Genetic counselors are health science professionals who educate clients about their chances of producing children with chromosomal, or genetic abnormalities, or other forms of inherited disease. Although doctors of medicine who are board certified in human genetics may and do counsel clients, a group of allied health professionals who are called genetic counselors or counsellors (depending on country of the world) or nurse geneticists (again, depending on country of the world) has developed over the past several decades. All of these counselors, no matter whether their professional training be in medicine, nursing, or graduate level university progams in genetic counseling, have a code of ethics which specifically forbids the kind of coercive decision-making that was a prominent feature of eugenics. More recently, as laboratory tests for gene alleles that increase the risk for cancer, or, as in the case of Huntingtons chorea, are associated with diseases that occur late in adult life, genetic counselors also play an important role in educating clients as patients, rather than simply as potential parents, about the meaning of these genetic tests. The certification and training of genetic counselors varies according to country in the world, and the exact role played in health care also varies somewhat according to region and country.
The American Board of Genetic Counseling sets training requirements and certifies genetic counselors in the United States and Canada. ABGC certification before 1996 was an unlimited status, but since that year certification is time limited for a maximum of ten years, recertification is required through either completion of continuing education, or reexamination.
Education requirements to become eligible for the certification examination include a masters degree or higher graduate degree in accredited programs in genetic counseling in the United States or Canada. Graduates of graduate level international programs may apply to take the International Genetic Counselor Certification test, given by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.
Cooksey JA. Forte G. Flanagan PA. Benkendorf J. Blitzer MG. The medical genetics workforce: an analysis of clinical geneticist subgroups. Genetics in Medicine. 8(10):603-14, 2006 Oct. UI: 17079876