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. In addition, Sarah Lawrence College hosts an annual Genetic Counseling Career Day that provides a wide array of information about the profession.

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 medical genetics 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 theories and techniques
  • Human and medical genetics
  • Clinical genomics
  • Human development
  • Pathophysiology
  • Public health
  • Genetic counseling and research methods

Students can also take courses focused on:

  • Reproductive genetics
  • Cancer genetics
  • Neurogenetics
  • Cardiovascular genetics
  • Ethics

 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
  • Obtain clinical training amongst a diverse group of populations, conditions, and clinical settings
  • Have access to the most 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 minimum clinical 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 (1,000 hours)
  • 12 credits toward a research project
  • Required non-credit supplemental activities

The program can be completed on a full-time basis in 21 months or part-time in three years. Part-time study is possible on a case-by-case basis and requires approval from the program director.

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 — students often find themselves without a break during the day.

Typical Course of Study

Year 1 (Fall)

  • Advanced Human Genetics (3 credits)
  • Embryology (3 credits)
  • Genetics Across the Lifespan I (3 credits)
  • Intro to Clinical Medicine (2 credits)
  • Disabilities Service Learning Practicum I (2 credits)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)
  • Process Group (0 credits)

Year 1 (Spring)

  • Physiology (3 credits)
  • Genetics Across the Lifespan II (2 credits)
  • Clinical Genomics (2 credits)
  • Reproductive Genetics (2 credits)
  • Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling I (1 credit)
  • Research Methods (1 credit)
  • Public Health Genomics (1 credit)
  • Intro to Cancer Genetics (1 credit)
  • Ethics (1 credit)
  • Clinical Practicum II (1 credit)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)
  • Process Group (0 credits)

Year 1 (Summer)

  • Clinical Practicum III Summer Intensive (6 credits)

Year 2 (Fall)

  • Medical Genetics Seminar I (3 credits)
  • Seminar in Genetic Counseling I (1 credit)
  • Biochemistry (2 credits)
  • Emerging Clinical Specialties (1 credit)
  • Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling II (1 credit)
  • Clinical Practicum IV (3 credits)
  • Research Project (6 credits)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)
  • Peer Issues in Genetic Counseling (0 credits)

Year 2 (Spring)

  • Medical Genetics Seminar II (3 credits)
  • Seminar in Genetic Counseling II (1 credit)
  • Case Management Practicum (1 credit)
  • Interview- and Counseling-Based Models (2 credits)
  • Clinical Practicum V (3 credits)
  • Clinical Practicum VI (3 credits)
  • Research Project (6 credits)
  • Monday Afternoon Discussion (0 credits)
  • Peer Issues in Genetic Counseling (0 credits)

Clinical Training & 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 purpose of the Thesis/Research Project is for students to gain experience in research methods, evidence-based approaches to problem solving, professional writing, and self-directed learning in order to increase their professional growth.

Genetic counselors need to demonstrate an understanding of the research process. This skill helps in all aspects of genetic counseling, including the necessity to provide competent patient care, to evaluate the effectiveness of the genetic counseling process, and for professional development.

A series of workshops in the spring semester of the first year allows students to talk through ideas. Each student should ideally choose a topic by the end of the second semester of the first year. The thesis faculty approves all topics and encourages creativity in the selection of the project. The faculty expects each research project will add to the body of knowledge in the genetic counseling field.

Upon completion of the project, students are required to submit a written manuscript documenting their experience/project.

Skills & Experience

Genetic counselors are at the intersection of science and society, and they must be passionate about working with genes and people, staying up-to-date with ongoing changes in science, and dealing with often complicated emotional, ethical, and psychological interactions.

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: seeing patients.

Genetic counselors develop three strong skills: an in-depth understanding of human genetics; an ability to translate the science into language that a variety of audiences can understand; and an appreciation of the implications of genetic science on individuals’ lives. Counselors must not only educate patients, but also doctors, health professionals, and the public.

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND)

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) is a training program designed to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities.

This is accomplished by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields and by insuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence. Interested students may apply at the end of the first year, and attend one day a week in the second year of the program.

Certification

Graduates readily fulfill the minimum clinical 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.

Certification requirements include a master’s degree from an accredited genetic counseling program; genetic counseling training at sites accredited by the ABGC; documentation of varied genetic counseling experiences; and successful completion of a comprehensive ABGC certification examination.

Accreditation

ACGC logoThe Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), located at 4400 College Blvd., Ste. 220, Overland Park, KS 66211, web address www.gceducation.org. ACGC can be reached by phone at 913.222.8668.