Genetic Counseling

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There are many pieces to the genetic counseling application, including your GPA, GRE score, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for genetic counseling programs.


  • What is a genetic counselor?
  • Genetic counselors help people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. 

    Genetic counselors are employed in many settings such as medical centers, physician offices, health maintenance organizations, advocacy organizations, governmental agencies, public health departments and biotechnology companies.

    Those in clinical practice provide education and counseling in areas including reproductive genetics, infertility and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, pediatric genetics, newborn screening follow-up, cancer genetics, neurogenetics, and cardiovascular genetics. 

    Read more details about the scope of practice here.

  • Becoming a Genetic Counselor
  • Obtain an undergraduate degree (4 years)

    Earn a master's degree at an accredited program

    Get certified/licensed by The American Board of Genetic Counselors

  • Genetic Counseling Prerequisites
  • Genetic Counseling Prerequisites Courses to Take at UC Davis
    Most schools require:  
    General Biology BIS 2ABC
    General Chemistry CHE 2ABC
    Biochemistry BIS 105 OR BIS 102 & BIS 103
    Genetics BIS 101
    Psychology PSC 1
    Statistics STA 13 OR STA 100
    Some schools also require:  
    Human Development any HDE courses
    Organic Chemistry CHE 8AB OR CHE 118ABC
    Ethics/Bioethics PHI 15 OR PHI 117
    Interpersonal Communication CMN 3
    Abnormal Psychology PSC 168
    Physiology NPB 101 OR NPB 110C
    Medical Terminology * Course not offered at UC Davis
    Embryology * Course not offered at UC Davis
    Social Science & Humanities any ANT, SOC, OR HUM courses
    Epidemiology GDB 101 OR SPH 102
    Calculus MAT 16ABC, MAT 17ABC, OR MAT 21ABCD
    Human Anatomy EXB 106 & EXB 106L OR CHA 101 & CHA 101L

    * Check your major requirements before choosing classes.

    See the Genetic Counseling Program Prerequisite Chart for a sample list of genetic counseling programs and their requirements.

    Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute. 

    You can choose any major and apply to schools. If you choose a non-science major, you still have to take the science prerequisites required by schools. 

    HPA recommends that students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, although many schools will have GPA averages above this minimum.

    Each school has different prerequisites. Check each school's prerequisites before applying. 

  • Graduate Records Examination (GRE)
  • The GRE is available on a continuous basis throughout the year. Register for the GRE here.

    The exam includes three sections:
    Verbal Reasoning
    Quantitative Reasoning
    Analytical Writing

    The exam cost $205 each time you take it.  You are only allowed to take the GRE every 21 days after your previous exam.

    The GRE is not a course-dependent test, meaning there are no specific UCD courses you need to take to prepare. The best way is to give yourself time to study the test by buying test prep books or taking a test prep course.

    Whatever you do, do not take the test without preparing! Click here to register for the GRE.


  • Experiences
  • It is important to intern/volunteer/shadow and speak to a genetic counselor to show you have explored the field and have a clear understanding of the profession.

    Meaningful experiences toward genetic counseling can come from a variety of settings. Programs put a high value on "one-on-one" experiences that include strong advocacy and support services and the development of interpersonal relationships.

    Programs generally recommend the following areas:

    Peer counseling/Resident advisor
    Crisis/Suicide hotline
    Domestic violence shelter
    Pregnancy/Family planning center
    Social worker
    Homeless shelter
    Disability support services

  • Applying to Genetic Counseling Programs
  • Personal Statement

    Your personal statement should describe your reason for applying to the program, your research interests, future career plans, and other aspects of your background that will aid the review committee in their evaluations. Length requirement varies by program; check each program to which you wish to apply.

    Some questions to consider when writing your personal statement (from CSU Stanislaus):

    How did you decide to become a genetic counselor? Of the various aspects of genetic counseling, discuss those that particularly interest you.

    What is it about you, in terms of personality, work history, family, and life experience that would assist you to become a genetic counselor?

    Which personal assets would facilitate—and which might hinder—your effectiveness as a genetic counselor?

    What experiences have you had with chronic illnesses or genetic diseases and what impact did these have on your life?

    What other things should we know about you to assist us in evaluating your application

    Letters of Recommendation

    An average of three letters of recommendation is generally required by genetic counseling programs. Letters should come from professors, employers, and/or supervisors/mentors that know you well and can provide evidence of your academic abilities, maturity, and interpersonal skills. Letters are generally submitted online or sent directly to the program.


    Invitations for interviews are sent after all application materials have been reviewed. Qualified students will be contacted with an invitation for an interview with program faculty.

    Choosing Programs

    There are 37 ACGC-accredited programs in the nation with three in California.

    California programs include:

    UC Irvine - M.S. in Genetic Counseling

    CSU Stanislaus - M.S. in Genetic Counseling

    Stanford - M.S. in Human Genetic and Genetic Counseling

    As long as the program holds any accreditation status at the time of entry, you will be eligible to sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling’s Certified Genetic Counselor (CGC) certification examination. 

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • More questions?  Visit our FAQ page or schedule an appointment with an advisor!