Description of Genetics Career: a Genetics Counsellor

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A genetic counsellor’s main role is to provide patients information on concerns involving inherited diseases and/or conditions that run in the family or could run in an individual’s future family. These diseases include sickle cell anemia, Down syndrome, breast and ovarian cancer that is heredable, Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and more. Those in this field are required to have a strong interpretation of these conditions in order to analyze the risks a patient may have in which they can pass onto their offspring. As a result, based on the patient’s information, they may provide ways to further genetic tests or may be a helpful hand in making a decision that can affect an individual’s future. On a daily basis, genetic counsellor’s work to help patients with several kinds of practices, such as adult, cancer, paediatric, prenatal, metabolic and/or cardiac genetics. They set up appointments with patients to help obtain results about types and products of genetic conditions. For example, they may discuss how to manage diseases, and how they were inherited in the first place. Therefore, they help analyze results of genetic tests that have been conducted in order to help aid their decisions, as these choices may be life-changing. This role has expanded substantially, as they do not only work in hospital settings, they also help with academia, policy-making, administration, and research. Additionally, they must have the ability to tell their patients bad news if that is the case, so they must be strong enough to communicate under these harsh conditions.

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During post-secondary education, it is recommended to take courses like biology and chemistry, and psychology, as they all together provide enough information (i.e. genetics, statistics, biochemistry, etc) to help an individual in their post-secondary education. Furthermore, it is recommended to get a minimum of an 83% average in order to go to a good university or college (How do I plan my college degree, n.d.). To begin post-secondary education, students must get an undergraduate degree, usually in psychology or science. After this, students must apply and if accepted, enroll in a course for medical genetics and counselling that provides a masters of science degree. This program lasts two years and is offered at several universities, such as the University of Toronto, McGill University, University of British Columbia, and University of Montreal. Employees in this field are expected to take an exam to earn a CAGC (Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors) certificate, which is not legal, but heavily influences, as it helps those in this industry obtain jobs. This is renewed every 10 years, only if the genetic counsellor shows continued practice and education in the industry.

Though salaries for genetic counselors begin between $60,000 to $65,000 per year, experienced individuals in this field can earn $100,000 up to $125,000 per year. As for job opportunities, there have been several more implemented due to the rise of new technologies enabling positions to be available outside of the clinical workplace. Therefore, there has been an increase in job openings for those in this field. In turn, individuals have had an overall positive outlook on this field of study. For example, a genetic counsellor position is available in Toronto, Ontario by a company named Sinai Health who thrives on making a leading health system in Canada needs genetic counselors to help fulfil their need to provide education and counselling to individuals in order to make smart choices. Furthermore, Health Sciences North is providing a genetic counsellor position in Sudbury, Ontario for temporary use in order to fulfil their patients in their health sciences centre. This position offers $37.32 to $45.68 on an hourly basis.

I would personally strive to achieve this career because I feel as though my communication skills make me very easy to communicate with, which can especially come in handy when telling individuals bad news. Furthermore, I discovered this year that I enjoyed reading and analyzing pedigrees, which is constantly reinforced in this career choice, as these counselors must use pedigrees to explain how diseases or conditions may be inherited. Goals I would pursue in order to achieve this career would be taking psychology in high school in order to understand the necessary knowledge for this career, volunteer in clinics to assist genetic counsellors in order to see how they work on a day-to-day basis, and learn more about some genetic disorders and how they can affect the offspring of patients, such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.  

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