When you think about genetics, you could logically surmise that science fiction has become science fact. Just as in the past, when people believed visiting the moon was a ridiculous fantasy, scientists are now able to study and work with genetic engineering to achieve all kinds of previously inconceivable results, such as correcting “incurable” human diseases. In fact, careers in genetics are springing up like wildflowers after a spring rain. With the right education, you might one day find yourself in one of many jobs associated with genetics. Here are just a few.
In this career, you’ll be a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with inherited health problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease. You’ll also treat some forms of cancer or other conditions related to genetic alteration. Some serious schooling will be necessary to become a clinical geneticist; you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree in biological or physical science to prepare for medical school. After at least eight years in school and about six years of residency, you’ll be eligible to earn the required certification from the American Board of Medical Genetics. You’ll also have to pass the United States medical licensing examination to begin your practice.
In a career as a molecular biologist, you’ll study the biochemical processes within living cells. Much of your work will focus on genetic coding and the study of DNA, and you'll research the genetic makeup of humans, animals, plants and other living organisms. You'll have ample opportunities to use your knowledge of chemistry, cell physiology, genetics, physics and other sciences. One of your discoveries may even improve human health. Educational requirements include earning your bachelor’s degree in mathematics or biology and then obtaining advanced degrees in biochemistry, stem cell research and other disciplines.
In your career as a biochemist, you'll work with the chemical composition of living organisms and study the fascinating chemical processes of all life functions. To help other scientists improve existing drugs, systems or products, you’ll uncover the secrets of genetics and heredity. You’ll solve problems concerning the environment and disease prevention. Work might include research, education or product development. To become a biochemist, your undergraduate courses will include bacteriology and inorganic chemistry. You can tailor your advanced education with specific courses that most interest you, such as plant biochemistry. To work in independent research and development, you’ll need a Ph.D.
You can use your education to see into the future when you become a genetic counselor and specialize in determining the risk factors for hereditary diseases and disorders in people. You’ll provide genetic testing and offer to educate and counsel your patients, giving necessary information to other health care providers or family members. For this career, you must obtain a master’s degree in genetic counseling. You can help yourself get into a graduate program by securing undergraduate degrees in chemistry, biology, genetics or psychology.
Other Related Careers
Many other careers exist in the burgeoning field of genetics; you need only follow your interest, get the appropriate education and make yourself available to biotechnology companies. Some of the career choices you might consider include: pharmaceutical chemist; genetics lab technician; drug discovery engineer; bioanalytical chemist; biotech manufacturing engineer; licensing executive; and biotech marketing professional. Your future in a genetics-related profession should be secure; the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in this industry will increase by 31 percent through 2020, much faster than average.
- Oracle ThinkQuest: Careers in Genetics
- Education Portal: Clinical Geneticists: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
- Education Portal: Molecular Biologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
- Education Portal: Biochemist: Profile and Recommended Education for a Career in Biochemistry
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Biochemists and Biophysicists
- Education Portal: Genetic Counseling Jobs: Salaries, Duties and Requirements
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Genetic Counselors
- American Board of Medical Genetics: 2013 ABMG Certification Examination
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images