A career as a genetic counsellor can be an excellent option if you are interested in healthcare and studying human genetics. A genetic counsellor advises clients and conducts genetic testing to determine their risk for health issues. Furthermore, they play an important role in guiding and educating people and their families who may be at risk of genetic illnesses or who have worries about hereditary illnesses.
Starting a career as a genetic counsellor provides you with the knowledge to assist patients in understanding how genetics affect their health. Additionally, you will also be able to guide them through the emotional journey that comes with genetic discoveries.
In the following sections, I will walk you through the various specialisations of the career and how to start a career as a genetic counsellor.
How to Start a Career as a Genetic Counsellor
Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
You need a bachelor’s degree to pursue a career as a genetic counsellor. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in areas such as genetics, biology, psychology or a related healthcare field. This degree will give you the foundational knowledge you need to excel in this career.
Gain Practical Experience
You can gain experience through internships, or volunteering roles. You can apply to places such as laboratories, hospitals or clinics. This opportunity will give you hands-on experience working in genetic counselling environments. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to connect with industry experts who can serve as a career guide.
Pursue a Master’s Degree
A master’s degree is important for this career path. You can earn a master’s degree in areas such as Human genetics, Genetic testing and technology or Psychosocial counselling. Additionally, you can decide to earn a master’s degree in the area you wish to specialise in as a genetic counsellor.
Obtain Professional Certifications
This is not a compulsory requirement. However, you can choose to obtain additional certifications in genetic counselling. This certificate will prove your expertise and commitment to this field. Additionally, it can give you additional and advanced knowledge that will.be useful to your career.
Network with Professionals
You need to network with professionals and experts in this field. This can enable you to have access to career opportunities that will help advance. Additionally, this will help you stay updated with advances in genetics and genetic counselling and ensure you provide the most current and effective care to your patients.
Types of Genetic Counsellors
- Cardiovascular Genetic Counsellor: Cardiovascular genetic counsellors are experts in determining the hereditary variables that contribute to heart disease such as hereditary heart disease or familial high cholesterol levels.
- Cancer Genetic Counsellor: Cancer genetic counsellors examine people’s and families’ potential for inherited cancer diseases. Additionally, they assist people with understanding their personal and family cancer history and interpreting genetic test results related to cancer susceptibility genes.
- Neurogenetic Genetic Counsellor: Neurogenetic counsellors assist people and their households who suffer from neurological illnesses such as Huntington’s disease, or neurodevelopmental abnormalities.
- Prenatal Genetic Counsellor: Prenatal genetic counsellors specialise in counselling women and couples who need assistance such as considering a baby, are pregnant, or are concerned about potential genetic hazards to their unborn child.
- Reproductive Genetic Counsellor: Reproductive genetic counsellors work with couples who are considering a pregnancy or experiencing reproductive health issues. Additionally, they examine genetic dangers, DNA testing choices, and the implications for reproductive decision-making.
- Paediatric Genetic Counsellor: Paediatric genetic counsellors help with children who suffer from genetic disorders or birth abnormalities. Additionally, they offer counselling and support during the diagnostic process and assist families in understanding the nature of the genetic disorder.
Certifications You Can Obtain as a Genetic Counsellor
- Certified Genetic Counselor (CGC)
- Certified Genetic Counselor Assistant (CGCA)
Universities in Africa that Offer Genetics
- University of Cape Town, South Africa
- Bayero University, Nigeria
- Federal University of Technology, Akure
- University of Lagos, Nigeria
- Cairo University, Egypt
- University of Maiduguri, Nigeria
- Ain Shams University, Egypt
- University of Ibadan, Nigeria
- Makerere University, Uganda
- University of Ghana, Ghana
- Tanta University, Egypt
- University of Witwatersrand
- Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
- University of Pretoria, South Africa
- Alexandria University, Egypt
- University of Sfax, Tunisia
- Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
- University of Nairobi, Kenya
- Rhodes University, South Africa
- University of Nigeria, Nigeria
- Al-Azhar University, Egypt
- University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
- University of the Free State, South Africa
- North-West University, South Africa
- University of Monastir, Tunisia
- University of Khartoum, Sudan
- Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
- Sohag University, Egypt
- University of Gondar, Ethiopia
- Helwan University, Egypt
Workplace of a Genetic Counsellor
- Private research facilities
- Private consultation firms
- General practice medical clinics
In Conclusion, starting a career as a genetic counsellor demands a high level of education and skills. To pursue this career path, you need to be well-grounded in genetics. Additionally, you need to have interpersonal skills to be able to relate with people of different ages. Therefore, you must acquire the relevant education and skills while achieving your career pursuit.