Master of Science in Human Genetics
at Sarah Lawrence College

Contact

Assistant Director of Human Genetics

E-mail Janelle

914.395.2605

Join the world-renowned Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College. Integrating education, healthcare, and humanism, this celebrated program prepares genetic counselors to work in a growing, dynamic field.

The mission of the Human Genetics program is to improve health care for all people by educating genetic counselors so they are prepared to meet current and future needs of their clients, their communities, their profession, and society at large.

Established in 1969, the program was the first of its kind in the United States. It remains the largest graduate program in genetic counseling in the world.

About Genetic Counseling

As defined by the National Society of Genetic Counselors, genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:

  • Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
  • Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources, and research.
  • Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition.

The American Board of Genetic Counseling discusses the profession in general terms and lists the accredited genetic counseling training programs. The National Society of Genetic Counselors provides additional information about the field as well as a function that allows you to find a genetic counselor in your community. Sarah Lawrence College provides a wide array of information about the profession and offers opportunities to connect with genetic counselors through a variety of events.

Academic Program

The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics gives students a comprehensive understanding of the medical, scientific, and counseling aspects of human genetics. The program places equal emphasis on clinical genetic and genomic sciences and psychological approaches to working with patients.

The interdisciplinary curriculum enables students to integrate both theoretical and practical knowledge while developing research, analytical, and communication skills.

The program has a worldwide reputation for excellence and attracts a rich mix of students from around the world.

Program Overview

The overall instructional approach to the genetic counseling program is to provide students with a knowledge base, through didactic coursework, in the following general content areas:

  • Psychosocial counseling theories and techniques
  • Human and medical genetics
  • Clinical genomics
  • Research methods

Students also take courses focused on:

  • Reproductive genetics
  • Clinical pediatric genetics
  • Cancer genetics
  • Ethics
  • Disability studies
  • Human development
  • Physiology
  • Professional issues

 During the program, students:

  • Study with a faculty comprised of scientists and clinicians from the region’s top medical and research centers
  • Develop core genetic counseling skills through a combination of coursework and experiential learning
  • Conduct fieldwork with a diverse group of populations, conditions, and clinical settings
  • Have access to a concentrated population of American Board of Genetic Counseling certified genetic counselors, most of whom serve as clinical supervisors
  • Engage in regular discussions about emerging topics, breaking news, and debates in the field of genetics/genomics
  • Obtain first-hand experiences outside of the medical setting with individuals that have genetic conditions and disabilities
  • Carry out a research project in collaboration with the region’s top scientists and researchers
  • Fulfill the fieldwork caseload required by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling. Upon graduation, students are eligible to apply to take the American Board of Genetic Counseling Certification Examination.

Program Requirements

A total of 70 course credits are required to receive an M.S. in Human Genetics.

  • 40 academic graduate course credits
  • 18 credits of clinical training
  • 12 credits toward a research project
  • Required non-credit supplemental activities

The program can be completed on a full-time basis in 21 months. Part-time study is possible on a case-by-case basis and requires approval from the program director. All students matriculating into our program in the past five years have successfully completed requirements and earned their degrees (0% attrition).

Students spend three days each week in class during the first year, then two days each week in the second year. The days spent in class are truly full time and often extend into the evening hours.

Typical Course of Study

Year 1 (Fall)

  • Advanced Human Genetics (3 credits)
  • Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling 1 (2 credits)
  • Embryology (3 credits)
  • Physiology (2 credits)
  • Disability Studies (1 credit)
  • Ethics (1 credit)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)

Year 1 (Spring)

  • Clinical Genomics (2 credits)
  • Fundamentals of Genetic Counseling 2 (2 credits)
  • Reproductive Genetics (2 credits)
  • Research Methods (2 credits)
  • Cancer Genetics (2 credits)
  • Clinical Pediatric Genetics (2 credits)
  • Introduction to fieldwork (1 credit)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)
  • Peer Issues Process Group (0 credits)

Year 1 (Summer)

  • Fieldwork: Summer Intensive (5 credits)

Year 2 (Fall)

  • Medical Genetics Seminar I (3 credits)
  • Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling (1 credit)
  • Special Topics in Genetic Counseling (2 credits)
  • Public Health Genomics (2 credits)
  • Fieldwork: Fall 1 (3 credits)
  • Fieldwork: Fall 2 (3 credits)
  • Research Project (6 credits)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)

Year 2 (Spring)

  • Medical Genetics Seminar II (4 credits)
  • Special Topics in Genetic Counseling (2 credits)
  • Case Management Practicum (1 credit)
  • Leadership (1 credits)
  • Fieldwork: Spring 1 (3 credits)
  • Fieldwork: Spring 2 (3 credits)
  • Research Project (6 credits)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)
  • Peer Issues Process Group (0 credits)

Fieldwork

Through clinical training and fieldwork, students obtain exposure to a variety of clinical specialties, including prenatal, pediatric, cancer, cardiovascular, neurogenetics, and multidisciplinary specialty clinics.

Learn more

Thesis/Research Project

The goal of the thesis project is twofold: provide students the skillset necessary to do high-quality, ethical research and develop genetic counselors who are careful and effective consumers of scientific literature. The thesis spans both years of the program, beginning in the first year with journal clubs and including a two-credit Research Methods course covering qualitative and quantitative research models, data collection tools and analysis strategies, biases and limitations, research ethics and the IRB, and a review of the roles that genetic counselors may play in research settings.

Thesis projects take many forms: surveys, focus groups, development of educational materials, analysis of existing data sources of and for patients, genetic counselors, and other healthcare providers. The program actively recruits research mentors and develops ideas for projects that are presented to first-year students in January. While students have the option of proposing a research topic of their own, most are matched with a topic and a mentor based on their interests and preferences. Many students work in pairs and occasionally larger groups; the program believes collaboration allows students to achieve more in a limited time frame and better resembles how research is accomplished in most work settings. Each student or group is assigned a faculty advisor, who monitors the academic aspects of the project such as the literature review and final manuscript in collaboration with their mentor.

Over the summer, all students complete an in-depth literature review summarizing and synthesizing literature pertinent to their research topics. In spring of the second year, the research process culminates in a final thesis manuscript and poster presentation. Students are strongly encouraged to disseminate their results by submitting an abstract to the NSGC Annual Conference or other conferences as appropriate. Publication of student research is a goal of the thesis project and faculty members provide advice and editorial support for graduates to help them fulfill that goal.

Skills & Experience

Genetic counselors work at the intersection of science and society, and they must be passionate about working with people, remain curious and current with ongoing changes in science, and deal with often complicated emotional, ethical, and psychological encounters.

Students drawn to the program have often done research or lab work in genetics or molecular biology and realize they’re missing the human component: forming connections with other people.

Genetic counselors develop three central skills: applying in-depth understanding of human genetics to identify risks to develop conditions with a genetic contribution, for individuals and their relatives; communicating scientific concepts and processes to others in ways that are tailored to personal needs, goals, values, and circumstances; and promoting adaptation to genetic and genomic risks to improve health and well-being. Genetic counselors utilize these skills with clients and patients, and also with health professionals and the public.

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND)

Our program is honored to collaborate with the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, which is a training program designed to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities. To accomplish this mission, the LEND Program prepares trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields by developing high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence.

Students have the opportunity to apply for a LEND fellowship at the end of the first year, and if accepted, attend the program one day a week throughout the second year of the program.

Certification

Graduates readily attain the caseload required by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) and, upon graduation, are eligible to apply to take the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) Certification Examination. Among the most recent three graduating classes, 94% of graduates have passed the certification exam, with 77% passing on their first attempt.

Certification requirements include a master’s degree from an accredited genetic counseling program and successful completion of a comprehensive ABGC certification examination.

Job Placement

Genetic counselors remain in high demand in today’s healthcare job market. Nearly all graduates of our program are employed as genetic counselors, with approximately 80% of each cohort securing a position within three months of graduation. They work in a variety of specialties and settings across North America, and occasionally overseas.

Accreditation

The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), located at 7918 Jones Branch Drive, Suite 300, McLean, VA 22102, web address www.gceducation.org. ACGC can be reached by phone at 703.506.7667, or by email at info@gceducation.org.