Why be a genetic counsellor?
Industry experts share their top reasons to become a genetic counsellor.
According to the National Society of Genetic Counsellors in the US, genetic counselling has grown by 85% since 2006 and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has tipped it to grow another 29% in the next eight years. With job prospects looking so good, what about the nitty-gritty of the profession? Why should you consider genetic counselling as a career?
We invited professional insiders from our Curriculum Advisory Committee who are practicing genetic counsellors, a clinical geneticist, a clinical psychologist, an ethicist, just to name a few. They gave their top reasons to embark on this career. Here’s what they had to say:
The human factor
Although genetic counselling owes its current exponential growth to technology and advances in genomics, this is a profession where you combine your love of science with your passion for communication. You’ll work alongside interprofessional teams, providing support to families by distilling complex medical information in a patient-centred, compassionate and empathetic way.
As a genetic counsellor you’ll have a variety of workplace options to consider once you graduate. From public and private clinical settings (including hospitals and specialist clinics) to laboratories, research, academia, policy development and more.
Genetic counselling is a growing and evolving profession. Recent, and ongoing, advances in genetic and genomic testing have enormous potential to guide the management of inherited disease and assist with early diagnosis and targeted treatment. Much of the time you’ll be helping not just an individual, but a whole family.
No two days are the same
This is especially true for genetic counsellors working in clinical roles. You might be working with a couple in the morning explaining the inheritance of cystic fibrosis and exploring the meaning of this diagnosis with the family, and spend the afternoon recruiting participants to a clinical research project.
Learn and grow through professional development
New branches of enquiry are opening every year in genetic counselling. You’ll find no end of opportunities to broaden your experiences, change career directions and learn new things.
Be a specialist or generalist
You’ll graduate with the skills and experience to work across all areas of the field, but if you choose to specialise you’ll find routes into prenatal, cardiovascular disease, cancer, metabolic disease, neurology, paediatrics, infertility, pharmacogenetics, genomic medicine, and more.
You might be a scientist who wants to branch into a more human centric-career. You might be an allied health professional who wants to explore your interest in genetics and genomics. You might be a counsellor who is attracted to developing a whole new skill set. There are numerous points of entry into this profession.
Resources from NSW Health
FACT SHEET: A career as a genetic counsellor (PDF, 337KB)
VIDEO: A career in genetic counselling (Opens in YouTube)
"What really excites me about this role is that it’s ever-changing and you never stop learning."
Ashley Crook is a senior genetic counsellor with NSW Health. She’s also studying her PhD at the Graduate School of Health and is one of our teaching staff. See what a typical day on the job looks like for Ashley:
(Opens in YouTube)