Careers in Molecular Genetics

What can you do with a degree in Molecular Genetics?


There are lots of exciting career opportunities for graduates of our Molecular Genetics program!  In medicine, genetics is the basis for understanding the inheritance of genetic diseases, for providing counseling to families who are at risk of producing children with genetic defects, and for scientific investigations seeking to understand the molecular basis of genetic disease and to effect its cure. In agriculture, genetics is the basis of breeding new crop plants and livestock. A rapidly growing biotechnology industry is using genetics to produce a range of products from pharmaceuticals to microchips. Sensitive genetic tests are increasingly being employed in criminal cases to identify individuals from a drop of blood and in food testing to identify minute contamination by disease- causing organisms. Biologists use genetics to identify the genes that function in the life of the cell and those that control the development of a complex organism from a fertilized egg.  Depending upon your level of education - B.S., M.S., Ph.D. or M.D., you can find many fascinating opportunities in the filed of molecular genetics.



Geneticists in Basic Research

A research geneticist usually obtains a  Ph.D. in some aspect of genetics, and then performs research as a postdoctoral fellows for two to four years.   After completion of the postdoctoral fellowship, the geneticist is then  qualified to assume faculty positions at academic institutions, or to join the staffs of research institutes or biotechnology firms.


Laboratory Geneticists

Application of modern genetic technology to agriculture, legal or police work, pharmaceutical development, and clinical medicine requires the services of sophisticated laboratories. These laboratories are staffed by scientists trained in molecular biology, cytogenetics, biochemical genetics, immunogenetics, and related disciplines.  Genetics laboratory technicians usually possess B.S. degrees, while genetics laboratory research assistants typically have M.S. degrees.  Genetic laboratory directors usually hold Ph.D. degrees or M.D. degrees with specialization in laboratory medicine.  The career of a laboratory geneticist offers the opportunity to apply genetics "hands on" to a variety of important problems.


Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Most enter the field from a variety of disciplines, including biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, public health and social work. Genetic counselors work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families and individuals who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. They identify families at risk, investigate the problem, interpret information about the disorder, analyze inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence, and review available options with the family or individual. Genetic counselors also provide supportive counseling, serve as patient advocates and refer individuals and families to community or state support services. They serve as educators and resource people for other health care professionals and for the general public. Some counselors also work in administrative capacities. Many engage in research activities related to the field of medical genetics and genetic counseling.


Clinical Geneticists

Clinical geneticists are usually individuals who have an M.D. degree. Therefore, undergraduates would need to satisfy the requirements for medical school admission. A major in the biological or physical sciences may be desirable, although not necessary, provided the admission requirements are fulfilled. After medical school, a residency in pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, or internal medicine should be completed, followed by a fellowship in clinical genetics. Currently, most residency programs are three to five years; fellowships are an additional two or three years. Individuals would then be qualified for positions in research centers, hospitals or medical centers.


(Taken in part from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology website, 2009)

Page modified 5/7/15