What Is a Geneticist? - Job Description, Education & Salary

What does it take to be a geneticist? Read on to learn about the education requirements, licenses, and certifications as well as career information and salary facts. Schools offering Sequence Analysis and Genomics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Geneticist: Career Information at a Glance

Genetics is the field of biology that focuses on genes, genetic variation, and heredity. Geneticists study on how these genes are inherited, activated, or mutated. They also study how genes affect health, diseases, and the environment. In this article, you will learn about how to become a geneticist and the different specialties, as well as the educational requirements, training and certification, job facts, and salary information.

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree required for entry-level positions; master's degree or doctorate preferred for higher positions
Education Field of StudyGenetics, biology, environmental science, or a similar field
Training RequiredResidency training for specialties and subspecialties; on-the-job training for entry-level positions
License and/or CertificationPhysician's license and/or specialty and subspecialty certification
Key ResponsibilitiesReview, interpret, and approve genetic laboratory results; record research methods and results; evaluate and diagnose genetic diseases
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% (biologists, all other)*
Annual Median Salary (2018)$79,590 (biologists, all other)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Entry-level positions, such as laboratory and research assistant, usually require a bachelor's degree in genetics, biology, environmental science, or any related field. A master's degree in genetics is typically required for higher positions, but a Ph.D. or M.D. is required for a more authoritative position in genetic research and development. The medical courses offered to aspiring geneticists after acquiring an undergraduate degree focus on advanced science topics as well as a personal research project.

What Kind of Training Is Required?

There are several specialties and subspecialties in the field of genetics, and training varies for each specialty. Medical geneticists, for example, are trained to counsel and diagnose patients with genetic disorders and are required to complete an 18-month residency training program. Residency programs are also offered for genetics subspecialties, such as medical biochemical genetics. On-the-job training is required for geneticists working in laboratories as genetic counselors or laboratory researchers.

What Licenses and/or Certifications Do I Need?

A physician's license is required for medical or clinical geneticists since they are trained to treat and diagnose genetic disorders. To be certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomes (ABMGG), you must complete an accredited clinical residency program and an accredited laboratory fellowship. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is another board certification organization that specializes in medical certification and continuing education.

What Are the Key Responsibilities of a Geneticist?

Research is vital for geneticists in any specialty or subspecialty. Most geneticists are involved in doing genetic research as it relates to health and diseases or its impact on the environment. They review, interpret, and approve laboratory results; record research procedures, methods, and results; and maintain records in laboratory notebooks. Clinical geneticists evaluate, diagnose, and treat genetic disorders.

How Much Is the Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median salary for biologists who were not otherwise classified, a category that includes geneticists, in 2018 was $79,590 per year. The major fields of work for geneticists are in medicine, crime, and agriculture. Many geneticists work for pharmaceutical companies contributing to the research, treatment, and prevention of genetic disorders, while in the field of agriculture, geneticists research how to develop crops. Geneticists can also work as laboratory detectives in solving crimes through DNA sampling.

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