Who are Genetic Counselors?

Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who combine their knowledge of basic science, medical genetics, epidemiological principles, and counseling theory with their skills in genetic risk assessment, education, interpersonal communication and counseling to provide services to clients and their families for a diverse set of genetic or genomic indications.

Genetic counselors are employed in many settings such as university medical centers, community clinics, physician offices, health maintenance organizations, advocacy organizations, governmental agencies, public health departments and biotechnology companies. Those in clinical practice provide education and counseling in such areas as reproductive genetics, pediatric genetics, newborn screening follow-up, cancer genetics, neurogenetics and cardiovascular genetics. Many genetic counselors are also actively involved in teaching and clinical research. The profession is growing rapidly with the number of certified genetic counselors increasing more than 400% since 1992.

Job satisfaction is high in genetic counseling. Eighty-nine percent of clinical genetic counselors and 87% of non-clinical genetic counselors reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their job in the National Society of Genetic Counselors 2010 Professional Status Survey. Respondents were most satisfied with the following aspects of the profession: counseling patients, learning opportunities, scientific content and the opportunity for personal growth.

What is Genetic Counseling?

Genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:

  • Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
  • Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
  • Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition.

National Society of Genetic Counselors, 2005

Genetic Counseling Practiced Based Competencies

The essential skill set for genetic counselors falls under the four domains below. These domains represent practice areas that define the activities of a genetic counselor.

Click here for the full ACGC Practice-Based Competencies Document.

Genetic Counseling Scope of Practice

This “Genetic Counselors Scope of Practice” statement outlines the responsibilities of individuals engaged in the practice of genetic counseling. The responsibilities of a genetic counselor are threefold:

  • To provide expertise in clinical genetics
  • To counsel and communicate with patients on matters of clinical genetics
  • To provide genetic counseling services in accordance with professional ethics and values

Click here for the full NSGC Scope of Practice Document Resources about becoming a genetic counselor.

Share this page