Genetic Sciences

The field of genetic sciences involves the study of human, plant and animal genes. Continue reading to learn more about educational requirements, career options and areas of study for genetic scientists.

Is Genetic Sciences for Me?

Career Overview

Genes are the blueprints of all living beings, determining the structure and body functions of animals, plants and humans. Genetic scientists (also called geneticists) research genes to explore their development, evolution, interaction and duplication. Most geneticists work in laboratories using microscopes, DNA scanners and other equipment to perform medical and agricultural research.

Individuals interested in genetics, but who would also like to help people more directly, may consider the field of genetic counseling. Genetic counselors provide expert advice and support to families at risk of inheriting a genetic disorder.

Professional Responsibilities

Geneticists identify genetic similarities and abnormalities in plants and animals, test specimens and develop cures for genetic diseases through gene manipulation and therapy. Geneticists and other research professionals also work to match genes to specific physical traits, while identifying methods for predicting abnormal sequences and ways to reconstruct DNA and genetic codes. Botanists (geneticists working with plants) may research methods to develop better organic products and to find ways to stop diseases that are harmful to specific plants, fruits and crops.

Career Options

Most geneticists work in academia or research in the private or public sector. They may also pursue careers as medical scientists, who explore the causes for diseases and other health problems. Geneticists can also become biological scientists, who conduct research for industrial, biological and medical purposes.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for biological scientists, including biochemists and biophysicists, is expected to increase by 19% nationwide, or faster than average, between 2012 and 2022. Opportunities for medical scientists will increase by an average rate of 13% from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, biochemists and biophysicists earned a median annual salary of $84,320. In the same month, the median annual salary of a medical scientist was $79,840 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Genetic Sciences?

Education Overview

Degree programs in genetic science are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. A genetics curriculum is usually research-based and includes courses in genetic testing and disorders, microbiology, agricultural genetic engineering and ethics. Some programs combine genetics with other fields, such as genetic counseling.

Completion of a bachelor's degree program in genetics, in combination with a state-issued license, can qualify graduates for positions as high school teachers.

Although a master's degree in genetics, may be sufficient to obtain an entry-level research position, aspiring geneticists usually earn a doctorate in clinical genetics. Doctoral prerequisites typically include undergraduate credits in biology, physics, biochemistry and calculus, along with a bachelor's degree in a relevant scientific field. Doctoral degree programs may include specializations in cell, molecular, investigative or forensic genetics.

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