Medical Genetics - Career Paths and Training

Career Paths and Training

There are a variety of career paths within the field of medical genetics, and naturally the training required for each area differs considerably. It should be noted that the information included in this section applies to the typical pathways in the United States and there may be differences in other countries. US Practitioners in clinical, counseling, or diagnostic subspecialties generally obtain board certification through the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Career Degree Description Training
Clinical Geneticist MD, DO, DO/PhD or MD/PhD A Clinical geneticist is typically a physician who evaluates patients in the office or as a hospital consultation. This process includes a medical history, family history (pedigree), a detailed physical examination, reviewing objective data such as imaging and test results, establishing a differential diagnosis, and recommending appropriate diagnostic tests. College (4 yrs) → Medical school (4 yrs) → Primary residency (2-3 yrs) → Residency in Clinical genetics (2 yrs). Some Clinical geneticists also obtain a PhD degree (4-7 yrs). A new residency track offers a 4 yr primary residency in Clinical genetics immediately after finishing Medical school.
Genetic Counselor MS A Genetic counselor specializes in communication of genetic information to patients and families. Genetic counselors often work closely with Clinical geneticists or other physicians (such as Obstetricians or Oncologists) and often convey the results of the recommended tests. College (4 yrs) → Graduate program in Genetic counseling (2 yrs).
Metabolic nurse and/or nutritionist BA/BS, MS, RN One of the critical aspects of the management of patients with metabolic disorders is the appropriate nutritional intervention (either restricting the compound that cannot be metabolized, or supplementing compounds that are deficient as the result of an enzyme deficiency). The metabolic nurse and nutritionist play important roles in coordinating the dietary management. College (4 yrs) → Nursing school or graduate training in nutrition.
Biochemical Diagnostics PhD, MD, DO, MD/PhD, or DO/PhD Individuals who specialize in Biochemical genetics typically work in the diagnostic laboratory, analyzing and interpreting specialized biochemical tests that measure amino acids, organic acids, and enzyme activity. Some Clinical Geneticists are also board certified in Biochemical Genetics. College (4 yrs) → Graduate school (PhD, usually 4–7 years) and/or Medical school (MD/DO, 4 years)
Cytogenetic Diagnostics PhD, MD, DO, MD/PhD, or DO/PhD Individuals who specialize in Cytogenetics typically work in the diagnostic laboratory, analyzing and interpreting karyotypes, FISH, and comparative genomic hybridization tests. Some Clinical Geneticists are also board certified in Cytogenetics. College (4 yrs) → Graduate school (PhD, usually 4–7 years) and/or Medical school (MD/DO, 4 years)
Molecular Diagnostics PhD, MD, DO, MD/PhD, or DO/PhD Individuals who specialize in Molecular genetics typically work in the diagnostic laboratory, analyzing and interpreting specialized genetic tests that look for disease-causing changes (mutations) in the DNA. Some examples of molecular diagnostic tests include DNA sequencing and Southern blotting. College (4 yrs) → Graduate school (PhD, usually 4–7 years) and/or Medical school (MD/DO, 4 years)
Research Geneticist PhD, MD, DO, MD/PhD, or DO/PhD Any researcher who studies the genetic basis of human disease or uses model organisms to study disease mechanisms could be considered a Research Geneticist. Many of the clinical career paths also include basic or translational research, and thus individuals in the field of medical genetics often participate in some form of research. College (4 yrs) → Graduate school (PhD, usually 4–7 years) and/or Medical school (MD/DO, 4 years) → Post-doctoral research training (usually 3+ years)
Laboratory Technician BS or MS Technicians in the diagnostic or research labs handle samples and run the assays at the bench. Often these individuals are promoted to supervisory positions. College (4 yrs), may have higher degree (MS, 2+ years)

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