Master of Genetic Counselling
- CRICOS Code: 061969D
Where will this take me?
A Master of Genetic Counselling will provide you with the knowledge and acumen to become a professional genetic counsellor. This world-renowned program will elevate your prospects for employment both domestically and abroad. Graduates of this course are eligible to undertake professional certification by the Human Genetic Society of Australasia (HGSA).
Offering in-roads to exclusive career specialisations, a Master of Genetic Counselling allows you to improve the lives of people experiencing challenges connected to genetic conditions. Many graduates work directly with patients in medical areas that include paediatrics, prenatal, infertility, neurology, cancer and cardiology. Others choose to continue along a research path in public or industry-focused laboratories.
With a Master of Genetic Counselling you can be employed as:
- An Associate Genetic Counsellor for individuals undergoing genetic/genomic testing in cancer, prenatal, adult or paediatric medicine settings
- A researcher or program officer in clinical research, public health or community support organisations.
The Melbourne Medical School’s existing relationship with associated institutes, such as the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Victorian Clinical Genetic Services (VCGS), provides close access to world-class clinical research and laboratory science facilities.
A world-class qualification
As a graduate of the Master of Genetic Counselling, you will be well equipped to pursue opportunities in this specialised field throughout worldwide institutions and organisations. Graduates of the program have successfully gained employment in clinical genetics services in Europe, Canada and Asia.
Genetic counselling is one of the rarest jobs in Australia – with only 230 employed nationwide. Genetic counsellors work in many areas of medicine, including paediatrics, prenatal, infertility, neurology, cancer and cardiology. Many counsellors work directly with patients, while others carry out research in public laboratories and for industry. Some are employed in health education. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has a not-for-profit genetic testing lab, Victorian Clinical Genetic Services (VCGS), that carries out tests for hundreds of genetic conditions impacting adults and children. Lisette Curnow is one of the longest serving genetic counsellors at VCGS with 18 years of service. She works closely with doctors, lab technicians and families every day and recently spoke to MCRI communications officer Christine Tondorf about her work.
Become a genetic counsellor
Genetic counsellors are employed in many different settings. These include clinical genetic services in cancer, prenatal, adult and paediatric medicine. Genetic counsellors may also be involved in research programmes, in health education, in public health, and in community support organisations. Importantly, genetic counsellors will have a central role in the integration of genomic medicine into standard health care across roles including in research, laboratory genomics and clinical care.
Where are you working now? What’s your job title? I am working as an Associate Genetic Counsellor at both the Victorian Clinical Genetics Services and Melbourne IVF.
How did you get the job? The Master of Genetic Counselling is a unique degree that works very closely with genetic services across Victoria. There are many opportunities for observations, volunteering and casual employment in the genetics community while you are studying. I was working in a casual genetic research assistant role while completing the degree, which fortunately led to a genetic counselling role once I graduated.
How did you decide on a career in genetics? I really enjoyed genetics subjects at high school and university, but quickly realized bench lab work wasn’t for me! I was looking for a career that would enable me to work with people and came across an article about genetic counselling. After volunteering at my local genetics service, felt that the field would allow me to pursue my love of science while providing support to individuals and families.
Are you applying the skills you learnt during study at UoM? The Master of Genetic Counselling provides a great mix of theoretical and practical training, including clinical placements, to prepare you for the job. I apply counselling, research and time-management skills learnt in the course daily.
What’s an average day in your job look like? An average day is spent working clients; discussing family history information, explaining genetic conditions, arranging genetic testing and providing support. A lot of conversations are had over the phone, but we also see patients in clinics. I also am involved in various research projects and the Master of Genetic Counselling coursework.
What do you love most about your job? Working with clients - the resilience and courage so that people show in difficult situations is incredible. I enjoy the opportunity to help in some small way. It’s also an exciting time in the field of genetics with new technologies allowing for faster and more accurate diagnosis of genetic conditions, so I’m constantly learning.
What do you know now that you wish you knew whilst studying? Two years of studying actually goes very quickly, make the most of every opportunity!
Any tips for students applying for graduate programs or positions post studying? Try to get involved by first volunteering or working in the field to get a sense of whether it is right for you.