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Genetic Counseling Careers

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Why Choose Genetics for Genetic Counseling?

A B.S. degree in Genetics at Iowa State meets the coursework requirements for most genetic counseling programs and demonstrates the ability of our students to succeed in rigorous academic courses. Genetics majors have access to numerous faculty and labs that encompass the 3 departments that oversee the major. Experiential learning staff connect students with department funded and for credit research opportunities on campus as well as regional and national internship opportunities. Genetic counseling is a rapidly expanding and diversifying field and the Genetics Program at Iowa State will prepare you for the next step in your career.

Choose Iowa State Genetics as your next adventure!

Genetics Student

Degree Requirements and 4-Year Plans

Genetics major course requirements here

Genetics majors receive their degree through either the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Degree requirements include university requirements, college general education requirements, and major requirements. All students complete the same major and university requirements.

Degree requirement checklist including a side by side comparison of the college general education requirements here.

4-year plans are available as a general guide to the program and particularly freshmen year. Students will create their own unique 4-year plan in their orientation course.

4-year plan for LAS students

4-year plan for CALS students

Transfer credits here

Additional Recommended Courses

Genetic counseling programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a cumulative GPA above 3.5 is recommended. Genetics coursework provides a strong framework for acceptance into and success in a genetic counseling program. To enhance the strength of your application consider adding the following elective coursework.

While programs do not require a course in anatomy, physiology, or medical terminology for admission, these can be extremely helpful in your graduate coursework.

Additional Elective Coursework:

  • Psychology minor (18 credits) including Psychology 230 (Developmental Psychology) and Psychology 422 (Counseling Theories and Techniques).
  • Human Genetics (GEN 340)
  • Biological Communication (ENGL 312)
  • Healthcare Communication (COMST 450B)
  • Research and Scientific Literature (BBMB 498X)
  • Medical terminology (FS HN 367)

Additional Information on Genetic Counseling Careers

Potential Extracurricular Activities

To be a considered a strong candidate for genetic counseling programs, you'll need a 3.5 GPA and substantial involvement in non-academic activities.

Volunteer Work or Employment! While no specific number of patient contact hours are required, you will need to volunteer in a hospital or clinic, and have some experience in counseling particularly crisis counseling is highly recommended.  Consider ACCESS, Mary Greeley Hospital, ISU Student Counseling Center, and Hospice programs to gain clinic and counseling experience. Programs look for long-term counseling experience to ensure you have an idea of what the job is on a day to day basis and those experiences demonstrate a commitment to the field! 

Genetics Research - Not required by GC programs but can be helpful for demonstrating an understanding of genetic tests, an ability to communicate science (presentations and posters) and to develop a close relationship with mentors who can then provide meaningful letters of recommendation.  Research opportunities include GEN 499, Summer Internships, and many more (See Experiential learning opportunities here).

Career Prep - Informational Interviews: connect with your academic advisor for alumni contact information. Job shadowing experience demonstrates an understanding of the career. If you plan to use them as a reference complete a full day and ask in depth questions regarding patient care instead of surface level questions about hours and salary.  

Teaching: Teaching experience (as a tutor, undergraduate TA or LA, peer mentor, or SI leader) will be valuable in developing communication skills and learning how to interact with a variety of individuals as well as leadership experience.

Clubs: Genetics, Rare Disease Awareness (interest in the field)

Leadership Activities: TA, Tutor, SI, Peer mentors or see any of the university and college programs.

Student Memberships to Professional Organizations: Demonstrate commitment to the field by participating in professional associations. Attend events and present your research.