Geneticists or genetic scientists are scientists that study areas related to hereditary or human genes, plants and animals. They prevent, evaluate, diagnose and cure genetic causes of problems related to pregnancy, infertility, genetic disorders, mental retardation, and single or combination of genetic traits to name a few. Geneticists may also get into genetic counseling wherein they assist families who have a history of genetic disorders through the gathering of statistics, parents’ genes, health history and probability.
A geneticist establishes genotypes and uses diagnostic procedures and tests to detect genetic diseases; use different laboratory techniques to evaluate conditions; write reports for clinicians who have requested tests; interpret the results of routine tests carried out by genetic technologists; develop and devise new investigation strategies; deal with enquiries and communicate with clinical colleagues and other health care professionals; train and teach colleagues and other health care professionals; supervise the work of genetic technologists and junior staff; interpret quality control and quality assurance data; continually update professional skills and knowledge by reading scientific literature and attending training courses and conferences.
Education and Training Requirements
A basic research geneticist major in the physical sciences with a minor in biology. Genetic scientists hold doctoral degrees and teach undergraduate and graduate courses in addition to doing research. Clinical geneticists usually obtain a doctorate degree from medical school, and then continue by completing a three- to-five-year residency in a medical specialty followed by an additional two to three years of specialized training in genetics. Genetic counselors obtain specialized graduate degrees with a master’s-level program of two years.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements
Geneticists must be smart and analytical with excellent problem-solving skills. They should be able to evaluate significant results and present conclusions from quantifiable criteria. Both written and verbal communications skills are important for sharing research information. Important personal qualities include patience, attention to detail, and determination.
Genetic scientists spend most of their time in laboratories or hospitals, designing and conducting research experiments. They also spend considerable time reading the latest developments in their specialty, writing reports about their experiments, lecturing or teaching about their research, and preparing grant proposals to federal or private agencies to secure funding to support their research. Usually, geneticists work as part of a research team, cooperating on various aspects of their experiments. They may work on regular working hours, although they may be required to overtime during critical periods of an experiment.
Entry-level salaries are at $33,000, and genetic counselors with notable experience earn as much as $97,000. The average salary for genetic scientists working in private industry is approximately $55,000, with a potential of obtaining higher salaries with biotechnology firms.