Genetic Counseling

Genetic Counseling


Genetic counselors are professionals who have specialized education in genetics and counseling to provide personalized help patients may need as they make decisions about their genetic health. Today, there are close to 5,000 certified genetic counselors.

Genetic counselors have advanced training in medical genetics and counseling to interpret genetic test results and to guide and support patients seeking more information about such things as: 

  • How inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families.
  • How family and medical histories may impact the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
  • Which genetic tests may or may not be right for them, and what those tests may or may not tell.
  • How to make the most informed choices about healthcare conditions.

Most genetic counselors work in a clinic or hospital and often work with obstetricians, oncologists and other doctors. Like doctors, genetic counselors can work in a variety of settings and provide different services. They may provide general care, or specialize in one or more areas, including:

  • Prenatal and Preconception – for women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant
  • Pediatric – for children and their family members
  • Cancer – for patients with cancer and their family members
  • Cardiovascular – for patients with diseases of the heart or circulatory system and their family members
  • Neurology – for patients with diseases of the brain and nervous system and their family members.
  • And more

Additionally, some genetic counselors focus on research, including collecting information such as detailed family histories and pregnancy information, that helps researchers and advances care for people with genetic conditions. (from NSGC website)



In making decisions about admissions, genetic counseling graduate schools consider a range of factors that may vary from one school to another. All prerequisite courses usually need to be completed with a grade of C or above. 


It is recommended, and often required, that you complete the following courses:*

Biology 1 year w. lab (generally BIO 150 and BIO 227)

Anatomy & Physiology (BIO 243) is recommended 

Genetics (BIO 233), Microbiology (BIO 231)

Chemistry 1 year Gen Chem w. lab (HEM 125 & 126 or CH/BI 125 & 227 or CHEM 121, 123, and 126 or CHEM 122 & 126)

1 year organic chemistry with lab (CHEM 247 & 248)

Biochemistry (CHEM 379) and lab (CHEM 373)

Math & Stats Calculus (MATH 119 or 120) , Statistics – (STAT 212)
Psychology PSYCH 125


Sample Course Timeline

The following timeline is an example of how you might wish to schedule your prerequisite courses. Timing of these courses may change due to major requirements, study abroad experiences, timing of your application, and admissions guidelines at graduate schools. In addition to these courses, each student will fit in any classes required by their major. All students must consult with their academic advisors regarding final course selection.


Year 1: General Chemistry, MATH 119 or 120, PSYCH 125, BIO 150 (or year 2) 

Year 2: CHEM 247 & 248, BIO 150 (or year 1), BIO 227, STAT 212

Year 3/4:  CHEM 379, BIO 243, BIO 233, BIO 231 and/or additional biology courses

Sample Prerequisite Course Requirements for Admission to Genetic Counseling Programs

*Please note, it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they complete all prerequisite coursework in the time required for admission. Please consult each dental school’s website for prerequisite requirements.



WHAT CENTRALIZED APPLICATION WILL I USE? You will need to apply to individual programs as well as
to the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match


  • Shadowing: Recommend to shadow a number of genetic counselors in different settings for 50-100+ hours.
  • Research: It is highly recommended that you complete at least one 10-week research experience. You do not have to find a research opportunity that is related to genetic counseling.
  • Volunteering: It is highly recommended that you volunteer in your community, starting as early as your first year at St. Olaf. Although your volunteer role can be in healthcare or outside of healthcare, we recommend that you aim to volunteer in both capacities. It is generally recommended that you get advocacy experience volunteering as a counselor (e.g., crisis counseling, suicide prevention hotline, bereavement counseling) or working with individuals who have a genetic conditions or disability. Genetic counseling graduate schools are looking for applicants with sustained and meaningful volunteer experiences. They don’t want students who are simply checking the “volunteer box.” 
  • Internship(s): Gain experience in the field through a domestic violence center, a department of health, a genetic counseling clinic, a hospital, etc. Internships outside of genetic counseling are highly beneficial as well.
  • Leadership: It is strongly recommended that you serve in a leadership capacity (president of an organization, academic tutor, service on an advisory board, etc.). Leaders can enhance their communication and organizational skills, as well as learn how to interact with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds.



Study Abroad

Alpha Epsilon Delta: Preprofessional Health Honor Society

Pre-health Professionals Club

Pre-health Moodle site

Pre-health Google calendar

Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry

Genetic Counseling Resource Guide



American Board of Genetic Counseling 

American Society of Human Genetics

National Society of Genetic Counselors



Professor Laura Listenberger (Associate Professor of Biology & Chemistry)

Office: RNS 380 Phone: 507-786-3804 Email:


*Ultimately, it is the responsibility of applicants to ensure that they complete all prerequisite coursework and experiential opportunities required for successful admission to genetic counseling graduate school.

To download and print, please click on this link: Genetic Counseling