August 2011

What do you want to do after school?

The path to a career in genetic counseling. 

The beginnings

"What do you want to do after school?" is a question faced by many students as they progress from high school to college and beyond. Answering this question was not easy for me. Growing up, I toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor, a teacher and a scientific researcher. It was as if I was on a pendulum swinging from one possibility to the next. However, as I began my search for the perfect major and career, one thing remained clear to me: I liked science.

Once I came to that realization, things started falling into place. After careful consideration, I decided to major in neuroscience. As I became more involved with the courses in my major, I became more convinced that this was a wise decision. Neuroscience not only allowed me to study the biological sciences in depth but also offered exposure to the psychological sciences. This diversity appealed to me.

"Looking back on the experience, I can appreciate how each step was necessary in my development into a competent genetic counselor." 

However, even after deciding on a major, the question of what I wanted to do after school still lingered. I had a course of study that I loved, but I still needed to find a career I would be enthusiastic about after I graduated. I began considering my options, utilizing all available resources. One day, as I was reading a textbook, I discovered genetic counseling. The book's brief description intrigued me and left me wanting to know more. I learned that genetic counseling combines medical genetics and counseling to help people understand the genetic components of disease. Genetic counselors provide risk assessment, education and support for individuals at risk for inherited conditions. The job sounded interesting, but I still had questions.

I began seeking more information from professors and career counselors at my school, who were very supportive and assisted me in whatever way they could. Eventually, I connected with a fantastic resource: the National Society of Genetics Counselors. Its website enabled me to find local genetic counselors, learn more about how to enter the field and discover available graduate programs.

Armed with knowledge about the profession, I grew more excited about this career possibility. However, a twinge of uncertainty still remained. I wanted to make certain this was the correct profession for me. One other field remained that I wanted to explore before I committed to a career in genetic counseling: laboratory research.

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