University Masters Degree in Genetics: Program Overviews

Master's degrees in genetics are often featured as part of dual degree doctoral programs and may not be offered individually. The degree conferred is typically a Master of Science in Genetics. Students learn about the multiple variations of the science on an in-depth level through traditional classes and laboratory work.

Essential Information

Master's degrees in this field typically take 2-3 years to complete. Programs commonly offer both thesis and non-thesis options. Students who elect to pursue non-thesis programs usually take more courses than those pursuing thesis options. Additionally, non-thesis candidates complete comprehensive examinations.

Genetics programs require state-of-the art instruments and laboratory facilities, and faculty members are expected to be specialized and highly trained. As a result, these programs are often found at well-endowed institutions. Also, admission to these programs is competitive.

Applicants to master's degree programs in genetics must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission. College transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and a personal essay will likely also be required for consideration. The strongest applicants typically have volunteer or work experience in a related field, such as medicine, biology or chemistry.

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree in a related fields, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal essay
  • Program Specializations: Molecular genetics, biomedical genetics, human genetics, cellular genetics
  • Program Length: Usually 2-3 years
  • Other Requirements: For some programs, completion of a thesis

Master of Science in Genetics

In genetics master's degree programs, students can choose a specialization area, such as molecular genetics, biomedical genetics, human genetics and cellular genetics. Molecular genetics is the study of how genes function at the molecular level, focusing on how genetic information is transferred between generations. Biomedical genetics is concerned with the study of hereditary disorders. Human genetics differs from biomedical genetics because it focuses specifically on human genes and does not investigate genetic applications in medical care. Cellular genetics, or cytogenetics, is a branch of genetics that studies hereditary components of cells (namely chromosomes). All fields of genetics study variations in hereditary information among living things.

Students in these programs can expect to log extensive hours in laboratories. However, many courses are structured in a traditional lecture format. Some classes that might appear in the curriculum are:

  • Biomedical statistics
  • Genetic model systems
  • Population genetics
  • Biology of the gene
  • Molecular evolution

Popular Career Options

A master's degree in genetics can open the door to a number of career paths. They may also precede doctoral programs in a similar field, including a MD degree. Career options for graduates include:

  • Molecular biologist
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Pharmaceutical scientist
  • Genetic engineer
  • Governmental research positions

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