August 2011

What do you want to do after school?

The final steps to the beginning of a career

Transition from undergraduate to graduate school was not simple, and there were moments when the course load felt overwhelming, but the presence of a strong support group consisting of family, friends, classmates and faculty helped to make the transition easier. However, the initial question still remained: What would I do once I finished school?

Genetic counseling as a profession is quite diverse, offering multiple subspecialties. Some of the more commonly associated areas include prenatal, pediatric and cancer counseling. However, genetic counselors work in many other capacities, such as research and policy development. Based on my experiences in graduate school and my own career requirements, I was able to narrow down my options. In the end, I decided to apply for a job in a prenatal clinic.

Being new to genetic counseling, this seemed like a good fit on multiple levels: It would afford me the opportunity to see a variety of clinical scenarios while working in an environment that was complementary to my personality. It would also allow me to participate in various educational opportunities by attending conferences and teaching.

I still can recall sitting in my apartment the day I received the phone call offering me the position. It felt great to know that, after all the hard work of preparing for this day, it had finally come. I accepted the position with the understanding that I would still need to take and pass the genetic counseling certification examination.

Looking back on the experience, I can appreciate how each step was necessary in my development into a competent genetic counselor. I now work with families, assisting them in comprehending and coping with potential genetic diagnoses. It is rewarding to be able to support the families during challenging times in their lives. After all the time spent on the proverbial pendulum, I am happy to be able to say that I am working in the field of my choice and have begun the first job of the rest of my career.

Catherine Griswold ( obtained her undergraduate degree from Drew University and completed her graduate degree at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She now is a certified genetic counselor at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va.

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