Clinical Genetics Careers

Mention that you are a clinical geneticist, and people often think you spend all day looking down a microscope and never see a patient. Nothing could be further from the truth! Clinical Genetics is a broad-based specialty with an emphasis on diagnosis, management and good communication skills. 

What is Clinical Genetics?

Clinical Genetics is a specialty concerned with diagnosing inherited disorders and birth defects, with the estimation of genetic risks and genetic counselling of family members. Clinical geneticists generally work in multidisciplinary regional genetic centres, along with scientists, clinical co-workers (genetic associates and nurses), and academic colleagues.

Is Clinical Genetics an attractive career option?

This specialty is continually changing and the clinical geneticist must take into account new findings and alter practice accordingly. He or she needs to act as an information resource for other medical specialties. A wide range of clinical skills is required, since genetic disorders affect people of all ages and all body systems. Communication skills are highly important in conveying difficult concepts and test results to families (and other health professionals), enabling them to choose an appropriate course of action.

What are the challenges?

Clinical Geneticists liaise with their clinical co-workers and those responsible for biochemical, molecular and cytogenetic laboratories in the provision of a comprehensive regional genetics service. They also play a part in public education and debates about social issues arising from the applications of human genetics, and are expected to provide appropriate advice to professional colleagues, NHS purchasers and others.

What is the future of Clinical Genetics?

Clinical Genetics is still an expanding specialty. In 2001 the Secretary of State for Health (England & Wales) announced that the number of clinical geneticists should double over four years, and new trainee posts are still being created. In addition, new sub-specialties, such as cancer genetics and clinical molecular genetics are developing for those trainees with a specialised interest.