Medical and Human Genetics

Learn about degree programs in medical and human genetics, which can lead to a career as a clinical geneticist or genetic counselor. Read more about this field of study here, including opportunities for residencies and employment, as well as how much you can earn as an expert in human genetics.

Is Medical and Human Genetics for Me?

Career Overview

A degree program in medical and human genetics can provide you with an in-depth look at genetic diseases and disabilities, including what can be done to predict or minimize the potential for genetic risks. Medical and human genetics are similar fields of study that are often combined within one department; however, while medical genetics is devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of genetic disorders, human genetics is primarily concerned with research. Formal education programs are available at both the master's and doctoral levels and include topics in human molecular genetics, immunogenetics and the developmental stages of gene expressions. Depending on the program, you may also learn how to diagnose genetic disorders in either a clinical or laboratory setting.

Career Options

Once you've completed a graduate program in medical and human genetics, you may be qualified for a position as a genetic counselor, through which you'll educate and advise clients about hereditary conditions. A doctoral program in particular might lead to a career as a medical geneticist or researcher.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 41% increase in job opportunities for genetic counselors nationwide between 2012 and 2022, which is significantly faster than average. As of May 2013, genetic counselors earned a median annual salary of $63,590 (www.bls.gov). According to PayScale.com in June 2014, geneticists and clinical geneticists earned median salaries of $70,000 and $101,736 a year, respectively.

How Can I Work in Medical and Human Genetics?

Master's Degree Programs

A Master of Science in Human Genetics program can take between two and five years to complete. Curriculum requirements can include the study of human inherited diseases, biochemical and molecular genetics, statistical methods and ethics. You'll also have to pass a series of comprehensive examinations and complete a master's thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Programs

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Genetics program can include topics in human population genetics, public health and epidemiology. You'll also study scientific ethics and advanced statistical methods, conduct research and attend seminars. To earn your degree, you'll also have to defend your doctoral dissertation through a final oral examination.

Residencies

Residencies can provide you with the chance to explore clinical genetics and usually require a 2-year commitment. Additional areas of training can include molecular genetics, biochemicals, cancer or prenatal work.

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