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Genetic Counseling

Genetic Counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. In addition to counseling, genetic counselors also communicate with laboratories about the tests they offer, advocating for patients with their insurance companies and notifying patients about their test results.

Genetic counselors can work in a variety of settings and provide different services. They are an integral part of the healthcare team, often working with obstetricians, oncologists and other doctors. They may provide general care or specialize in one or more areas.

Genetic Counselors typically do the following:

  • Interview patients to obtain comprehensive individual family and medical histories

  • Evaluate genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific genetic risks

  • Write detailed consultation reports to provide information on complex genetic concepts for patients or referring physicians

  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits, and limitations with patients and families

  • Counsel patients and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance regarding genetic risks and inherited conditions

  • Participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics and genomics

Important Qualities:

  • Compassion: Patients may seek advice on family care or serious illnesses. Genetic counselors must be sensitive and compassionate when communicating their findings.

  • Critical-thinking skills: Genetic counselors analyze laboratory findings to determine how best to advise a patient or family. They use their applied knowledge of genetics to assess inherited risks properly.

  • Decisionmaking skills: Genetic counselors must use their expertise and experience to determine how to share their findings properly with patients.

  • Speaking skills: Genetic counselors must be able to simplify complex findings so that their patients understand them.




Required Coursework

The chart below is a list of common Genetic Counseling program requirements and the Emory course equivalents. Requirements vary widely by school. This list does not include all courses that may be required by genetic counseling programs. Additionally, schools have differing policies for accepting AP/IB credits to fulfill prerequisites. Students are responsible for verifying the prerequisite coursework and AP/IB policies of the schools to which they plan to apply. Explore genetic counseling programs to review the specific requirements for individual schools.

Area of Study
(Discipline or Department)

Emory Course Equivalents

(2 semesters)

BIOL 141 with lab and BIOL 142 with lab

(4 semesters)

If you started Chemistry courses at Emory prior to Fall 2017: Chem 141, 142, 221, and 222 all with labs

If you started Chemistry courses at Emory Fall 2017 or later: Chem 150, 202, 203, and 204 all with labs

(1 semester)

BIOL 301 or CHEM 301

(1 semester)

BIOL 264

(1 semester)

QTM 100 or ECON 220

(1-2 semesters)

PSYC 110 or PSYC 111 (or any additional upper level PSYC courses)

This is not an all-inclusive list! Make sure to check with the individual programs to confirm their requirements.

Please contact your pre-health advisor if:

  • You have questions about using your AP/IB credit
  • You began Chemistry coursework at Emory prior to Fall 2017 and have questions about how to proceed
  • You transferred to Emory and have questions about prerequisite coursework taken at your previous institution.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Length: 3 hours and 45 minutes

Sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing

Cost: The registration fee is $205 which includes the exam and scores sent to four schools. Sending scores to additional schools costs $27 each. Applicants with financial need may request a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate to cover 50% of the GRE fee.

Scores: Scores range from 260-340 Verbal and Quantitative Composite, and 0-6 Analytical Writing.

GRE Prep Resources: There are a variety of GRE prep resources, each differing in both cost and teaching style. The PHMO does not endorse any specific test prep resource, but we encourage you to explore each of the different options to determine which will best fit your needs. 

The PHMO does not endorse any specific preparation service or program.


Application: There is no centralized application service for Genetic Counseling programs. Each program has its own admissions timeline, though generally applications are accepted through January for a class beginning in the following fall. For specific programs’ admissions timelines and requirements, please see the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling list of accredited programs.

Letters of Recommendation: Genetic Counseling typically require between 2-4 recommendation letters. Each program will have their own guidelines for the number and type of references required. The PHMO recommends at least one recommendation letter be from a science faculty member.

Interviews: Almost all Genetic Counseling programs require an interview as part of the application process. Interviews typically take place between February-April.

Genetic Counseling Admissions Match

Beginning with admissions for Fall 2018, many Genetic Counseling programs will begin participating in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match through National Matching Services (NMS).

The GC Admissions Match has been established to enhance the process of placing applicants into positions in masters-level genetic counseling programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The Match uses a process that takes into account both applicants’ and programs’ preferences. All applicants must first register for the Match with NMS before applying to participating genetic counseling graduate programs. At the conclusion of all program interviews, both applicants and programs will submit ranked lists of preferred placements to NMS according to deadlines posted on the NMS website. The binding results of the Match will be released to both applicants and programs simultaneously in late April.

Applicants must still apply directly to programs in which they are interested. Registering for the Match is an additional step.

Please visit the NMS website to register for the match, review detailed information about the matching process, and to view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works.

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