A Genetic Counseling program is said to come under the larger umbrella of a Master of Public Health (MPH) program (such as the one offered by the University of Texas Health Science Center). The master’s in genetic counseling online program combines a solid academic foundation and hands-on clinical practice with independent research to prepare graduates for the fast-paced, evolving field of genetic counseling. With diverse clinical assignments such as prenatal, pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, neurology, and psychiatric genetics, students can obtain specialized skills and work toward a genetic counseling degree. They gain knowledge through a combination of direct classroom instruction and hands-on engagement with genetic counselors, medical geneticists, and other health care experts.
The master’s in genetic counseling program is designed to give students the skills and information they need to succeed and adapt in the field of genomic medicine.
Masters in Genetic Counseling Degree Types
With Genetic Counseling being a scientific and highly technical subject, masters’ studies in this field are usually offered in only one degree type – the Master of Science or MS in Genetic Counseling. Some colleges allow students to pick another domain, such as Public Health, with a specialization in Genetic Counseling (Master of Science in Public Health with a concentration in Genetic Counseling (MSPH-GC)).
MS Genetic Counseling
The MS Genetic Counseling is a research-based, technically focused study of Genetic Counseling, complete with clinical practicums, hands-on training, and a substantial focus on counseling/psychology subjects as well. While some colleges may not require a thesis as part of the program, others may insist on one.
Specializations in Masters in Genetic Counseling Programs
In most instances, a master’s degree program will offer concentrations or specializations that drill down into the subject, allowing the student to qualify as a specialist in one particular area of the subject. With Genetic Counseling being a complex and already specialty subject, there are no known concentrations on offer. However, with the advancements in this space, the future may bring about specializations hitherto unknown.
Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in Genetic Counseling Programs
A Masters in Genetic Counseling degree program will typically comprise of three parts – Coursework in Genetics, Coursework in Counseling, and multiple Clinical Rotations or Practicums, which may include pediatric, prenatal, adult, and specialty genetics clinics such as cardiology, neurology, industry, and ophthalmology, among others. Additionally, some programs may require a capstone project or thesis to be submitted towards the end of the program. Here are a few examples of online genetic counseling courses one can expect are:
- Introduction to Clinical Genetics
- Advanced Clinical Genetics Concepts
- Clinical Biochemical Genetics for Genetic Counselors
- Laboratory Genetics and Genomics for the Genetic Counselor
- Cancer Genetics Risk Assessment and Counseling
- Clinical Embryology and Prenatal Diagnosis
- Medical Genetic Counseling Research Seminar
- Research Strategies and Analysis in Clinical Genetics
- Genetic Counseling Theory & Practice
- Financial, Ethical, Legal & Social Issues in Genetics
- Clinical Skills
- Molecular Lab Rotation
- Principles of Human & Medical Genetics
- Reproductive Genetics
- Biostatistics in Genetic Counseling
- Pediatric & Biochemical Genetics
- Clinical Embryology
- Human and Molecular Genetics
- Cancer Genetics & Genomics
- Research Methods & Design in Genetic Counseling
- Adult Genetics & Common Diseases
- Applied Clinical & Laboratory Genetics
- Techniques of Counseling
- Foundations in Genetic Counseling
- Human Genetics
- Diagnostic Genetics
- Multicultural Counseling
- Foundations in Genetic Counseling
- Cancer Genetics
- Clinical Simulations
- Research in Biology
- Medical Genetics
- Ethics of Genome Science and Genetic Counseling
- Genome Science
- Human Population Genetics
- Human Lifespan Development
- Research in Biology
- Medical and Clinical Genetics
Some Counseling Courses include:
- Clinical Communication Skills for Genetic Counselors
- Interviewing and Counseling for Genetic Counselors
- Contemporary Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling
On exiting the program, graduates of a master in Genetic Counseling will demonstrate various skills, including the ability to:
- abide by the professional standards of genetic counseling ethics, law, and philosophy;
- facilitate culturally relevant sessions and support patient autonomy by using psychosocial skills;
- use genetic expertise to fulfill the specific needs of each client;
- understand genetic concepts such as the biological basis of inheritance, quantitative genetics, and risk assessment principles;
- conduct a genetic counseling session by evaluating the patient’s needs and concerns, doing a genetic risk assessment, presenting appropriate genetic and medical information, giving supportive counseling, and aiding the family in accessing essential resources and support;
- successfully educate patients, healthcare practitioners, and the public to produce future leaders in the fields of genetics and healthcare; and
- demonstrate knowledge of genetic literature, including the competence to conduct library research, evaluate scientific papers critically, and contribute to clinical research
Accreditation for Masters in Genetic Counseling Programs
An institution’s accreditation signifies that it fulfills or surpasses the criteria for evaluating institutional excellence as determined by a peer-review process. An accredited college or university has the resources necessary to achieve its stated goals through acceptable educational programs, is doing so effectively, and can demonstrate that it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Accreditation addresses institutional integrity as well and is not conditional; it extends to the entire institution. As a result, it does not guarantee the competence of individual graduates or every course or program offered. Instead, it gives students attending the university considerable assurance about the quality of offerings available to them.
Accredited genetic counseling programs often have the seal of accreditation conferred by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). Institutions that offer accredited online masters in genetic counseling may also be accredited by one or more regional agencies, such as:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
More information on accreditation can be found in the Accreditation Guide.
Timeline For Graduating From Masters in Genetic Counseling Online Programs
In most instances, graduating from a master’s in Genetic Counseling online program requires a minimum of 18 months to 24 months. Part-time students can take up to 5 years to finish their degree. However, it must be noted that factors such as the quantum of research and the clinical hours required may directly affect timelines.
Admission Requirements For Masters in Genetic Counseling Online Programs
Most Genetic Counseling grad school requirements are standard across universities. To apply, students must have an undergraduate degree in genetics or a relative discipline, such as biology, genetics, psychology, public health, and nursing. Those from other backgrounds will have to meet genetic counselor requirements and complete courses that can make them eligible to apply. Here is a quick run-down of admission requirements for a master’s in Genetic Counseling online program:
- A Bachelor’s Degree in Genetics or a relevant field
- A completed Application Form with the requisite Application Fee
- Official Academic Transcripts, with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher
- A current Résumé covering relevant work/educational experience in the field
- Three Letters of Recommendation
- A Personal Statement
Most universities usually require a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, but it can be waived in exceptional cases. For the most up-to-date information, students should consult the Program Guide or contact the college’s admissions office.
All genetic counseling programs in the United States and Canada participate in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match through National Matching Services (NMS). The GC Admissions Match has been created to improve the process of placing applicants into positions in masters-level genetic counseling programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The Match uses an algorithm and method that considers the preferences of both candidates and programs. Both candidates and programs will submit ranked lists of preferred placements to NMS by the deadlines specified on the NMS website after all program interviews. Applicants and programs will get the Match’s binding results simultaneously, at a stipulated time. For more information, students are advised to explore the National Matching Services (NMS) website.