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Online Master’s Degree in Genetics

A master’s degree in genetics can lead to exciting and challenging career options in the medical field. Genetics is a specialized area within the healthcare industry and in medical research. While many healthcare careers require a doctoral degree, a master’s degree in genetics is sufficient education for some positions. Degree requirements among master’s level genetics programs vary significantly. Some degrees require close to 30 hours of coursework while others require closer to 60 hours of coursework. Many students pursue the degrees full time, which can take two to three years of study depending on the program requirements. Completion times are not guaranteed and some students may take longer to earn their degrees.

Classes for an Online Master’s Degree in Genetics

Class topics in a master’s degree program in genetics may vary depending on the program’s focus. Some programs may include courses in plant and animal genetics while others will focus primarily on human genetics. If the student chooses to concentrate on genetic counseling, courses in client engagement may also be part of the curriculum. All programs will include advanced coursework in biology, genetics, and genetic analysis. Students may be able to tailor their course selections based on their area of specialization within the field of genetics or their research interests. Some coursework might focus on genetics of cancer, gene expression and regulation, population genetics, metabolism, and many more. Core coursework might include classes like:

  • Quantitative Phylogenetics
  • Cytogenetics
  • Analyses of Gene Expression
  • Analyses of Complex Genomes
  • Eukaryotic Transcription

Additional program requirements for a master’s degree in genetics can vary depending on the student’s long-term career goals as well as the program’s unique focus. A master’s degree in genetics can require extensive research and laboratory work. Many master’s programs require a thesis as the final project. However, an online master’s degree in genetics typically offers a non-thesis option that incorporates a comprehensive exam instead. Programs emphasizing counseling practice may include an internship or field work as part of the program requirements.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Master’s Degree in Genetics

A master’s degree in genetics often leads to a career in genetic counseling. Genetics counselors work in healthcare settings and work with clients to overcome and prepare for genetic health issues, such as genetic diseases or handicaps. According to ExploreHealthCareers.org, genetic counseling is a growing field and the average genetic counselor earns approximately $48,000 per year. Salaries and job availability may vary depending on the local job market and industry as well as the candidate’s individual qualifications. Most genetic counseling positions require at least a master’s degree in genetics.

Many master’s degree holders in genetics also go on to complete doctoral work in the discipline. Once their doctoral coursework is complete, they complete residencies at laboratories, universities, or medical research centers. The degree prepares for a long-term career in genetic research or, in some cases, medicine. Students considering a doctoral program in genetics in the future should choose a master’s degree program with a thesis option, as this research experience will be critical to their doctoral program application.

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