The 2017 Edition: Want to be a Genetic Counselor? ((By Brynna))

Hello readers!

The crew from M&G would love to welcome our first guest post of 2017! This amazing list of resources are from prospective GC student, Brynna. Deciding if the GC profession is right for you? Just cannot find enough information out there regarding Genetic Counseling? Well, friends, this one is for you!

For basic/general information on what a genetic counselor is:

  • NSGC.org: As most of you know, the National Society of Genetic Counselors has a fantastic website which details the job responsibilities of genetic counselors, provides the latest news on genetics, and a GC database. It has also been recently updated – yay, user friendly! If you are unsure as to what a genetic counselor does or are looking to read up on genetics literature, this is the place to go. However, some of the features on the website (publications, job connection tool, etc.) are accessible only through NSGC membership.
  • Becomeageneticcounselor.org: This is definitely one of my favorite websites! This website breaks down the job responsibilities of genetic counseling and various job environments. It also provides information on how to prepare for a career in the field, how to pick a program, and how to pay for school. This website is for those who are just starting to learn about the field, as well as those who want to learn more to become a competitive applicant.
  • Explorehealthcareers.org: Explorehealthcareers is a great website to dip your toes in the world of genetic counseling, but also to gain exposure to other health career options. This helpful site lists a general overview (including average salary and job outlook), outlines working conditions and academic requirements, and additional resources for further information. Genetic counseling is a great field, but it is not a field for everyone. Use this website to explore different health careers that will best suit you.
  • BLS.gov: This website is for all of those statistic junkies out there! The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects, analyzes, and distributes economic information that reflects labor market activity and working conditions in the economy. Their website provides information on occupations within the U.S. including the education required, work environment, job outlook, and how to attain that career goal. The website also includes data regarding employment change, job outlook, and occupations employment statistics based on state and city.
  • Truity.com: Truity is a website for those who wish to explore various careers through a personality standpoint. The site considers personality scores based on the Briggs Myers 16 personality types. The Myer-Briggs type indicator is a questionnaire developed by psychologists Briggs and Myers to evaluate an individual’s perception of the world and the criteria on which someone bases their decisions. Information is available on the diverse personality types regarding careers, relationships, core motivations, and values. If you do not know your personality type, you can take this free tests to find out! http://www.truity.com/test/type-finder-research-edition

So, you have decided to be a genetic counselor? Great! Below are more resources on the next steps.

Steps to getting there:

  • “How to Become a Genetic Counselor” by Jason Flanagan (NSGC): Jason provides information on how to determine if the profession is a good fit and quick tips on boosting your resume for graduate school. It also provides a general overview of things to keep in mind while beginning a GC career.
  • Read the biographies of current students on GC graduate program websites: This tip will sound familiar if you are familiar with M&G. Camille gave this advice in her March post and I cannot emphasize enough how helpful this was for me. If you are interested in a specific program, it is helpful to see the types of experiences that current grad students add onto their resumes. The majority of GC graduate programs have a website and the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) provides a list of all of the GC graduate programs United States and Canada (http://gceducation.org/pages/accredited-programs.aspx).
  • Contact program directors: While this may sound crazy, program directors are approachable people that want you to succeed! Therefore, reach out to program directors near you to schedule an informational interview or meeting to discuss your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant. If you do not have a program nearby, emailing directors is a great way to seek application advice and get your name out there! I have spoken with several genetic counselors who contacted program directors before their acceptance into grad programs.

How can you still be sure that this is the right career for you? Shadow a GC!

Contacting a Genetic Counselor:

  • NSGC Find a Genetic Counselor: On the NSGC web page, there is a handy “Find a GC” tool. You can search for GCs in your area based on institution or specialty and reach out to them for shadowing opportunities. In contacting a GC, you will be learning more information about the field and a recount of what it is like to be a GC firsthand.
  • University of Cincinnati Meet-a-Graduate (http://www.geneticcounseling4u.org/prospective_students/mag.html): Finding a genetic counselor may be the easy step, but finding shadow time with a GC is definitely more challenging. For those who live in areas where GCs are scarce, the University of Cincinnati offers a great opportunity to get in touch with alumni. The meeting may also provide the Admissions Committee at UC with additional information regarding a prospective student’s application.
  • Email EVERYWHERE – Try sending an email to reach GCs in specific settings: hospitals, clinics, fertility centers, universities, or biotechnology companies. Genetic counselors can be found everywhere and all it takes is a quick search on the internet!

Miscellaneous Information:

  • Open forums: For me, I was not satisfied with the amount of information I gathered about genetic counseling. I was able to learn about the application processes and the graduate programs, but I wanted to know about the experiences of prospective students. Enter open forums. Open forums are essentially online discussion boards. A few that I like to read are from Grad Café, Reddit (r/clinicalgenetics and r/science), and forums.studentdoctor.net. There is also a great AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit by NSGC genetic counselors. In these forums, you will find current graduate students discussing their experiences, prospective students describing their resumes and where they received interviews and acceptance, and current GCs answering genetics questions from the public. Downside? The information on these forums may NOT be accurate.
  • NSGC blog: NSGC maintains a blog that focuses on providing information about current events in genetic testing relating to cancer screening, mental health, and other topics. This is a great website to go to regarding all things genetics!

We hope that you were able to find some new resources that will help you on your path to becoming a genetic counselor!

Is your favorite resource not on this list? We would love to hear what sources you find helpful in the comments below!

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