What kind of jobs can I get with a Genetics major?
A major in genetics can lead to careers in fields as diverse as agriculture, criminology, and communication. Below is a list, by no means comprehensive, of careers geneticists pursue. Browse through this list to get an overview of each kind of career.
Geneticists conduct research in various fields of science, ranging from agriculture to wildlife biology. The list below describes some areas of research, listed in alphabetical order, in these fields.
Clinical geneticists are doctors who work with patients to identify, diagnose, and treat genetic diseases. They may also conduct research on genetic disorders; teach interns and residents about the diagnosis and management of clinical genetic disorders; and have administrative roles, for example, planning and coordinating large-scale screening programs for genetic diseases.
Education: After obtaining a medical degree, clinical geneticists complete 2 years of residency in medical disciplines approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), followed by a 2-year ACMGE-accredited residency in clinical genetics. They may then obtain certification (which involves passing an examination administered by the American Board of Medical Genetics) in one of four specialties: clinical genetics, clinical biochemical genetics, clinical cytogenetics, and clinical molecular genetics. (Clinical biochemical geneticists, cytogeneticists, and molecular geneticists may have either an MD or a PhD degree in genetics or a related biological science.)
Places of employment: Clinical geneticists work in research centers, hospitals, or medical centers or have private practices.
American Board of Medical Genetics. Training options: http://www.abmg.org/pages/training_options.shtml
American Board of Medical Genetics. Specialties of genetics. http://www.abmg.org/pages/training_specialties.shtml
Clinical geneticist. http://www.bookrags.com/research/clinical-geneticist-gen-01/
American Board of Medical Specialties: http://www.abms.org/who_we_help/consumers/about_physician_specialties/medical.aspx
Careers in genetics. Genetics Society of America: http://www.genetics-gsa.org/pages/careers_fisher.shtml
Clinical Laboratory Scientist/Medical Technologist (CLS/MT)
Clinical laboratory technologists or scientists perform chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological tests. For example, they may examine body fluids for the presence of bacteria, determine the concentration of compounds such as blood glucose, and prepare blood samples for transfusion. They not only perform laboratory procedures, but interpret test results, conduct research, develop new test methods, perform quality control, and supervise clinical laboratory technicians.
Technologists in large laboratories specialize in a particular field of laboratory science. For example, cytotechnologists examine cells for chromosomal abnormalities.
Education: The minimal educational requirement to qualify for an entry-level position as a clinical laboratory technologist is generally a bachelor’s degree with a major in medical technology or one of the life sciences.
Bachelor’s degree programs in medical technology include courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, statistics, management, business, computers as well as specialized clinical laboratory science courses. These programs are offered by universities and academic medical centers, and graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree are eligible to apply to them.
To find a clinical laboratory scientist/medical technologist program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), refer to http://www.naacls.org/search/programs.asp.
Graduates of a clinical laboratory science program are eligible for national certification as a clinical laboratory scientist/medical technician by passing an exam administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification. (For a listing of the certifications and qualifications offered by the board, visit http://www.ascp.org/boc.)
For information on the eligibility criteria for these examinations, visit http://www.ascp.org/FunctionalNavigation/certification/GetCertified/TechnicianCertification.aspx.
Certification and accreditation can also be obtained through the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
Clinical laboratory science program, MD Anderson. http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/education-and-training/schools-and-programs/school-of-health-professions/programs-and-courses/clinical-laboratory-science/index.html
American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science: http://www.ascls.org/?page=Career_Toolkit
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos096.htm
Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomal abnormalities underlying human diseases. A cytogeneticist prepares biological specimens such as blood, amniotic fluid, bone marrow, and tumors for chromosome analysis. This involves preparing cell cultures and staining chromosomes using techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and knowledge of techniques such as PCR, fluorescence microscopy, nucleic acid purification, agarose gel electrophoresis, and immunofluorescence staining. For a detailed list of skills expected of cytogenetic technologists, refer to the PDF prepared by the Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT). You can find it here: http://www.agt-info.org/Documents/Cyto%20Statements%20of%20Competence%202001.pdf
Education: The minimum educational requirement to be a cytogenetic technologist is an undergraduate in genetics, biochemistry, or biology followed by a cytogenetic technology program and certification (which is required by some laboratories). Choose a cytotechnology program that is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
An undergraduate degree in cytogenetics may be followed directly by certification. A national certification exam is offered by the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Places of employment: Cytogenetic technologists may find work in research institutions, hospitals, and medical laboratories.
MD Anderson Cancer Center, cytogenetic technology program: http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/education-and-training/schools-and-programs/school-of-health-professions/programs-and-courses/cytogenetic-technology/index.html
Mayo Clinic cytogenetic technology program: http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/cytogen-cytogen.html
Cytogenetic technology program: http://www.uthscsa.edu/shp/cyto/success.asp
Occupational network online, Cytogenetic technologists: http://online.onetcenter.org/link/summary/29-2011.01
Cytogenetic Technologist: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/40/ls05-cytogen-tech.pdf
Health Careers Center, Cytogenetic Technologist:
Association of genetic technologists: http://www.agt-info.org/
Molecular Genetic Technologist
Molecular genetic technologists study DNA for various purposes: to determine familial cancer risk, to diagnose neurological disorders, to identify microbiological agents, to match tissues for organ transplantation, to identify disaster or crime victims, and to determine parentage.
The following are some examples of skills molecular genetic technologists should have, according to the “Statements of competence for molecular genetic technologists.”
Education: Molecular genetic technologists must have a bachelor’s degree in a biological science and a post-baccalaureate degree in molecular genetic technology (or a minimum of one year on-the-job training). For information on The University of Texas MD Anderson Center’s molecular genetic technology program, visit http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/education-and-training/schools-and-programs/school-of-health-professions/programs-and-courses/molecular-genetic-technology/program-description.html. (This program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).)
It is also possible to be certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) as a molecular biology technologist. For information on eligibility requirements for the certification examination, visit http://www.ascp.org/FunctionalNavigation/certification/GetCertified/TechnologistCertification.aspx#mp
Places of employment: These include cancer treatment and research centers, pathology labs, pediatric and genetic counseling clinics, chemical industry labs, biotechnology companies, public and private forensic labs, and academic institutions.
Molecular genetics technology career overview: http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/mg-career.html
Association for Molecular Pathology. List of programs that offer Molecular Technologist Training. http://www.amp.org/committees/training_educ/molecular_technologist_training.cfm
Genetic counselors provide information to individuals or families who have or who are at risk of developing genetic disorders. Responsibilities of genetic counselors include analyzing family history and inheritance patterns, evaluating an individual’s risk of developing a particular disorder, and identifying testing or treatment options.
Genetic counselors may work in research labs and study, for example, how genetic disorders are inherited. They may also be teachers and be involved in educating medical students or individuals from other health-care professions or the general public about genetic counseling. Genetic counselors may also work with biotechnology companies that develop genetic tests.
Education: To become a genetic counselor, in addition to an undergraduate degree in genetics or a related subject, a master’s degree in genetic counseling from an accredited program is required. Further, board certification in genetic counseling through the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) is an asset.
Places of employment: Genetic counselors can work in clinical settings such as hospitals, research laboratories, or educational institutions.
Science careers: Genetic counselor: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-engineering-careers/Genom_geneticcounselor_c001.shtml#natureofwork
Genetic counseling: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genecounseling.shtml
List of genetic counseling training programs: http://www.nsgc.org/iframepages/GeneticCounselingTrainingPrograms/tabid/336/Default.aspx
Profile of a genetic counselor: http://science.education.nih.gov/LifeWorks.nsf/Interviews/Barbara+Biesecker
National society of genetic counselors: http://www.nsgc.org/Default.aspx
Forensic DNA Analyst
Forensic DNA analysts analyze biological samples (for example, saliva, skin cells, or hair follicles) submitted for criminal investigation or other legal matters for the presence or absence of DNA. DNA profiles of unknown samples are compared with those of convicted criminals to identify crime suspects or exonerate wrongly accused or convicted individuals. Other duties of a forensic DNA analyst include preparing reports of DNA analysis, serving as an expert witness, maintaining and calibrating equipment, preparing chemical solutions, and ordering supplies. In crime labs, DNA analysts may also be involved in trace evidence or firearms analysis.
Education: Minimal educational requirements for an entry-level position are a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, forensic science, or a related field and coursework in genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and statistics. Also, DNA analysts must have good critical thinking, writing, communication, presentation, interpersonal, and teamwork skills.
Places of employment: These include local, state, or federal law enforcement or government agencies; private forensic laboratories; and medical, scientific, and research laboratories.
Interview with a forensic DNA analyst: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080705/news_lz1cz5qanda.html
Genetics Research Technician
A research technician assists the main scientists in a genetics laboratory. Duties range from sample preparation to data collection to data analysis.
Places of employment and education: A genetics research technician can find work in a variety of research settings. Knowledge and technical skills will vary depending on the research project. For example, some technician positions require only a bachelor’s degree in any science and no prior laboratory experience and involve tasks such as cleaning equipment, ordering lab supplies, and assisting with laboratory report preparation. Other positions require a master’s degree in science and knowledge of basic anatomy, cell culture, histology, molecular cloning techniques, and quantitative gene expression analysis.
Useful links: http://www.biohealthmatics.com/careers/PID00254.aspx
School Science Teacher
Science teachers for middle- and high-school are in high demand. For more information on how to obtain certification to teach at the middle- and high-school levels, visit the College of Education & Human Development’s “Become an Aggie Teacher” page at http://educate.tamu.edu/articles/High-Need.
Listed below is information about two popular secondary certification programs TAMU offers.
For information on the job profile and job prospects for biology school teachers, refer to http://online.onetcenter.org/link/summary/25-1042.00
Teach for America: http://www.teachforamerica.org/
YES Prep Public Schools: http://yesprep.org/
A major in genetics can serve as good preparation for careers in medicine and allied health. Listed below are some job titles within these fields.
Education: Training for careers in this field generally involves an undergraduate science degree followed by a professional degree or certification. Visit TAMU’s Office of Professional School Advising Web site for more information on preparation for health-care careers: http://opsa.tamu.edu/downloads_forms.shtml
Refer to the following books in the Career Center library (accessible through http://careercenter.tamu.edu/docs/library/bookInventory.pdf), for more information on occupations within medicine and allied health.
Medical device sales representatives market medical equipment (for example, cardiac equipment) to specialty doctors and surgeons. Individuals need to have thorough scientific and medical knowledge as well as excellent sales skills. A proven sales record and specific product experience are likely to increase opportunities for employment. Work in this field involves a considerable amount of travel and long hours.
Within the medical device sales industry, there are field-based technical support personnel who are experts in a particular device, for example, pacemakers. They are involved in implanting and checking the function of these devices. Since these individuals bring medical devices to operating rooms and assist surgeons during device implantation, they must be comfortable observing surgical procedures.
Education and Training:
A bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical-, healthcare-, or science-related disciplines is good preparation for this career. Certifications in pharmaceutical and healthcare device sales from technical training companies such as the National Association of Medical Sales Representatives (NAMSR), the American Institute of Medical Sales (AIMS), and the Center for Professional Advancement may also be helpful. Internships with medical device companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Philips Healthcare, Medtronic, etc., provide opportunities for medical sales training and increase chances of getting entry-level medical sales representative positions.
Places of employment: Medical device companies such as Medtronic Inc., Stryker, Boston Scientific
National Association of Medical Sales Representatives (NAMSR) program for entry-level medical sales positions: http://www.medicalsalescareer.com/rmsr.html. (NAMSR also has an online quiz, accessible here: http://www.medicalsalescareer.com/doineedtraining.html, to help you determine if you need training.)
For information on other training programs offered by NAMSR, visit http://www.medicalsalescareer.com/rmsr.html
A sales representative at Boston Scientific briefly describes her work: http://www.bostonscientific.com/Careers.bsci/,,/navRelId/1065.1070/method/EMPLOYEE_PROFILE/id/10111411/seo.serve
An interview with a medical device sales consultant: http://www.jobshadow.com/an-interview-with-a-medical-device-salesman/
St. Jude Medical. Careers in Demand. http://www.sjm.com/corporate/careers/for-experienced-prospective-employees/careers-in-demand.aspx#E
Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives
Pharmaceutical sales representatives promote the company’s products to physicians, pharmacists, and hospital personnel. They also make product presentations and organize educational meetings for physicians. The job requires the ability to continuously learn about new pharmaceutical products, good communication and interpersonal skills, willingness to travel, and the ability to withstand stress.
(Other job titles within pharmaceutical sales include sales manager and sales trainer.)
Education: College graduates with a biology degree are usually preferred by pharmaceutical companies for entry-level sales positions, mainly because a biology degree demonstrates a solid foundation in science that will be helpful in learning about pharmacological products. (Prior sales experience acquired through summer jobs or internships is likely to increase job prospects. This sales experience need not be pharmaceutical related. Business-to-business sales experience, for example, with companies like Xerox or Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is especially useful.) However, individuals with a master’s degree in science are likely to be preferred over those with a bachelor’s degree because an advanced degree provides credibility when interacting with physicians. Further, individuals with a master’s degree in business/marketing and a good sales record are more likely to be promoted to management positions.
Places of employment: Pharmaceutical and biotech industries
Useful resources: Please refer to the Career Center library book “Insiders’ guide to the world of pharmaceutical sales” by Jane Williams for more information on this profession.
Also, refer to the Vault Career Guide to Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing (accessible through HireAggies.com. (The path is hireaggies.com—Career Resources—Websites/Databases—Vault/Career Insider) for more information on job titles within this field (chapter 5), education and training requirements (chapter 6), sample resumes and cover letters for pharmaceutical sales jobs (chapter 7) and for questions to expect during interviews for such jobs (chapter 8), and for information on how to transition into a career in pharmaceutical sales (chapter 9).
Other useful links:
National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives: http://www.napsronline.org/default.asp
Scientific Sales Representative
Scientific sales representatives may be involved in selling a range of products, for example, scientific equipment; laboratory chemicals, glassware, and equipment; pharmaceuticals; or environmental science services such as water monitoring.
Education and skills: A bachelor’s degree in science is good preparation for a career in scientific sales. Laboratory skills, for example, expertise in molecular biology techniques or experience with chromatography instrumentation, may be useful in selling certain products. Courses in business and marketing are also helpful.
Places of employment: Pharmaceutical and biotech industries and medical device companies.
Useful links: List of scientific sales’ job descriptions: http://www.oakhurstexec.com/blog/labels/scientific%20sales.html
Patent agents prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications. To become a patent agent recognized by the US patent and trademark office (USPTO) requires a bachelor’s degree in a technical field of science (recognized by the office) and passing the USPTO registration examination (also called the “patent bar”). A law degree is not required to be a patent agent. For more information on how to become a registered patent agent with the USPTO, visit http://usptocareers.gov/.
Careers in patent law:
Chemists in patent law: http://acscareers.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/chemists-in-patent-law/
A day in the life of a patent examiner: http://usptocareers.gov/Pages/PEPositions/video.aspx
Science illustrators prepare accurate and life-like digital or traditional images of scientific subjects. They combine their training in a specific science, for example, zoology or wildlife biology, with skills in traditional and digital art techniques. (Science illustrators might also begin with an art background and then educate themselves in science.) Science illustrators prepare models and exhibits for museums, design covers of publications, create computer animation for Web sites. Sources of employment include museums, scientific organizations, publishing houses, and pharmaceutical industries.
Profiles of science illustrators: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2005_04_15/noDOI.13852279728145973119
Guild of Natural Science Illustrators: http://www.gnsi.org/science-illustration/careers-ed
Graduate program in biomedical communications, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas: http://www4.utsouthwestern.edu/biocomm/program_main.htm
Science illustration graduate program, California State University, Monterey Bay: http://scienceillustration.org/graduate_program.htm
Article in Nature on scientific illustration: http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/2005/050623/full/nj7045-1132a.html
The Association of Medical Illustrators: http://www.ami.org/
Medical illustration profile article: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2001_11_23/noDOI.2087075039405483229
Science writers translate complex scientific information into language that is accessible to the general public.
Science writers keep abreast of the latest developments in a specific field, for example, genetics, by reading original research papers, attending scientific conferences, and talking to scientists. They may prepare press releases and articles on research being conducted at a research institute; write popular science articles for scientific journals, newspapers, Web sites, or magazines; prepare television or radio programs on science; prepare educational material for science museums and nature centers; or prepare grant proposals or technical manuals.
Education: An undergraduate degree in a specific science, for example, genetics, biochemistry, or biology, followed by a master’s degree in science journalism or science writing is good preparation to be a science writer.
National Association of Science Writers: http://www.nasw.org/
Profile of a science writer: http://science.education.nih.gov/LifeWorks.nsf/Interviews/Alisa+Machalek
Starting a career in science writing: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/3570/starting_a_career_in_science_writing
Other useful resources
Career Center Library (http://careercenter.tamu.edu/docs/library/bookInventory.pdf):
Browse through this directory of the Career Center’s library books. Some useful books for genetics careers are listed below. If you have trouble finding a book or have a question, please contact Patty Sterner, the Career Center librarian.