complete an application and supply three letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, and a personal essay. Applicants must possess crisis counseling experience, along with exposure to a genetic counselor or geneticist.

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7

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH

Housed within Case Western Reserve University's (CWRU) department of genetics and genome sciences, this genetic counseling master's program is bolstered by an internationally recognized reputation in the field. The two-year master's degree combines didactic coursework, clinical training, research experience, and laboratory exposure. CWRU prepares graduates to provide competent and compassionate genetic counseling firmly rooted in scientific practices.

This 40-credit curriculum employs substantial coursework and research while requiring four eight-week clinical and laboratory rotations, along with a six-week summer clinical rotation. Course material includes genetic concepts, embryology, counseling principles, and ethical and professional issues in genetic counseling. As the degree concludes, graduate students present their original work during the program's research showcase.

Those admitted into the genetic counseling master's program at CWRU can receive a yearly stipend through departmental funds. Students should contact the university's financial aid department for supplementary financial assistance.

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6

Augustana University

Sioux Falls, SD

Augustana University's (AU) master's degree in genetic counseling is a 21-month, full-time program that integrates traditional classroom learning, hands-on experience, and clinical rotations. In the first year, students engage with coursework at the Sioux Falls campus. As the curriculum shifts towards practicum experience, half of the graduate students remain in South Dakota, while the other half can complete their degrees in San Diego, California.

The core curriculum covers topics in communication and interviewing skills for the genetic counselor, genomics and business, and reproductive genetics. Spanning the majority of the degree, each student completes four practicums in genetic counseling. Learner responsibility progresses throughout the program as students develop their proficiency in clinical/research techniques.

Those interested in the master's program at AU must possess a science-focused undergraduate degree, along with evidence of substantial coursework covering biology, chemistry, psychology, and statistics. Prior volunteer and professional experience within the field is also strongly recommended.

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5

Ohio State University-Main Campus

Columbus, OH

As a relatively new program, Ohio State University's genetic counseling program graduated its first class of master's candidates in 2016. With a stated mission of training knowledgeable and compassionate genetic counselors, students gain advanced knowledge in genomics, genetics, and psychosocial counseling through evidence-based practice.

With the majority of coursework occurring in the first year of study, classes include foundations of genetics, genetic counseling, and medicine. Clinical practicums begin in the first semester and continue throughout the program. In the second semester, degree-seekers formulate and research potential topics for their master's thesis projects.

The admissions department conducts interviews between January and April, considering each candidate through an application and an interview. Each applicant must possess a science-based undergraduate degree and some exposure to clinical/genetic counseling. The admissions department does not require GRE scores.

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4

Boston University

Boston, MA

Offered through Boston University's school of graduate medical sciences, this master's in genetic counseling trains students through a combination of rigorous coursework and dynamic fieldwork. With a stated goal of graduating competent, motivated, and sensitive genetic counselors, this two-year program offers educational experiences in the heart of Boston.

The first year of this genetic counseling master's program focuses primarily on coursework. Over the first two semesters, students explore professional issues in genetic counseling, prenatal genetics, and counseling techniques. The second year shifts to on-the-ground fieldwork and the development of a degree-culminating research capstone. The capstone project allows enrollees to synthesize theoretical ideas and practical skills while contributing publishable research to the field.

Each candidate must complete an online application and provide official academic transcripts, GRE scores, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Learners can pursue funding through financial aid, scholarships, and on-campus work, along with external scholarships and awards.

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3

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Houston, TX

Founded in 1989, University of Texas's genetic counseling program admits approximately 40 students annually from a pool of about 200 applicants. This master's in genetic counseling is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling and balances the scientific and psychosocial aspects of the field.

The majority of coursework falls within the first year of study. Courses cover topics in cancer genetic counseling, prenatal genetic counseling, and psychosocial issues in genetic counseling. As the degree continues, enrollees focus on master's thesis research and clinical rotations in several different locations. As a degree-culminating project, graduate students propose and complete clinically focused research projects and written theses.

A successful applicant typically possesses an undergraduate 3.5 GPA or better and GRE scores above the 50th percentile. The university also strongly recommends experience in client advocacy, volunteer experience, and some genetic counseling exposure. Undergraduate experience should be firmly rooted in science, psychology, and mathematics.

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2

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) offers a master of science in genetic counseling through the department of health, behavior, and society while working closely with the National Human Genome Research Institute. With broad academic and career-centered resources, graduates provide effective genetic counseling while educating policymakers and healthcare providers about issues in the field.

This 30-month, 80-credit master's in genetic counseling involves traditional coursework, clinical rotations, a thesis, and written examinations. Required courses include statistical methods in public health, practical genetic counseling, and intro to medical genetics. JHU mandates 400 hours of supervised clinical rotations beginning in the second quarter and continuing through degree completion

As part of the degree-seeker's thesis, each enrollee presents a publishable, original work of research as the degree comes to a close. Each candidate must submit an online application, along with official transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement.

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1

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Offered through Northwestern University's Center for Genetic Medicine, this master's in genetic counseling provides students with the foundational knowledge needed for careers in this evolving field. Northwestern began offering a genetic counseling degree in 1990. The school admits 20 students annually for this 18-month genetic counseling degree.

Coursework covers topics in cancer and adult genetics, dysmorphology, psychosocial aspects of genetic counseling, and risk assessment and communication. Degree-seekers enroll in clinical practicums their first semester, which acts as an introduction to the advanced counseling techniques applied later in the program. As the degree culminates, students research and defend original thesis projects.

Each prospective student must possess an undergraduate degree in a science-related field with a minimum 3.0 GPA, along with experience in topics like human genetics, psychology, and statistics. Applicants must also submit GRE scores. Enrollees can pursue tuition remission through work-study, funding for research, and scholarships.

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