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Master's Degrees in Genetics

A master's degree in genetics prepares you for a career in genetic counseling, epidemiology or research. Learn about program prerequisites, coursework and potential careers. Although online programs aren't typically offered, some programs may offer a small portion of the required coursework online.

What is a Master's Degree in Genetics?

A master's degree program may focus on medical research or genetic counseling, depending on the curriculum. You can expect to complete clinical research rotations and seminars, regardless of what type of genetics program you enroll in.

Basic courses focus on how genetics determine what cells will do in an organism. You'll also receive an introduction to medical technology, genetic therapy, the development of diseases and research ethics. Some programs offer a few courses online, but you'll be required to complete most of your study in a traditional classroom or research setting.

If you enroll in a master's degree program to work as a medical scientist, you'll focus on lab work. If you choose a program in counseling, you'll learn more about how to interact with clients and provide them with an understanding of the genetic conditions they're addressing in lay terms. The curricula of both types of programs also include directed study of scientific literature.

PrerequisitesBachelor of science, courses in chemistry, biology, statistics, genetics
CoursesResearch, seminars, medical technology, genetic therapy, lab work
CareersBiological scientist, medical scientist, microbiology, biophysics, biochemistry
Job Outlook 8% growth projected between 2016-2026* (for all biological scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Prerequisites for a Master's Degree in Genetics?

Before enrolling in a genetics master's degree program, you'll need to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, organic chemistry or a related field. You may also be able to enroll in a graduate program if you have an undergraduate degree in nursing or public health. As an undergraduate, it's helpful for you to complete at least one year of courses in:

  • Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Genetics
  • Physics
  • Anatomy
  • Biology

You may also wish to complete undergraduate coursework that involves science labs or test equipment. You can volunteer for nonprofit organizations and public agencies that deal with health issues, which will increase your familiarity with how professionals in the healthcare industry interact with patients. This experience is especially helpful if you're planning to work as a genetic counselor after earning a master's degree.

How Do I Apply My Genetics Degree?

After you earn a master's degree in genetics, you can work as a biological scientist. A Ph.D. is typically required for independent research in this field, but some jobs in product development, applied research, inspection and management are available with a bachelor's or master's degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects demand for biological scientists to rise by 8% between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov). In 2018, the BLS reported that median wages of biological scientists working in biophysics or biochemistry were $93,280; however, those working in microbiology had median earnings of $71,650 during the same year.

The BLS reported the median earnings of medical scientists as $84,810 during 2018. However, you'll need a medical degree and a license to practice as a physician before interacting directly with patients. Overall demand of medical scientists, according to the BLS, should rise by 13% between 2016 and 2026.