The BLS states that the employment outlook for the genetics counseling field is quite promising. They project it to grow at 29 percent by the year 2024, which is much faster than average. Keep reading to learn why the employment outlook for this exciting medical field is so good.
A Growing Profession
Modern medicine now relies more and more on genetic science, so the demand for health care professionals who can assess and communicate these health issues is significantly increasing. This is because public awareness is growing in conjunction with scientific advances in reproductive technologies. Health care consumers now want genetics specialists who can provide highly accurate and advanced consultations regarding their unique genetic conditions. Most genetic counselors work with couples or single mothers who are planning their pregnancy. The demand for genetic counselors in clinical, research, teaching, consulting, commercial, administrative, public health and public policy environments is expected to continue growing well into the 21st century.
Genetic counselors work directly with patients who have or are at risk of having genetic disorders. They help these patients understand the nature of their condition, what the health ramifications are and how best to manage them. Genetic counselors transform complex scientific data into easily understood and presentable information that patients use to make informed decisions regarding their health and the health of their future children. Genetic counselors are also patient advocates who refer their clients to various health care programs and community support services. They also educate the public and fellow health care professionals about the science of genetics in order to promote awareness and understanding.
Where Do They Work?
Genetic counselors work in a variety of primary practice areas, such as adult, prenatal and pediatric clinics. They spend most of their time in health care settings meeting patients face-to-face. Most work alongside other health care professionals, so some of their time is spent consulting through email and telephone. They need excellent interpersonal and communication skills to be able to discuss sensitive health conditions and complex scientific information in an easily understood manner. As patients come to terms with the reality of their genetic disorders and related side effects, genetic counselors must be available to help them cope with the their situations and limitations. In order to advise patients regarding complex genetic health care issues, these counselors must have a solid understanding of genetic science.
Education and Training
The education needed to achieve a career as a genetic counselor isn't as rigorous as a board-certified physician, but six years in college are still expected. This equates to four years at the undergraduate level and two years at the graduate level. Genetic counselors must have a Master's degree to become licensed to practice. It does not matter which major is chosen at the undergraduate level as long as it is in the field of medical science. All genetics counselors must earn a Master's degree in genetics or genetic counseling to become eligible for their board-certified genetic counseling exam. There are only around 30 programs in the county that offer these programs, which give classes in biology, molecular genetics, prenatal diagnosis, birth defects, research methods, genetic screening, public health and epidemiology.
The employment outlook for the genetics counseling field is good, so aspiring students should find a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC).