What does a Genetic Counselor Do?
Genetic counselors help families discover their risk for inherited diseases, which covers genetic disorders as well as the possibility of birth defects. Genetic counselors provide important information to patients in order to help patients make informed decisions about their own health. They may also provide information to healthcare providers or other medical establishments in order to help patients receive insurance reimbursements. Genetic counselors may also provide advice, guidance, and support during the decision making process for families who are at risk for genetic disorders.
Genetic Counselors Skills and Abilities
Genetic counselors provide help for people in some of the most vulnerable points in their lives. Because of this, genetic counselors must be excellent listeners and be able to make informed and rational decisions even under tough circumstances. As a genetic counselor, you need to have the ability to express yourself thoroughly both in writing or in speaking, so that patients and other individuals can fully understand what you are trying to communicate. Genetic counselors must also be familiar with biology, psychology, medicine, therapy, and have superb counseling skills in order to provide the best and most informed care to patients seeking their help.
Genetic Counselors Duties
Genetic counselors will spend their day involved in a variety of activities. Some activities revolve around patient care, and other activities will focus on genetic research and understanding. On any given day, as a genetic counselor you will need to be able to perform the following duties:
- Analyze patient histories and family medical histories
- Collect medical information directly from patients or through family members and past medical records
- Thoroughly explain medical information to patients and family members in a way that they can understand
- Inform medical professionals and insurance companies of patient care requirements or medical information, and submit paperwork on behalf of your clients
- Provide advice to patients or family members and help them make informed medical decisions
- Conduct research on genetic issues and medical breakthroughs to keep your skills current and increase your knowledge of genetics and genetic disorders
- Keep detailed medical records for patients regarding their history, treatment options, and treatment goals
Genetic Counselors Tools and Technology
Genetic counselors work with many tools and technology each day that can help them identify DNA sequences and make informed conclusions about their patients using the biological and medical information available. As a genetic counselor, you will need to be familiar with the following tools and technology in the workplace:
- Table top centrifuges and high-speed centrifuges
- DNA sequence analyzers
- Analytical software
- Medical software
- Presentation programs and internet browsing software
Education and Training for Genetic Counselors
To become a genetic counselor, you need to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, although some companies do require a master’s degree for an entry-level position. No previous work experience is needed for this position, as you will get the training and hands-on experience you need from your educational program while earning your degree.
Genetic Counselors Salary
The salary that you can earn as a genetic counselor may vary widely, and can depend greatly on what state you reside in. The average genetic counselor earns around $67,000 per year, but you can each much more than that. The highest 10% of genetic counselors can earn over $100,00 annually. Genetic counselors in Maryland, California, and New York typically earn the highest wages across the nation for this position.
Genetic Counselors Jobs by Geography
As technology grows and advances, so does the ability to detect, diagnose, and treat genetic disorders, birth defects, and other inherited diseases. Because of these scientific advances, the employment outlook for genetic counselors is very good, with a 41% increase in jobs projected within the next 10 years.