Genetic Counselors

Are you curious about a career as a Genetic Counselor in the United States of America? Now you can learn what Genetic Counselors do, the work environment, how to become one, salary, and job outlook. 

Genetic counselors are medical doctors, physicians, and nurses who provide genetic services and support to patients with complex health needs. Genetic counselors have advanced education and clinical experience in genetics, medical genetics, biostatistics, bioinformatics, and research methods. Genetic counselors use their knowledge and skills to help patients understand their personal risk for genetic conditions and disease, and they work with patients and families to make informed decisions about healthcare, prevention, and treatment.

A Genetic Counselor provides counseling services to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Genetic Counselors must have expertise in a specific area of medicine, including genetics, and demonstrate advanced training and experience in genetics and medical genetics. Genetic Counselors assess patient’s health status, review the genetic information provided by the patients, and provide information to patients and families about the nature of genetic risk, available options for prevention and/or treatment, and medical issues related to their genetic risk or condition.

Genetic counselors often communicate with both patients and their families using the language of science, medicine, and genetics.  Genetic counselors are not employed by hospitals or medical facilities, but instead practice independently or in a group setting with other healthcare providers. As such, they work in private offices, clinics, and hospitals, and some even specialize in particular geographic regions, such as cancer care centers or genetic research facilities. The scope of practice of genetic counselors can vary widely based on the location and type of medical practice in which they work. 

Genetic counselors are required to have a medical degree and a license to practice in the state or jurisdiction where they are practicing. In most states, the board that licenses doctors also licenses genetic counselors. Genetic counselors also have many specialties within their practice area. These include:      

* Cancer Genetics Counselors      * Clinical Geneticists      * Clinical Genetic Counselors      * Family Planning Genetic Counselors      * Genetic Counseling      * Medical Genetics Counselors      * Medical Genetics Specialists      * Medical Oncologists (Oncology)      * Pediatricians (Pediatrics)      * Public Health      * Reproductive Genetics      * Sexual and Gender Diversity      * Somatic Cell Genetics      * Transplant      * Urogynecology (Obstetrics)      * Women’s Health      * and many more  

As genetic counselors, the knowledge, skills, and abilities required are very similar to that of a physician. The differences lie in the scope of practice. The practice of genetic counselors is limited by state law and board licensing requirements. A Genetic Counselor may work in a hospital, academic medical center, private practice, or government agency. Genetic counselors work in a variety of practice settings and collaborate with a wide range of healthcare professionals. They often consult with geneticists, molecular biologists, genetic counselors, physicians, nurse practitioners, and medical geneticists. Genetic counselors may have specializations, such as an interest in pediatric genetics or cancer genetics. Many Genetic Counselors work in a combination of these practice settings, such as a genetic counselor who works at a hospital and also practices in a private practice. Genetic counselors must obtain a license to practice medicine and can practice in one or more of these settings.

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