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What is the career path to become a geneticist? How long does it typically take after high school?

Genetics is a very fascinating and growing field, so I want explore my career options, especially in research.

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Delaney’s Answer

Hi there!

A geneticists is typically an individual with a doctoral level degree and specialization in genetics. There are two basic routes to do this.

Medical doctor: Obtain a bachelor's and MD degree. (8 years) then, complete residency/fellowship training from a program accredited in medical genetics. There's a couple routes to do this, and this can be combined with a peds or MFM residency. This is what is most commonly thought of as a geneticist. (Total of about 12-13 years training)

PhD: Obtain a bachelor's and then PhD in molecular biology/genetics. The previous comment was discussing this route. After education, a post doc is typically required to be an independent worker. (Total about 10-12 years) Contrary to popular belief, a master's degree is NOT required to get into a PhD program. You can gain research experience in undergrad or in a job after undergrad as a gap year.

The two routes are different but both allow you to specialize in genetics and work in academia, research, testing labs, etc.

Another option is working as a genetic counselor, which is a healthcare professional who specializes in genetics and focuses on the real-life implications to families. This is a competitive Master's program with a total of about 6 years training.
Thank you comment icon Hi, thank you so much for your answer! I didn't know there was an MD path for geneticist. Could you please elaborate on this? Would I be working as a researcher with an MD? Meghana
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Jesennia’s Answer

Hello Meghana,
My name is Jesennia and like you, I am very interested in Genetics. Currently, I'm doing a master's degree in Molecular Biotechnology, and I have a bachelor's in biology.
After high school, you will pursue a bachelor's degree which could be in genetics or science related. That typically takes about 4-5 yrs. During your bachelor, I will recommend doing an internship, volunteering, semester or fall programs to amplify your understanding, obtain training and have a better guide in your path. After that, you could do a post-bacc in genetics or a related field. If not, you can go straight into Ph.D. in genetics, which will take 5-6 yrs. Last, you can do a post-doctoral or go into industry or academia, by that time you will be a geneticist or Dr in Genetics. There is also, the option to do a master's degree after you obtained the bachelor's degree, which takes 2-3 yrs. But it all will depend on how you feel about your preparation and academic preferences.

I hope this can help you!

Bachelor: 4-5 yrs
Master: 2-3 yrs
PhD: 5-6 yrs (plus training)
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your detailed answer! Meghana
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