Genetic Counseling

There is a growing need for Genetic Counselors, who are trained in genetics and counseling, to help patients address questions about their genetic health. Genetic Counselors perform a variety of jobs, such as collecting family histories and interpreting genetic test results for patients, providing information and support for patients regarding inherited diseases, and serving as liaisons with physicians and researchers. Genetic Counselors can specialize in a number of areas, including prenatal care, pediatrics, oncology, and neurology.

Please note: This is an informational page for current SPU students and does not represent a program that SPU offers.

To become a Genetic Counselor, one must successfully complete a Masters degree through an accredited program. Many states require that Genetic Counselors be licensed. Genetic Counseling programs are typically 24 months, and include both didactic instruction and clinical training.

For SPU students,the BS Cellular & Molecular Biology and BS Biochemistry degrees would help you meet program prerequisites if you add Psychology (General Psychology and a course in Developmental Psychology are recommended). (BS Biochemistry majors would also need to take Statistics.) The BS Applied Human Biology degree would also be a good option, as long as you take Genetics, Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry as electives.

 SPU students who are interested in participating in the Genetic Counseling Student Interest Group should contact Dr. Jenny Tenlen.

Professional Website

General Information

Education

Genetic Counseling programs are typically 24 months. All Genetic Counseling programs participate in an "admissions match" system, described on this site. In the match system, applicants and programs rank their placement preferences, then students are placed into a single program. Applicants must register with the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match service first before applying to individual programs.

Admissions

Admissions requirements are described on the Genetic Counseling Association of Directors website. Consideration to schools usually requires the following:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Completion of courses including General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Genetics, Statistics and Psychology. Please be sure to check with individual programs for their specific requirements
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Job shadow or speak to a genetic counselor to show you have explored the field and are familiar with the profession
  • Advocacy experience volunteering as a counselor (e.g., crisis counseling, bereavement counseling) or working with individuals who have a genetic conditions or disability
  • Research/lab/teaching experience are also valued by many programs

Information on specific program requirements were collected by students in the Genetic Counseling Interest Group, and are summarized in this document (requires SPU login to access).

SPU alum Kari Thorsen was mentored by a genetic counselor at Seattle Children's Hospital, and shared her reflections on the experience (requires SPU login to access).

Standardized Tests

Licensure

Policies for becoming licensed vary by state. The National Society of Genetic Counselors maintains a list of licensure requirements for each state in the US. (Washington state does require licensure.)

Genetic Counselors can be certified through the American Board of Genetic Counseling, Inc., which requires passing an examination as part of the certification process, among other requirements.