Master of Science in Human Genetics


Director of Graduate Admissions

E-mail Emanuel

(914) 395-2371

Explore innovation at the nexus of health, science, and society. Join the world-renowned Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College.

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 Human Genetics in the world, and has trained half of the nation’s genetic counselors.

About Human Genetics

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, placing 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 Human Genetics 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 and 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.

Students must complete 18 credits (1,000 hours) of clinical training, for which tuition is not charged:

  • First-year disability service learning rotation/course (2 credits/100 hours)
  • First-year clinical rotation (1 credit/2 rotations of 50 hours each)
  • Summer clinical rotation (6 credits/320 hours)
  • Second-year clinical rotation (9 credits/480 hours)

Students spend one day per week in clinical placements during the first year; during the second year, it is two days per week. Summer rotations are five days per week for eight weeks, or four days per week for 10 weeks.

Out of the seven rotations that each student attends, there is a concerted effort to ensure that all students have a diverse set of experiences. The students’ input is requested in the second year of the program. During summer rotations, students can choose an external site where they would like to work. Going abroad is acceptable, as is staying in the New York area. The process is much like applying for a job, including providing a resume and interviewing for the position.

There are opportunities to learn from genetic counselors and other health care professionals working in public health, bioethics, and developmental disabilities. Sarah Lawrence has established affiliations with more than 50 genetics centers in the New York metropolis – the greatest concentration of such centers in the world, where students encounter an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse population.

These clinical training partners include most of the major academic medical centers and top research institutions in the region, including:

  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
  • Columbia University Medical Center
  • New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Rutgers/University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey
  • Rockefeller University
  • New York Medical College/Westchester Medical Center
  • New York Genome Center
  • Geisinger Health System

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, since it is necessary 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.


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 human genetics 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.


The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling and American Board of Genetic Counseling.

The program was the first human genetics program accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling on July 1, 1997. The program was re-accredited in 2003 and again in 2011.

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.