Genetic Counselor

Job Description

A genetic counselor is a health professional who has a specialized graduate degree and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling.

Focus On a Genetic Counselor

Robin Bennett is a senior genetic counselor and clinic manager at the Medical Genetics Clinic of the University of Washington. Individuals and couples who seek genetic counseling include people whose family members have birth defects or genetic disorders and people who may be at risk for an inherited condition. Clients may be expecting a child or considering parenthood, or they may have been recently diagnosed with a disease. "The whole family becomes your patient," says Bennett. At the first meeting with a client, Bennett usually draws up a pedigree, obtains medical records of affected relatives, and, in some cases, orders blood tests. "After the appointment, I send the client a written report, which helps patients and their families and healthcare providers to understand the information."

Education and Skills

• High school—a focus on science and math courses

• College—bachelor's degree, including course work in genetics, chemistry, statistics, psychology, and developmental biology; M.S. degree in genetic counseling; national certification is available • Skills—strong verbal skills, emotional stability, and strong writing skills

For more about careers, visit and type in the keyword HM6 Careers.

For more about careers, visit and type in the keyword HM6 Careers.

Genetic Counseling

Many people with a family history of a genetic disease also undergo genetic counseling, the process of informing a person or couple about their genetic makeup. Genetic counseling is a form of medical guidance that informs individuals about problems that might affect their offspring. By studying the data from genetic screening tests and the family's pedigree, a genetic counselor can predict the likelihood that a couple will produce an affected child. For diseases that have both genetic and environmental influences, such as diabetes, physicians and counselors can advise families on how to lower risk factors. Topic: Genetic Diseases, Screening, Counseling Keyword: HM60651


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