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Clinical Genetics Degree Programs

Licensed medical doctors who are interested in the genetic causes of certain diseases might consider attending a clinical genetics residency program. In this type of program, you could examine patients with genetic disorders or work in laboratories conducting genetics-related research. Keep reading for more information on residencies and fellowships, alternative programs, what you'll study and how to get certified.

How Can I Learn About Clinical Genetics?

Clinical genetics is a specialty you can study after completing a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) program. Instead of enrolling in a degree program, you'll enter a university's postdoctoral residency or fellowship program. These programs are typically affiliated with nearby hospitals; hands-on clinical rotations and lab work are major components of a clinical genetics residency program. Related postdoctoral specialties include clinical biochemical genetics and clinical molecular genetics.

Available Programs Residencies or fellowships available after completion of M.D. or D.O. programs
Areas of Study Cystic fibrosis, retardation, hemochromatosis, Tay-Sachs disease; molecular or biochemical genetics
Getting Certified The American Board of Medical Genetics (ABMG) offers certification in clinical genetics and related areas; prior completion of medical program, time in clinical genetics program and licensure required
Median Salary (2018) $80,370 (for all genetics counselors
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 29% growth (for all genetics counselors

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Will I Learn?

You'll study how genetic mutations can cause diseases. You'll learn to identify and possibly treat individuals with cystic fibrosis, retardation, connexin mutations, hemochromatosis and Tay-Sachs disease. You'll listen to lectures, perform laboratory-based research and work in university-affiliated medical clinics.

You could study molecular or biochemical genetics through lab rotations. You'll probably be expected to conduct patient assessments and consultations in collaboration with other physicians. In some residency programs, you might learn laboratory management skills. Most programs take two years to complete, but some postdoctoral students can remain in residency for up to four years.

How Can I Become Certified?

The American Board of Medical Genetics (ABMG) currently offers certification in clinical genetics as well as clinical cytogenetics, clinical biochemical genetics and clinical molecular genetics. In order to become a certified clinical geneticist, you'll first need to complete a medical program and obtain a medical license.

Other certification requirements include completion of at least 24 months in a clinical genetics training program recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS); you'll then need to complete 24 months of training in a residency program other than clinical genetics. Applicants who've spent 48 months in a clinical genetics program are also eligible for certification. Successful completion of the ABMG qualifying exam will result in certification as a clinical geneticist.