What Does a Genetic Counselor Do?
Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who work with individuals, families, communities and other healthcare professionals to empower them to understand how genetic information impacts their lives or the lives of their patients.
As a genetic counselor you can:
- Educate individuals, families, health professionals and communities about family health history, inheritance, genetic testing, management, prevention, resources and research
- Collect family health history and provide disease risk assessment
- Provide psychosocial support and counseling to individuals, family and groups to promote informed choices and adaptation to risks or conditions
Find Your Own Niche
Genetic counselors work in a variety of clinical, laboratory and research settings, working collaboratively with many other professionals. They work with patients and families across the lifespan.
As a genetic counselor, you have many career options, including:
- Prenatal: Provide genetic counseling services to pregnant women, couples planning a pregnancy, couples who are at risk for having a baby with a genetic condition, or women who have experienced pregnancy loss among others.
- Pediatric: Provide genetic counseling services to parents, families, children and teenagers who have or are being evaluated for genetic conditions.
- Adult: Provide genetic counseling services to individuals with medical and genetic conditions, or a family history of a condition such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Huntington disease or Alzheimer disease.
- Laboratory / Industry
- Advise physicians and others who order genetic testing about the most appropriate genetic test or about how to interpret a test.
- Interpret genetic test results and write laboratory result reports.
- Provide education to healthcare professionals about genetics and/or genetic testing.
- Communicate insurance coverage decisions related to genetic counseling and/or genetic testing.
- Public Health
- Improve access to genetics services.
- Develop public policy related to genetics.
- Teach in high schools, colleges, universities and other places.
- Provide education to professional and community groups.
- Coordinate research studies.
- Conduct original research projects.
- Collaborate with other researchers.
- Many genetic counselors have jobs that involve roles in multiple areas!