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Master's in Genetic Counseling in California

To become a genetic counselor you must obtain a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling. This article reviews the MS in Genetic Counseling programs available throughout California.

University of California, Irvine

The University of California, Irvine's two-year Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program prepares students to take the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) certification test. The program is housed in the UC Irvine School of Medicine's Division of Genetic and Genomic Medicine, and students have the opportunity to gain clinical experience starting in the first quarter of the program. They can also shadow counselors working with diverse demographics and specialty cases.

University of California, Los Angeles

Within the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Master of Science in Genetic Counseling students can take courses in medical genetics, translational genomics, specialty genetics, counseling skills, and ethics. This 2-year program weaves together academic classes, a capstone research project (wherein students have the chance to work alongside genetics scientists), and fieldwork experiences (wherein students work alongside genetic counselors in clinical settings).

Stanford University

Students in Stanford University's Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genetics Counseling program have the chance to work in a top-rated medical school. Admitted students spend two years learning a mix of genomics technology, psychosocial counseling, and research skills while simultaneously gaining hands-on experience through 5- to 10-week clinical rotations.

Keck Graduate Institute

At the Keck Graduate Institute, students learn the craft of genetic counseling through a mix of academic classes, research (all students complete a thesis under the guidance of an academic advisor), clinical experiences, conferences, journal clubs, and seminars. Students in the 2-year Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling program work with the center's partner institutions across Southern California to gain experience in medical, industrial, and laboratory applications of genetic counseling skills.

University Programs Offered Tuition for Academic Year (2018-2019)*
University of California, IrvineMaster of Science in Genetic CounselingIn-state: $11,442
Out-of-state: $26,544
University of California, Los Angeles Master of Science in Genetic CounselingIn-state: $11,442
Out-of-state: $26,544
Stanford UniversityMaster of Science in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling$50,703
Keck Graduate InstituteMaster of Science in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling$36,100

Source: *NCES

Completing a Master of Science Degree in Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling master's degree programs can usually be completed in about two years and consist of a combination of lecture coursework and clinical experiences under the supervision of genetic counselors. Common courses for a genetic counseling master's degree program include:

Genetic Counselling

Many programs include a series of genetic counselling classes to introduce students to the principles and techniques of the discipline. These classes may use role play and clinical practice to strengthen a student's counseling skills, including active listening, contracting, interviewing, accessing family history, communicating risk, developing educational material, and assessing a patient's understanding. In addition, students may study the history of the discipline through past experiments, case studies, and academic literature important to the field.

Human Molecular Genetics

An advanced understanding of human genetics forms the foundation for genetic counselling. Thus, in this course students learn about the structure and function of genes, the cell cycle, gene expression and regulation, and inheritance. In addition to deepening their understanding of genetics, students may also learn skills related to mapping causal genes, genotyping individuals, replicating DNA sequences, and modifying DNA molecules.

Ethics in Medical Practice

In this course, students discuss the ethical, legal, and social issues that impact genetics counseling practice (and the medical field at large). Students often learn about pertinent laws and repercussions for unethical practice. In addition, the class may provide students with the chance to outline the steps to avoiding and/or solving ethical dilemmas in their own future practice.

Admission Requirements for a Genetic Counselling Master's Degree in California

Genetic counselling students come from a range of backgrounds, but they are generally expected to have completed undergraduate coursework in genetics, molecular biology, psychology, statistics, research design, and biochemistry. Students should have a GPA of around 3.0 or higher and strong GRE (Graduate Record Examination) test scores. Competitive applicants can showcase their past exposure to the genetics counselling profession and/or genetics research and genetics laboratory experience. To apply, applicants send in their test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from previous professors, an updated resume (or CV), and a statement of purpose essay.

Universities from across California offer Master of Science programs for students who wish to enter the emerging discipline of genetic counseling. These programs provide students with the opportunity to learn technical skills, gain clinical experience, and pursue independent research projects.