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Master's in Genetic Counseling

The Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling at UC Irvine School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics is committed to providing education and professional training in counseling and medical genetics, leading to a master's degree in genetic counseling. Our goal is to train professionals who are prepared to help people understand and adapt to the implications of genetic disease, incorporating the dramatic advances in genomic technology, as the ranks of genetic counselors expand to deliver healthcare across the lifespan. In addition to clinical service positions in academic and private medical centers, program graduates are also pursing careers in research, education, industry and public health.

The program is based in the Division of Genetic and Genomic Medicine at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, about 15 miles from the main university campus in Irvine. A distinguishing characteristics of the program is its integration with an active clinical genetics unit, where faculty genetic counselors and geneticists provide service to a wide variety of patients and families. From the beginning of their graduate study, students participate in a wide range of clinics where they learn to apply the skills and knowledge learned through academic coursework.

UC Irvine was one of the pioneers in genetic counselor education. Our program began in 1973, at a time when only five other institutions in the nation offered a master's degree in genetic counseling. UC Irvine's first class of three students graduated in 1975. We now have more than 150 graduates.

The program is a two-year, full-time graduate program, and we typically admit and graduate six to eight students each year. The class size remains small to maximize the opportunity for trainees to see patients at the medical center and our affiliated sites, as well as to interact with our faculty members. Most classes, clinics and rounds are held at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange or the nearby CHOC Children's Hospital of Orange County. Several courses and clinics also take place on the main campus in Irvine. 

Throughout their training, students attend genetics clinics at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach, St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton and the Cancer Genetics Program at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. Students also have the opportunity to tailor internships that enhance their training experience. The graduate program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). Graduates of the program are eligible to apply for certification by the American Board of Genetic Counciling (ABGC), and also may apply for a license in those states that have implemented licensure.

Admissions »

Recommended undergraduate preparation: Coursework in the biological and behavioral sciences, particularly in:

  • Genetics
  • Molecular biology
  • Cell biology
  • Human anatomy, embryology or physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology and human development
  • Statistics or research design

Fluency in Spanish or a Southeast Asian language is an advantage in admissions decisions and patient-care opportunities.

Extracurricular or employment experiences: Work or other experiences that show evidence of the student's maturity, interpersonal skills and commitment to genetic counseling figure prominently in the admissions decision are advisable. Many successful applicants have had volunteer experiences that involve counseling, such as being a resident advisor or peer counselor in college, working on a crisis telephone hotline or helping disabled individuals. Others have come to the program after working as a teacher, researcher, nurse, Peace Corps volunteer or social worker. These sorts of experiences help develop valuable skills and perspectives that enhance one’s ability as a genetic counselor.

GPA: The University of California requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 for graduate admission. In special circumstances, the GPA in the major for the last two years or the GPA for a graduate degree may be considered in lieu of the overall undergraduate GPA.

GRE: General test scores must be submitted. Subject test scores in any area will be considered if they are available. Since there is no GRE code for the Department of Pediatrics, applicants should use the general UCI GRE code: 4859. Official GRE scores will be forwarded to the Division by Graduate Studies. To avoid delay in application review, candidates should record their scores in the appropriate place on the application or send a photocopy directly to the division as soon as they receive them. Average GRE scores for admitted applicants are typically in the 60th - 70th percentile in all three areas (verbal, quantitative, and analytic writing) although there is quite a range and there is no specific minimum score required. 

Supporting documents needed:

  • Transcripts should be submitted from all post-secondary colleges or universities attended. This includes transcripts from institutions at which the candidate took only one or a few courses (e.g., post-baccalaureate coursework, extension or online courses). You will be asked to upload a scanned copy of each transcript through the online application.  One official copy of each transcript should be sent directly to the division if you are admitted and decide to enroll at UCI.
  • A minimum of three letters of recommendation is required. References should come from professors, employers, supervisors or others who know the candidate well and who can provide evidence of the applicant’s academic ability, interpersonal skills, maturity and promise as a genetic counselor.  The letters may be submitted online or sent directly to the division. 

More general information about genetic counseling can be obtained from the National Society of Genetic Counselors' website. Many applicants find it helpful to get in touch with genetic counselors who practice in their area to become more familiar with the career.

Genetic Counseling Admissions "MATCH" program: For applicants applying for admission to genetic counseling programs in 2018 and beyond, a GC Admissions Match program has been established to place applicants into programs based on a fair process that takes into account both the applicants' and programs' preferences. This is similar to the process of matching physicians to residency training programs. To register and learn more about the match program, visit the GC Admissions Match website.

Click HERE for the online application and further information on applying for graduate study at UC Irvine. Application deadline is Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Please include your match ID in the "Statement of Purpose" section of the application.

Click HERE for current information about tuition and fees. Limited program-specific fellowship aid is available.

Course of Study  »

During the six academic quarters of the program, students complete a sequence of core courses covering:

  • Genetic counseling theory
  • Medical genetics
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Screening
  • Teratology and embryology
  • Cytogenetics
  • Biochemical genetics and inborn errors of metabolism
  • Human molecular genetics
  • Hereditary cancer counseling
  • Research methodology
  • Ethical issues
  • Community resources

Experiential professional training occurs concurrently with formal coursework and over the summer between years one and two. Clinical settings include a variety of clinics and inpatient services at the medical center and other affiliated sites (including prenatal, pediatric, cancer, and adult genetic clinics as well as various specialty clinics), clinical genetics laboratories, and community agencies. Student participation in these and other divisional and departmental professional and educational activities such as lectures, seminars, journal club, grand rounds, genetics conferences, and various research, counseling and patient management conferences is expected throughout the program. Coursework and clinical experiences are designed to develop the practice-based competencies expected by the ABGC.

Degree requirements include a minimum of 75 quarter units, completion of a research thesis that should be publishable, and demonstration of appropriate professional skills in genetic counseling. Successful completion of the program fulfills the curricular and clinical training requirements for eligibility to sit for examination by the ABGC. 

View a list of our division faculty members ›

Contact Us

Pamela Flodman, MSc, MS, CGC
Associate Adjunct Professor
Director, Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling
Phone: 714-456-7570 or 714-456-5789
Fax: 714-456-5330

Division of Genetic and Genomic Medicine
Department of Pediatrics, UC Irvine Medical Center
333 City Blvd. West, Suite 800
Orange, CA  92868

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