Human Genetics Education and Career Information

Degrees in human genetics typically cover science, chemistry, physics and mathematics topics. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for human genetics graduates.

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A degree in human genetics can prepare students for several career options, such as geneticist or genetic counselor. These careers involve the study of human biochemistry and working with human DNA in some way. Individuals aspiring to work in human genetics need at least a master's degree to get started.

Essential Information

Students can obtain a bachelor's in related fields such as biochemistry or molecular biology. Internship programs are available, and in order to become a genetic counselor or geneticist, students most hold a minimum of a master's degree. Those interested in doing research or working in a laboratory must also acquire a Ph.D. in Human Genetics or an M.D. and the requisite physician licensing. Certification programs and degree programs for human genetics are accredited by The American Board of Genetic Counseling.

Career Genetic Counselor Laboratory Geneticist Clinical Geneticist
Education Requirements Master's degree M.D., Ph.D. Bachelor's in biological or natural science field, M.D. or D.O.
Job Growth (2014-24)* 29% l-0.4% (biological scientists, all other) 8% (medical scientists)
Median Salary $72,090 annually (2015)* $77,611 annually (geneticists, 2016)** $82,240 annually (medical scientists, 2015)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

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Career Options

Graduates with human genetic degrees can pursue higher education by getting their master's, Ph.D., M.D. or D.O. These degrees prepare students for careers in specific areas like government, hospital, administration, teaching and research settings. Below are overviews and detailed descriptions of three possible career options for human genetics majors.

Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors collect and analyze data about patients' medical and genetic histories. They provide information and help to families and individuals about the occurrence, risk and minimization of inherited diseases. They may also have job duties in areas such as administration, research, teaching and lab work. Institutions such as hospitals, universities, laboratories, research facilities and government agencies can employ genetic counselors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), genetic counselors made an annual median salary of $72,090 as of 2015.

Laboratory Geneticists

Laboratory geneticists are specialists in genetics with relation to laboratory medicine and DNA testing. They research genetic material to assist and work for agricultural, pharmaceutical, clinical medicine and law enforcement organizations. Many laboratory geneticists have 4-6 years of postsecondary education, while lab directors may hold either a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree. Payscale.com reports that geneticists made a median salary of $77,611 as of January 2016.

Clinical Geneticists

Clinical geneticists are generally licensed physicians holding M.D. degrees, and may also be involved in the field of medical genetics, which can require certification from the American Board of Medical Genetics (ABMG). They can specialize in areas such as oncology, pediatrics or obstetrics and gynecology, and work in hospitals, medical centers or other research centers. In addition, clinical geneticists may manage a team of genetic counselors and work together to help identify and minimize the risk factors for certain hereditary diseases.

The BLS reports that job growth for medical scientists is expected to reach 8% between 2014 and 2024, which is about average when compared to other occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that medical scientists earned a median annual salary of $82,240 as of May 2015.

Human genetics are studied by a variety of scientists and professionals. Individuals with a background in human genetics may work with patients as a genetic counselor, or in a lab as a geneticist. A master's degree is the minimum education required for some of these professions, though a medical degree is required for many upper level careers in human genetics.

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