Genetic Counseling (MS)

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Degree Offered: MS
Program Leadership:
Cynthia Morgan, MS, CGC, Program Director
Allyson Scott, MS, CGC, Associate Director
Julie Harris-Wai, PhD, MPH, Research Director
Jason Carmichael, MS, CGC, Assistant Director, Fresno
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Program Description

The Genetic Counseling Program is a 21-month program of study leading to a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling. This is program for those who wish to be at the forefront of the genetic counseling profession and harness the potential of genomic medicine to advance healthcare.

The training program consists of three major components: foundational didactic education, clinical training, and research. The didactic curriculum embraces the latest advances in contemporary genetics while maintaining deep roots in humanistic counseling theory, and a commitment to the ethical application of genomic medicine. Clinical training experiences are available in a variety of campus genetics clinics and laboratories and expose students to the rich ethnocultural and socioeconomic diversity of the Bay Area. Partnerships with Bay Area genetics clinics provide students additional clinical training opportunities beyond the campus boundaries. Close proximity to Silicon Valley and the high concentration of biotechnology companies also allows for students to train in some of the nation’s most recognized genetics private industry organizations. The research experience is highlighted through a scholarly capstone project of the student’s own design, allowing students to develop a deep understanding of the research process while advancing the field of genetic counseling.

The Genetic Counseling Program provides a unique opportunity for one student, with a special interest in community practice, to spend their entire second year of clinical training in the Fresno region. UCSF maintains a branch training campus in Fresno, California at Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC). CRMC is a large tertiary care medical center providing complex care to residents of the central San Joaquin Valley. Fresno is a rural agricultural city located half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles.


The Genetic Counseling Program faculty consists of a diverse mix of veteran genetics educators from throughout the UCSF campus. As a strong partner in San Francisco area genetic counseling programs since the 1970s, UCSF brings decades of experience training genetic counselors to all facets of the program, from veteran educators, to knowledgeable research mentors and skilled clinical training supervisors.

Career Outcomes

Graduates from the Genetic Counseling Program are prepared to pursue numerous career paths after graduation, including clinical care, industry, research, advocacy and others. Successful completion of the program will confer eligibility to sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling certification examination.

The Genetic Counseling Program is primarily based at the Mission Bay campus.

The Genetic Counseling program is offered by the UCSF Graduate Division. The Program is jointly administered by the Institute for Human Genetics and UCSF School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics. It is delivered by faculty and staff members in the UCSF School of Medicine.

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Genetic Counseling program will need to demonstrate successful completion of the following college-level courses (minimum of one quarter or semester) or their equivalents:

  • Introductory Genetics (for Science majors)
  • Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry
    • Must include content on structure and function of biomolecules (e.g., nucleic and ribonucleic acids, proteins, lipids)
  • Biology (2 quarters/semesters)
  • Introductory Statistics or Biostatistics
  • Introductory Psychology or Counseling
  • Biochemistry is highly recommended
  • Cellular and/or Molecular Biology are highly recommended
  • Anatomy and/or physiology are highly recommended

Applicants competitive for admission will also be able to demonstrate a good beginning knowledge of the genetic counseling profession and can clearly articulate how this career path aligns with their personal and professional goals. This type of knowledge is often obtained from direct experience(s) with the genetic counseling profession, experiences in fields that complement genetic counseling and/or research about the field. Examples of ways applicants often achieve a real-life understanding of the profession include, but are not limited to:

  • Advocacy or education experience in a volunteer or paid position involving counseling or social services, such as working in a crisis intervention center, student health center, family planning clinic, disability services organization, or serving as a resident adviser or peer counselor.
  • Direct contact with genetic counselors: interviewing or shadowing working genetic counselors. Opportunities for direct patient observation may be limited by HIPAA (patient confidentiality) regulations. Participating or observing in genetic counseling related activities (case conferences, professional conferences).
  • Employment, internship or volunteer work in genetic counseling or genetics setting such as a clinic, laboratory, public health organization, non-profit advocacy group.
  • Attendance at genetic counseling interest events, conferences or workshops.  Viewing the NSGC Master Genetic Counselor series.

Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes for our program are based on attainment of the Practice Based Competencies (PBCs) established by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The PBCs describe 7 practice-based competencies and 25 sub-competencies that an entry-level provider must demonstrate to successfully practice as a genetic counselor. The competencies are categorized in the following distinct domains: Genetics and Genomics Expertise, Risk Assessment, Counseling, Communication, Research, Healthcare Systems and Professional Identity.