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Master's in Genetic Counseling

The Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling at UCI School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics is committed to providing education and professional training in counseling and medical genetics, leading to a Master of Science in genetic counseling. Our goal is to train genetic counseling professionals who have developed the practice-based competencies that an entry-level provider must demonstrate to successfully practice as a genetic counselor, in a culturally responsive and respectful manner across practice settings and with all clients.

Our Vision: The UCI genetic counseling program provides exceptional comprehensive training for future genetic counselors to develop the knowledge, skills and experience to effectively integrate genetic information in the provision of healthcare, while incorporating new discoveries and innovations in genetic and genomic medicine.

Our Mission: To provide trainees with an immersive experience in all aspects of medical genetics and genetic counseling so that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to help patients, other practitioners and the public understand and adapt to the implications of genetic variation for health.

The program is based in the clinical Division of Genetic and Genomic Medicine at UCI Medical Center in Orange, about 15 miles from the main university campus in Irvine. A distinguishing characteristic of the program is its integration within an active clinical genetics unit, where 17 faculty genetic counselors and medical geneticists provide service to a wide variety of patients and families. From their first quarter of graduate study, students participate in a wide range of clinics where they learn to apply the skills and knowledge learned through academic coursework.

UCI 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 180 graduates. In addition to clinical service positions in academic and private medical centers, program graduates are also pursuing careers in research, education, industry and public health.  For at least the three most recent graduating classes, 91% of our graduates have taken a job in a genetic counseling or related position.

Our program is a two-year, full-time graduate program that operates on a quarter system. We typically admit and graduate between six and eight students each year. Our attrition rate for the past three years is 4%. The class size is intentionally small to maximize the opportunity for trainees to closely interact with our faculty members in and out of the classroom and clinic.

Most classes, clinics and rounds are held at the UCI Medical Center in Orange or the nearby CHOC Children's Hospital of Orange County (see map) and Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach. Some courses and clinics also take place on the main campus in Irvine. Additional opportunities exist at various affiliated clinics and laboratory sites throughout Southern California, including St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, the Cancer Genetics Program at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Kaiser Permanente, City of Hope in Duarte, and others. Students also have the opportunity to tailor internships and summer placements 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 Counseling (ABGC), and also may apply for a license in those states that have implemented licensure.  For the three most recent graduating classes, the pass rate for first-time test takers has been 95%.

Admissions »

 

Undergraduate degree: BA/BS (usually in physical or natural sciences, or psychology; applicants with other majors should have strong preparation in the recommended coursework)

Strongly 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

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.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to include reflection on their interest and experience in crisis counseling.  Fluency in Spanish or a Southeast Asian language is an advantage in admissions decisions and patient-care opportunities.

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. The average undergraduate GPA for admitted students is ~3.5.

GRE: *** The GRE requirement has been temporarily removed from the minimum application requirement for the current admissions cycle (for Fall, 2021 admission) due to COVID-19. *** GRE is required for all applicants. 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 a 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 percentile in all three areas (verbal, quantitative, and analytic writing) although there is quite a range and there is no specific minimum score required. 

Transcripts: Unofficial 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.  Only admitted students need to provide an official copy of each transcript.

Letters of Recommendation: A minimum of three letters of recommendation are 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. 

Genetic Counseling Admissions "MATCH" program: For applicants applying for admission to genetic counseling programs, a GC Admissions Match program was established in 2018 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.  All applicants to our program must provide a Match ID number to be considered for admission.

Online application: Click here for the online application and further information on applying for graduate study at UC Irvine. Please include your Match ID in the "Statement of Purpose" section of the application. 

Timeline: Our application deadline is December 19, 2020. In-person interviews will be scheduled throughout February, March and early April (invitations are typically emailed in January and February). Rank lists must be submitted to the Match by April 14, 2021, and Match Day is April 24, 2021.  Fall quarter orientation begins September 20, 2021.

Information about tuition and fees is detailed here. All students typically receive some amount of fellowship aid.  Additional details about possible fellowship funding are shared with program applications at the time of in-person interviews.

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.

Course of Study  »

 

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

  • Genetic counseling practice and 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

All courses are included in the UCI Course Catalog. 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 89 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. 

Contact Us

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

Phone: 714-456-7570
Fax: 714-456-5330

Administrative Assistant:
Nancy Oropeza
noropeza@uci.edu 

Program Director:
Pamela Flodman, MSc, MS, LCGC
Adjunct Professor
pflodman@uci.edu 

Assistant Program Director:
Kathryn Singh, MPH, MS, LCGC
Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor
kesingh@uci.edu 

Medical Director:
Maureen Bocian, MD, FACMG
Professor
mebocian@uci.edu 

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