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When deciding upon the Genetic Counselor career were you more interested in the research and application of knowledge or the counseling aspect?

Asked Northfield, Minnesota

I am a high school senior who has researched Genetic Counseling as a potential career interest. One question that seems to never be answered is if the Genetic Counselor's were more intrigued with the research aspect of the job or with dealing with the patients. This is important for me because I am more interested in research and would like to know if being a Genetic Counselor would satisfy my need to be involved with understanding and working with the genetics. #science #biology #research #counseling #genetics #pyschology #genetic-counseling

1 answer

Sandra’s Answer

Updated Houston, Texas

Virtually all GCs desire close patient interaction over a primarily research role--this is why they became GCs rather than PhD/MS/BS level researchers. That said, GCs currently have many options available including roles in prenatal clinics, pediatric clinics and cancer clinics as well as lab based liasion or marketing positions or solely research and data interpreting roles. Some GCs transition to different roles as their career progresses and some will take on a joint research/clinical role, such as counseling those who are seeking research level genetic services. Each role requires a different degree of counseling skill and technical genetic knowledge although all involve the GC having a clear understanding of how genetics works and, as needed, the abilty to assess how a prior genetic study impacts the current situation. For instance, say a couple has an affected child and is coming to discuss possible recurrence during the next pregnacy; the GC's role is to assess the child's prior results and see if and how that diagnosis translates into a chance for recurrence. Was a diagnosis actually made--sometimes families misunderstand what they were told previously. Is the previous interpretation of the child's data still accurate--sometimes new research overrides previous results. What kind of testing is the family interested in, if any--perhaps to better define the child's conditon or for possible recurrence of the same condition or for a different condition. (There are families who have different children with different genetic conditions) Do they want prenatal testing or newborn testing-are they interested in preconceptual options to avoid an affected conception as best possible, is abortion as an option for an affected pregnancy or are they mostly interested in knowing as soon as possible if they should prepare for another affected child? Similar issues will arise for other GC clinical or research positions: what is the known history, how does it relate to this specific person and what testing/medical options are appropriate? What role would you see yourself most comfortable with for these famiies? Pulling it all together and talking with the family about everything--consider GC or even MD. Data analysis only--consider a PhD or genetic technologist position.

Updated
wow! Such an awesome, clear and detailed response. Be sure to connect back to her with your thoughts.
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Thank you so much, that is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. I think that with the answer provided that job would satisfy my needs even though I feel I am more interested in the understanding and application of genetics I still want the personal interactions. I'm glad to know that there is a little more to genetic counseling then just dealing with how the patients react to the situations that they are in. I was wondering what got you interested in genetics? Again thank you so much for responding.
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Excellent follow up, Caroline; this is exactly how we're hoping to maximize the site and the networking opportunities!
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