Author Topic: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?  (Read 9002 times)

neophyte

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Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« on: May 22, 2016, 08:58:14 PM »
I'm considering going back to school for a Master's in genetic counseling and wondered what the mustachians thought about the career.

Info:
Glassdoor lists the average salary as $72.5k and the National Society of Genetic Counselors 2014 annual survey lists the average as $74k.
I've seen admissions departments state about $60k starting salary.  The program takes 2 years and would probably cost between $75,000 and $90,000 depending on what program I went to and scholarships and so forth. According to the NSGC 2014 annual survey, overall job satisfaction is very high, but only 38% of people are satisfied with their earning potential and 37% with the opportunity for advancement.

The career overall is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years and nearly 100% of students have jobs before graduating. Hospitals are complaining that they can't find enough people to hire (but if that is the case, I don't understand why the salaries aren't higher). On the downside, some universities are already considering making it a clinical doctorate program and I've been told that that's nearly 100% due to degree creep rather than an actual need for education beyond a Master's.

About me: 30F, background in biochem. I'm currently a research tech in a genetics lab at a large university and earn $35,000 /year working 40-80 hour weeks. I like the job and the environment but dislike the hours and the pay.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2016, 06:51:17 AM by neophyte »

Primm

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2016, 01:05:30 AM »
I'm considering going back to school for a Master's in genetic counseling and wondered what the mustachians thought about the career.

Info:
Glassdoor lists the average salary as $72.5k and the National Society of Genetic Counselors 2014 annual survey lists the average as $74k.
The median salary according to Payscale is $62k and it's $67.5 k according to salary.com.  I've seen admissions departments state about $60k starting salary.  The program takes 2 years and would probably cost between $75,000 and $90,000 depending on what program I went to and scholarships and so forth. According to the NSGC 2014 annual survey, overall job satisfaction is very high, but only 38% of people are satisfied with their earning potential and 37% with the opportunity for advancement.

The career overall is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years and nearly 100% of students have jobs before graduating. Hospitals are complaining that they can't find enough people to hire (but if that is the case, I don't understand why the salaries aren't higher). On the downside, some universities are already considering making it a clinical doctorate program and I've been told that that's nearly 100% due to degree creep rather than an actual need for education beyond a Master's.

About me: 30F, background in biochem. I'm currently a research tech in a genetics lab at a large university and earn $35,000 /year working 40-80 hour weeks. I like the job and the environment but dislike the hours and the pay.

Can you deal with sitting in front of a parent and telling them they just passed on a life-limiting condition that means their child will die within the next 6 months, they have a 50% chance of passing it on to any future children, and there is currently no antenatal test for the condition? Can you handle having them in your office screaming at you because somehow this is your fault, even though it isn't? Are you strong enough to repeat this scenario day after day, week after week, for as long as it takes to save enough money to FIRE?

If so, then go for it. But sometimes it's not about the money.

I love the genetic counsellors I work with, but it isn't an easy job.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2016, 06:48:25 AM »
I used to know a genetic counselor who actually lost their job and couldn't find a new one. I know you say 100% of grads have jobs lined up, but the one I knew was stuck assisting on genetics related research projects because there were no open counselor positions in the area. She said the positions had low turn over. Just one anecdote, but I would question any highly specific field that claims EVERYONE has a job. My friend technically counted as having a related job, but it wasn't the one she wanted and it certainly didn't pay 70k a year - more like 40k.

TheMoneyWizard

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2016, 07:10:30 AM »
I used to know a genetic counselor who actually lost their job and couldn't find a new one. I know you say 100% of grads have jobs lined up, but the one I knew was stuck assisting on genetics related research projects because there were no open counselor positions in the area. She said the positions had low turn over. Just one anecdote, but I would question any highly specific field that claims EVERYONE has a job. My friend technically counted as having a related job, but it wasn't the one she wanted and it certainly didn't pay 70k a year - more like 40k.
True, one thing I learned post-graduation was just how much Universities can skew employment statistics. For example, many colleges throw around "average starting salary" with an impressively high number. What they don't tell you is that really means *average starting salary for the few students who found full time employment. If half of all interior design majors can't find a job and are working at Starbucks, their wages don't count. Then contrarily, they will use those under-employed graduates when reporting overall job placement.

What's more, most surveys rely on students self-reporting, which aside from a few disgruntled students, this means by nature the students with the better paying jobs will feel more proud and thus more enthusiastic to respond.

Not saying this is necessarily the case here, just something to always keep in the back of your mind.

Tjat

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2016, 08:29:22 AM »
If it pays well and has good job prospects, my thoughts just come down to if it's a position you'd like. Having been through genetic counseling from the parent's perspective, I just know it's a job that I could never emotionally do.

Harper

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2016, 11:24:09 AM »
I think that this will definitely be a growing field.  I would advise trying to find a GC to talk to to find out day in the life and really talk about the emotional side of this career.  I think it's really interesting field and one I'm suggesting to some of the younger BS people in the lab.

« Last Edit: May 23, 2016, 11:32:44 AM by arden »

frugaldrummer

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2016, 07:36:25 PM »
HUGELY growing field, as genetic testing is becoming more available for a variety of reasons, there will be huge demand for people to interpret those results. (And trust me, most physicians don't get it or don;t have the time to do it.)    So while right now the testing has a lot to do with diagnosing terrible disease, there is going to be a huge field in helping people to understand the less serious details of their genome.

There are liability issues involved in doing tests and not having counselors available to interpret.  The big staff-model HMO that I belong to, won't run any genetic tests without the patient seeing a genetic counselor first, even if the doctor orders the tests.

Find someone working in the field who will let you shadow them for a day.  You want to see if the job is for you before you invest all that time and money.  Also, figure out how you are with people who may not be very smart - you will have to explain complicated ideas to people who may not be very sophisticated in their understanding of science - are you good at that?

neophyte

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2016, 09:07:47 AM »
Thanks for the input. I've actually spent several days shadowing GCs in a variety of specialties as well as MD geneticists.  I think it's a job I could do.  In terms of liking it, I see both advantages and disadvantages compared to what I currently do.  I'm more concerned about whether it's worth it from a financial perspective since, all things considered, it seems to pay just 'ok.'  (I only contribute about 30% to retirement and after that I take home just $300 a week, so making more money is very important to me at this point in my life.)

Being a rapidly growing field, I'd hope that would mean salaries would rise, but I don't know that that's the case.  It's certainly true that not every single person graduates with a job lined up, but I feel good about the chances of being able to find a job quickly.  There are 5 open positions within walking distance of where I live now, I have no geographic restrictions, and I've gone to talks where I've seen hospitals criticized for giving doctors a 30 minute training presentation instead of sending patients to a genetic counselor. The hospital's response to that was "we're trying, but we already hired every genetic counselor within 2 hours of here."  Of course, if they decide that works fine, then there's the specter of the idea that your degree could be replaced by a .ppt hanging over your head. 

Beriberi

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Re: Your thoughts on Genetic Counseling as a career?
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2016, 02:25:59 PM »
I think there is not a tremendous density of GCs - so there may not be any openings in some cities, especially if you are inexperienced. An acquaintance recently relocated to the Bay Area and her department was eliminated a few months later - she cannot find a job without a significance commute.

Salary is tied to reimbursement, so the distribution of salaries is pretty narrow. Like nursing - the difference between a well-paid GC and a poorly paid GC is probably not huge. Also, what determines "well-paid" is work environment, location - not quality (just like nursing and teaching).  The best GC does not make more money than the worst one (necessarily).  This is quite different than lawyers, accountants, etc.- and limits the opportunity for salary advancement.