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Career profile Genetic Counselor

Also known as Certified Genetic Counselor, Genetic Counselor, Medical Science Liaison, Prenatal and Pediatric Genetic Counselor, Reproductive Genetic Counseling Coordinator, Senior Genetic Counselor, Staff Genetic Counselor

Genetic Counselor

Also known as Certified Genetic Counselor, Genetic Counselor, Medical Science Liaison

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
Pay Range
$66,930 - $126,350 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active Listening
  • Complex Problem Solving
Knowledge Areas
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Medicine and Dentistry
Core tasks
  • Interpret laboratory results and communicate findings to patients or physicians.
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits and limitations with patients and families to assist them in making informed decisions.
  • Analyze genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific disorders or syndromes.
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What does a Genetic Counselor do?

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

In addition, Genetic Counselors

  • provide information to other healthcare providers or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions,
  • advise individuals and families to support informed decisionmaking and coping methods for those at risk,
  • may help conduct research related to genetic conditions or genetic counseling.

What kind of tasks does a Genetic Counselor perform regularly?

Genetic Counselors are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Interpret laboratory results and communicate findings to patients or physicians.
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits and limitations with patients and families to assist them in making informed decisions.
  • Analyze genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific disorders or syndromes.
  • Provide counseling to patient and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance.
  • Write detailed consultation reports to provide information on complex genetic concepts to patients or referring physicians.
  • Provide genetic counseling in specified areas of clinical genetics, such as obstetrics, pediatrics, oncology and neurology.
  • Determine or coordinate treatment plans by requesting laboratory services, reviewing genetics or counseling literature, and considering histories or diagnostic data.
  • Interview patients or review medical records to obtain comprehensive patient or family medical histories, and document findings.
  • Assess patients' psychological or emotional needs, such as those relating to stress, fear of test results, financial issues, and marital conflicts to make referral recommendations or assist patients in managing test outcomes.
  • Provide patients with information about the inheritance of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and various forms of cancer.
  • Read current literature, talk with colleagues, or participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics.
  • Prepare or provide genetics-related educational materials to patients or medical personnel.
  • Explain diagnostic procedures such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS), ultrasound, fetal blood sampling, and amniocentesis.
  • Refer patients to specialists or community resources.
  • Design and conduct genetics training programs for physicians, graduate students, other health professions or the general community.
  • Evaluate or make recommendations for standards of care or clinical operations, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations, ethics, legislation, or policies.
  • Engage in research activities related to the field of medical genetics or genetic counseling.
  • Collect for, or share with, research projects patient data on specific genetic disorders or syndromes.
  • Identify funding sources and write grant proposals for eligible programs or services.

The above responsibilities are specific to Genetic Counselors. More generally, Genetic Counselors are involved in several broader types of activities:

Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.

What is a Genetic Counselor salary?

The median salary for a Genetic Counselor is $85,700, and the average salary is $89,710. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Genetic Counselor salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Genetic Counselors earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Genetic Counselors earn less than $66,930 per year, 25% earn less than $74,060, 75% earn less than $103,700, and 90% earn less than $126,350.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Genetic Counselors is expected to change by 29.2%, and there should be roughly 300 open positions for Genetic Counselors every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$66,930 - $126,350
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Genetic Counselors?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Genetic Counselor are usually higher in their Social, Investigative, and Artistic interests.

Genetic Counselors typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Genetic Counselors typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Lastly, Genetic Counselors typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Genetic Counselor tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Genetic Counselors very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Genetic Counselors strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Genetic Counselors strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Genetic Counselors must consistently demonstrate qualities such as concern for others, integrity, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Genetic Counselors, ranked by importance:

Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Genetic Counselors need?

Many Genetic Counselors have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Genetic Counselors may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Genetic Counselors

  • 1.0% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 5.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 12.0% completed some college coursework
  • 8.4% earned a Associate's degree
  • 34.2% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 34.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 4.5% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Genetic Counselors

Genetic Counselors may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as biology, psychology, or medicine and dentistry knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Genetic Counselors might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Genetic Counselors

Genetic Counselors must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Genetic Counselors need abilities such as written comprehension, deductive reasoning, and oral comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Genetic Counselors, ranked by their relative importance.

Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Genetic Counselors

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Genetic Counselors frequently use skills like reading comprehension, active listening, and complex problem solving to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Genetic Counselors, ranked by their relative importance.

Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Complex Problem Solving
Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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