Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals with advanced education and training in medical genetics and counseling. They specialize in many areas including, but not limited to, prenatal care, pediatrics, oncology, neurology, ophthalmology, psychiatry.
Key functions of Clinical Genetic Counselors
- Collect relevant personal and family medical histories
- Empower informed decision making by providing unbiased education on condition, management options, and prognosis
- Guide appropriate genetic test selection
- Coordinate care related to genetic testing
- Interpret and communicate complex results and familial implications
- Provide support, resources and counseling after a genetic condition is identified
- Navigate the legal and ethical challenges associated with genetic care
Key Functions of a Laboratory Genetic Counselors
An increasing number of genetic counselors are moving into non-clinical roles, where their primary duties do not involve direct patient contact. The role of the laboratory genetic counselor is expanding and may include:
- Support of the genetic testing process
- Act as liaison between clinicians and molecular & cytogenetic laboratories
- Interpret variants and obtain literature references
- Communicate test results
Genetic services will likely integrate into all areas of clinical practice. Genetic Counselors can provide education and support to non-genetic healthcare providers and the wider healthcare workforce to support this integration.
Genetic counselors are trained through a 2-year accredited master’s program that consists of three main elements: (1) coursework in diverse topics such as counseling, molecular biology, genetics, ethics, health care, and research methods; (2) clinical training in a variety of clinical settings such as prenatal, pediatric, cancer, neurogenetic, and cardiovascular.
The American Board of Genetic Counselors (ABGC) sets the academic standards for institutions and provides accreditation to graduate programs in genetic counseling. ABGC certifies genetic counselors, requiring recertification every 5 years. Licensure is variable by state.