Genetic Counselor Salary Guide By Region & Experience
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Genetic counselors are responsible for assessing families or individuals who may be at risk of inherited conditions. They provide information and support to healthcare providers, or to families and individuals who are concerned with the risk of inherited conditions. They provide critical services to the concerned families and individuals undergoing genetic testing, helping them identify risks for certain disorders, investigating their family health history, interpreting information, and determining if testing is required.
The process of genetic counseling helps patients in understanding and adapting to the psychological and medical impact of genetic diseases. Genetic counselors generally see patients in hospital settings or clinics, often working with oncologists, obstetricians, and other related doctors. Like doctors, they can also be found working in a wide range of settings.
Typical duties of genetic counselors may include:
- Interviewing patients for getting their medical and family histories
- Evaluating genetic information and identifying if the patients or their families are at the risk of specific genetic disorders
- Discussing testing options and the associated benefits, limitations, and risks with patients, their families, and other related healthcare providers
- Counseling patients and their family members, and providing them with information, reassurance, and education regarding inherited conditions and genetic risks
- Writing consultation reports that explain complex genetic concepts to patients or referring physicians
Notably, U.S. News & World Report (2019) ranks genetic counselors at number two among the best healthcare support jobs, and at number 25 in 100 best jobs.
Read on to discover how much these healthcare professionals make, including breakdowns by region and source of data.
Genetic Counselor Job Overview & Salary in the United States
In general, here is a breakdown of the 2,390 genetic counselors’ salaries in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019):
|Number of professionals employed in the U.S.||2,390|
|Annual mean wage||$84,310|
|50th percentile (median)||$81,880|
So how does one join this lucrative profession?
A master’s degree in genetics or genetic counseling is the typical requirement for becoming genetic counselors. The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) is an accreditation organization for genetic counseling graduate programs.
Coursework in these genetic counseling programs generally includes epidemiology, public health, developmental biology, and psychology, emphasizing genetics, patient empathy, and public health. Students may also be required to complete clinical rotations, working directly with clients and patients. Clinical rotations allow students to work in various work environments such as pediatric hospitals, cancer centers, or prenatal diagnostic centers.
Certification for genetic counselors is provided by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. For becoming certified, students must complete an accredited master’s program as well as an exam. To maintain their certification, they must also complete continuing education coursework.
Employers typically prefer genetic counselors who are certified, but it’s not a necessary requirement. It must also be noted that almost half of the states require them to be licensed, while the remaining have pending legislation for licensure.
Self-reported data from PayScale.com (2020) shows genetic counselors to be highly satisfied with their jobs with a score of 4.2 out of 5 based on 23 individual ratings. It states the average salary for genetic counselors as $72,803, with the following percentiles:
|50th percentile (median)||$72,803|
Genetic Counselor Salary by Experience Level
According to PayScale (2020), average genetic counseling salaries vary based on experience:
- Entry-level genetic counselors (less than a year of experience): $67,969 (based on 45 respondents)
- Early career (one to four years): $71,022 (91 respondents)
- Mid-career (five to nine): $77,781 (41 respondents).
- Experienced (10 to 19 years): $86,080 (37 respondents)
- Late-stage (20 years or more): $85,632
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) shows that the need for genetic counselors is growing at a rate of 27 percent (2018 to 2028), which is much faster than the average for all occupations (5 percent). But it is also important to note that this being a small occupation will only have about 800 new jobs in the next ten years.
Recent scientific and technological innovations, such as developments in genomics and lab tests give genetic counselors the opportunity to conduct more types of analyses. The types and number of tests that genetic counselors can evaluate and administer have increased over the past few years—and are expected to increase as healthcare technology advances.
Top-Paying U.S. Cities for Genetic Counselors
Below is a list of the top-paying cities and their corresponding metropolitan areas with the highest salaries for genetic counselors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019). Also shown are the estimated number of employed professionals (not including self-employed workers) and the annual mean wage.
|City or metropolitan area||Number of genetic counselors||Annual mean wage (May 2019)|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara||30||$102,210|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim||100||$100,580|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City||220||$90,010|
Top-Paying States for Genetic Counselors
The list below shows the states with the highest salaries for genetic counselors, an estimated number of employed genetic counselors, and the annual mean wage, as reported from the BLS (May 2019).
|State||Number of genetic counselors||Annual mean wage (May 2019)|
Top-Paying Employers of Genetic Counselors
The list below shows the top-paying industries for genetic counselors, based on data from BLS (May 2019).
|Employer||Employment of genetic counselors||Annual mean wage (May 2019)|
|Outpatient Care Centers||140||$108,670|
|Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories||290||$95,060|
|Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals||60||$87,740|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||1,030||$83,170|
|Offices of Physicians||340||$82,240|
Top-Paying Clinical Specializations for Genetic Counselors
The list below shows five genetic counselors specializations and their correlating salaries based on self-reported data from PayScale.com (2020):
|Specialization||Average salary (self-reported)|
|Oral / Verbal Communication||$76,027|