Genetic Counselor

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Job Outlook:
Much faster than average
Education: Master's degree
High: $128,380.00
Average: $93,120.00
Average: $44.77

What they do:

Assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. Provide information to other healthcare providers or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions. Advise individuals and families to support informed decisionmaking and coping methods for those at risk. May help conduct research related to genetic conditions or genetic counseling.

On the job, you would:

  • Interpret laboratory results and communicate findings to patients or physicians.
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits and limitations with patients and families to assist them in making informed decisions.
  • Analyze genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific disorders or syndromes.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Genetic counselors must be able to explain complex information in a way that their clients understand.

Compassion. Genetic counselors must be sensitive and empathetic when discussing clients’ options regarding potentially upsetting test results.

Critical-thinking skills. Genetic counselors recommend the proper test and analyze findings for each client.

Interpersonal skills. Genetic counselors must be able to relate well with clients and their families, as well as to work with other healthcare providers offering services to clients.

Organizational skills. Genetic counselors manage multiple clients and must keep accurate, complete records on each of them.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

94% Concern for Others  -  Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
93% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
91% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
86% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
84% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
84% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
83% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
78% Analytical Thinking  -  Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
76% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
75% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
73% Independence  -  Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
71% Social Orientation  -  Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
69% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
68% Leadership  -  Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
68% Persistence  -  Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
A3 Your Strengths Importance


95% Social  -  Work involves helping, teaching, advising, assisting, or providing service to others. Social occupations are often associated with social, health care, personal service, teaching/education, or religious activities.
89% Investigative  -  Work involves studying and researching non-living objects, living organisms, disease or other forms of impairment, or human behavior. Investigative occupations are often associated with physical, life, medical, or social sciences, and can be found in the fields of humanities, mathematics/statistics, information technology, or health care service.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

83% Relationships  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
67% Achievement  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
67% Recognition  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
61% Working Conditions  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
61% Independence  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

81% Written Comprehension  -  The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
78% Deductive Reasoning  -  The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
75% Written Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
75% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
75% Inductive Reasoning  -  The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
75% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
75% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
72% Information Ordering  -  The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
72% Speech Recognition  -  The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
69% Speech Clarity  -  The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Skills | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

68% Reading Comprehension  -  Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.

Job Details

Analyze test data or images to inform diagnosis or treatment.
Explain medical procedures or test results to patients or family members.
Advise patients on effects of health conditions or treatments.
Evaluate patient functioning, capabilities, or health.
Communicate detailed medical information to patients or family members.
Interact with patients to build rapport or provide emotional support.
Analyze patient data to determine patient needs or treatment goals.
Develop medical treatment plans.
Order medical diagnostic or clinical tests.
Communicate detailed medical information to patients or family members.
Explain medical procedures or test results to patients or family members.
Inform medical professionals regarding patient conditions and care.
Gather medical information from patient histories.
Collect medical information from patients, family members, or other medical professionals.
Record patient medical histories.
Communicate detailed medical information to patients or family members.
Refer patients to other healthcare practitioners or health resources.
Prepare reports summarizing patient diagnostic or care activities.
Conduct health or safety training programs.
Train medical providers.
Conduct research to increase knowledge about medical issues.
Conduct research to increase knowledge about medical issues.
Develop healthcare quality and safety procedures.
Advise medical personnel regarding healthcare issues.
Maintain medical or professional knowledge.
Prepare healthcare training materials.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

100% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
100% Electronic Mail  -  How often do you use electronic mail in this job?
100% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
91% Letters and Memos  -  How often does the job require written letters and memos?
89% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
86% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
83% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
83% Spend Time Sitting  -  How much does this job require sitting?
79% Deal With External Customers  -  How important is it to work with external customers or the public in this job?
76% Frequency of Decision Making  -  How frequently is the worker required to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the image and reputation of the organization?
76% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
74% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
73% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
73% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
69% Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results  -  What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the image or reputation or financial resources of your employer?
74% Duration of Typical Work Week  -  Number of hours typically worked in one week.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

94% Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge  -  Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
94% Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others  -  Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
92% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
86% Assisting and Caring for Others  -  Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
86% Documenting/Recording Information  -  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
82% Working with Computers  -  Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
81% Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships  -  Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
79% Communicating with People Outside the Organization  -  Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
78% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
78% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
76% Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work  -  Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
73% Processing Information  -  Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
71% Analyzing Data or Information  -  Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
70% Performing for or Working Directly with the Public  -  Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
66% Training and Teaching Others  -  Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
65% Providing Consultation and Advice to Others  -  Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.

What Genetic Counselors Do

genetic counselors image
Genetic counselors assess clients' risk for inherited conditions and support decisions made based upon test results.

Genetic counselors assess clients’ risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as birth defects. They review genetic test results with individuals and families and support them in making decisions based on those results. They also offer information to other healthcare providers.


Genetic counselors typically do the following:

  • Collect comprehensive family and medical histories through means such as interviews, discussions with physicians, and reviewing medical records
  • Evaluate genetic information to identify clients at risk for specific hereditary disorders
  • Document information from counseling sessions to send to clients or to referring physicians
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits, and limitations with clients and other healthcare providers
  • Educate clients and provide information about genetic risks and inherited conditions
  • Provide psychological, emotional, or other support to clients distressed by test results
  • Research hereditary disorders and developments in the field of genetics

Genetic counselors identify hereditary risks through the study of genetics. Specifically, they study genetic disorders or syndromes that are inherited from one’s family. Prospective parents may consult genetic counselors to assess the risk of having children with hereditary disorders, such as cystic fibrosis. Genetic counselors also assess the risk for an individual to develop a disease, such as certain forms of cancer.

Counselors use DNA testing to identify clients’ inherited conditions. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians perform lab tests, which genetic counselors then evaluate and use for counseling clients. They share this information with other healthcare providers, such as physicians.

Genetic counselors may focus on a particular area of genetic counseling, such as prenatal, cancer, or pediatric. They also may work in one or more specialty fields, such as cardiovascular health, genomic medicine, or psychiatry.

Work Environment

Genetic counselors held about 3,500 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of genetic counselors were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 42%
Offices of physicians 18
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 9
Outpatient care centers 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 7

Genetic counselors work with individuals, families, and other healthcare providers.

Work Schedules

Most genetic counselors work full time.

Getting Started

Master's Degree

How to Become a Genetic Counselor

genetic counselors image
Genetic counselors must be sensitive and compassionate when communicating their findings.

Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling. Nearly all states require genetic counselors to be licensed, and licensure usually requires board certification.


Genetic counselors typically need a master’s degree in genetic counseling. Admission to master’s degree programs varies. Some schools require a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field, such as biology. Other programs require coursework in subjects such as biology, genetics, or statistics. Prospective students should check with an individual school regarding its requirements.

Genetic counseling programs typically take 2 years of postbaccalaureate study. A list of accredited programs is available from the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling.

In addition to medical topics, coursework in genetic counseling focuses on client interaction and research. Students typically complete supervised clinical rotations that provide students an opportunity to work with clients in different clinical environments.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require genetic counselors to be licensed. Although requirements vary by state, licensure typically requires certification. For specific information, contact your state’s medical board.

The American Board of Genetic Counseling offers certification for genetic counselors. To become certified, candidates must complete an accredited master’s degree program and pass an exam. Counselors must complete continuing education courses to maintain board certification.

Even in states that do not require certification, employers may require or prefer that job candidates be certified or receive certification within a specified time after being hired.

Job Outlook

Employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 16 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 300 openings for genetic counselors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Employment growth is expected as ongoing technological innovations are giving genetic counselors opportunities to conduct more types of analyses. Developments in cancer genomics, for example, increasingly allow these counselors to determine a patient’s risk for specific types of cancer. In addition, the number and types of lab tests that genetic counselors can evaluate have increased over the past few years. Many of these tests are covered by health insurance providers, which should further strengthen the demand for genetic counseling services.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about genetic counselors, certification, and schools offering education in genetic counseling, visit

American Board of Genetic Counseling

For more information about genetic counseling career requirements and developments in genetics, including licensure, visit

National Society of Genetic Counselors

For more information about accreditation and schools offering education in genetic counseling, visit

Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of genetic counselors.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
Epidemiologists Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are public health workers who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury.

Master's degree $78,520
Health educators Health Education Specialists

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Bachelor's degree $59,990
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Doctoral or professional degree $99,930
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists Marriage and Family Therapists

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Master's degree $56,570
Physicians and surgeons Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and address health maintenance.

Doctoral or professional degree $229,300

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.