Genetic Counselor Job Description

Genetic counselors collect information from patients, and they often work with medical records or family history forms. They help people understand the inheritance pattern of conditions in their family.

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Genetic counselors work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical schools and universities, private research labs, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). They are trained to provide genetic information in ways that patients can understand. It is their job to inform patients who have or might be at risk for certain inherited diseases so that the patients can learn how to take protective actions. They also advise patients about using genetic testing and interpreting test results.


Genetic counselors work with individuals, families, and couples for a variety of reasons including: screening for disease risk; facilitating pre-conception (before pregnancy) planning; counseling people with a family history of certain inherited diseases; providing information about fetal, newborn and childhood screening; counseling about carrier status for inherited conditions (e.g., sickle cell and cystic fibrosis), family planning, and reproductive options; providing support and education during times of crisis such as the diagnosis of a genetic condition in an infant or child (newborn screening); assisting with complex medical decisions concerning life-threatening inherited conditions. They also work with individuals who have recently experienced a genetic or prenatal diagnosis of a potentially serious condition including genetic counseling for people who are considering termination of pregnancy (abortion) due to fetal anomaly, and providing support and information prior to the birth, at the time of delivery, during recovery after childbirth, and in preparation for future pregnancies.


Genetic counselors collect information from patients, often working with medical records and family history forms to help them understand the inheritance pattern of conditions in their family. They also use clinical guidelines for the testing or treatment of health conditions and genetic counseling protocols (written documents that govern how they counsel people). The results of tests ordered by other medical professionals are reviewed by genetic counselors. Genetic counselors are also responsible for counseling people in the event of a genetic or prenatal diagnosis. They may work with other health care professionals (e.g., nurses, psychologists) to develop and carry out treatment plans for patients with inherited disorders.


Genetic counselors are trained to help people find services they need from hospitals and community agencies. They also work with schools and universities to educate teachers, counselors, and other professionals about genetic conditions. Genetic counselors have a master's degree in genetics or human biology with a specialty in clinical, counseling or medical genetics from an accredited graduate school. In addition they are trained as professional counselors whose focus is on helping people make decisions regarding their health care based on scientific information and in ways that are non-directive (i.e., they do not tell patients what to do, but help patients find the answers themselves).


Genetic counseling is a new career field brought about by medical advances that allow people to learn whether or not they carry genes for certain inherited diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, cystic fibrosis, Huntington's chorea, hemophilia, breast cancer and many others. The job of a genetic counselor is to help individuals and families understand whether they might be at risk for these conditions or may have family members with the disorders. Genetic counselors are trained in counseling skills that allow them to explain inherited diseases using clear language patients can understand. They are also trained in research methods that help them give accurate and unbiased information.

Statistics on Genetic Counselors


  • Employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 21 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. (
  • According to a 2016 survey from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, most genetic counselors specialize in traditional areas of genetic counseling: prenatal, cancer, and pediatric. (
  • The largest employers of genetic counselors were as follows: Hospitals; state, local, and private 43%, Offices of physicians 13%, Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 12%, Medical and diagnostic laboratories 11%. (
  • The lowest 10 percent earned less than $66,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $126,350. (
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of genetic counselors will grow 29% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. (

Articles On Genetic Counselors


Genetic Counselors: Occupational Outlook Handbook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. (


Genetic Counseling

Reasons for Genetic Counseling, what do Genetics Professionals do and how to find genetic professionals. Reasons for genetic counseling include planning for pregnancy, during pregnancy, Caring for children and managing you health. (


Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors provide a critical service to people considering undergoing genetic testing by helping them identify their risks for certain disorders. (


Genetic Counselors (


Becoming a Genetic Counselor (


Genetic counseling

Genetic counseling helps you know how genes, birth defects and medical conditions run in your family and may impact your baby. Seeing a genetic counselor may help you know what to anticipate during and after your pregnancy. (


Genetic Counselor

A genetic counselor combs through a patient's family tree to highlight any potential health risks. (


Genetic Counselor

Information on licenses, renewals, scope of practice, fees, rules and regulations for genetic counselors. (


Genetic Counselor - Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science

Learn about a health care career as a genetic counselor, including what they do, where they work, and training programs at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. (

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