Teacher. Scientist. Writer.

These are careers the general population has heard of. They are jobs children will mention when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

They are also responsibilities that being a genetic counselor encompasses. Yet both children and adults respond with furrowed eyebrows and blank stares when I tell them what I do. I’m a genetic counselor, and I am all the things listed above – In. One. Job.

What Is A Genetic Counselor?

A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional with a specific advanced degree – a Masters in Genetic Counseling. Genetic counseling students spend two years in a training program continuing their education in medical genetics, genetic risk assessment, counseling theory, and doing clinical rotations.

What Do We Do?

Our professional goal is to empower patients with knowledge that can assist them in making medical choices related to their genetic information. There has been a 75% growth in the profession from 2006 with a continued growth at approximately 7% annually. The roles and responsibilities of genetic counselors continue to increase. Though each genetic counselor has responsibilities specific to their position, many genetic counselors perform the following duties:

  • Educate individuals, families, and communities about inheritance, testing, disease management, prevention, resources, and research in genetic counseling.
  • Explain family history and the chance that a condition will occur or recur.
  • Counsel an individual or family to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition.

So, What Can You Expect From Your Conversation With A CooperGenomics Genetic Counselor?

Should your doctor order a test through CooperGenomics, you could have a complementary genetic counseling consultation over the phone. During this consult, a genetic counselor will briefly explain basic genetic concepts, like how genes are organized in our cells and passed on to our children. Next, the genetic counselor will review your CooperGenomics results. This may include an explanation of a genetic condition, the risk of having an affected child and additional testing options that are available. Finally, the genetic counselor will ask questions about your family history. This is done in order to best assess if there is an increased risk to your offspring based on the reported health of other family members.

And If Your Child Is Asking – How Do I Become A Genetic Counselor?

Simply download the Become a Genetic Counselor brochure from the National Society of Genetic Counselors website. Though you might want to give it a few years, firefighters and astronauts may come back into fashion.


Shannon Wieloch

Shannon Wieloch is a licensed board-certified genetic counselor at CooperGenomics. Her primary responsibility is to provide genetic counseling to CooperGenomics patients. Other professional roles include managing the genetic content on social media, supervising graduate students, and conducting research.

Prior to joining CooperGenomics, Shannon worked in cardiac research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and in prenatal genetic counseling at The Delaware Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine. She received a dual B.S. in biology and psychology from The University of Pittsburgh and her M.S. in genetic counseling from Arcadia University. Her passion is to provide comprehensive genetic education to medical professionals, patients, and the general public. In her free time, she loves to travel, doodle, play board games with her girls, and take too many pictures of her cat.