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Genetic Counseling MS Program

The Genetic Counseling Master of Science Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin will prepare the next generation of genetic counselors to be diverse leaders at the forefront in the delivery of precision health.

Program Mission

The mission of the Medical College of Wisconsin Genetic Counseling Graduate Program is to cultivate exceptional genetic counseling leaders who reflect the visible and invisible diversity of the communities we serve.

The MSGC program aims to achieve this mission through the following objectives:

  • Create compassionate, academically minded genetic counselors with a curiosity for life-long learning.
  • Demonstrate responsibility to the communities we serve by prioritizing health equity, advocacy, and cultural humility.
  • Foster authenticity, integrity, and resilience through a culture of belonging.
  • Nurture skills to inspire our students to become future leaders in the profession

Accreditation Status

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s Master of Science in Genetic Counseling (MSGC) program currently holds Candidate status. Candidacy applies to a developing program that has submitted an Application for Candidacy which has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The MSGC program has submitted a New Program Application for Accreditation as of May 15, 2020. The program will hold Candidate status until the New Program Application is approved.

Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC)
7918 Jones Branch Drive, Suite 300
McLean, VA 22102 USA
(703) 506-7667

 

Meet our Program Director

Jennifer Geurts, MS, CGC

Assistant Professor, Institute for Health and Equity

Director, Master of Science in Genetic Counseling

jgeurts@mcw.edu

Genetic Counseling MS Program

About the Program

About the Program

The MSGC program offers a Master of Science degree in Genetic Counseling, through the Medical College of Wisconsin Graduate School. The program is a full-time, day program with one cohort of 10 students beginning each fall term. The duration is 21 months in length, consisting of four fall/spring terms with one intervening summer term session. The program curriculum consists of 56 term credits, including coursework, clinical practicums, and a research thesis. Students who successfully complete the program will be eligible for the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) certification examination.

The Genetic Counseling Master of Science Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin will prepare the next generation of genetic counselors to be diverse leaders at the forefront in the delivery of precision health.

Program Mission

The mission of the Medical College of Wisconsin Genetic Counseling Graduate Program is to cultivate exceptional genetic counseling leaders who reflect the visible and invisible diversity of the communities we serve.

The MSGC program aims to achieve this mission through the following objectives:

  • Create compassionate, academically minded genetic counselors with a curiosity for life-long learning.
  • Demonstrate responsibility to the communities we serve by prioritizing health equity, advocacy, and cultural humility.
  • Foster authenticity, integrity, and resilience through a culture of belonging.
  • Nurture skills to inspire our students to become future leaders in the profession
Curriculum

Curriculum

Coursework will cover the following topics:

Research Methodologies & Informatics
This course is designed to build a foundation to help students formulate their research thesis topics. Students will learn about a variety of research methodologies, including quantitative and qualitative approaches. They will be exposed to various clinical and research informatic tools. Students will identify and critically review scientific literature, evaluate research hypotheses, identify various aspects of the research process, study design, data management and analysis. Throughout this course there will be an emphasis on conducting research responsibly, ethically, and with integrity. We will highlight various opportunities that genetic counselors have for research involvement. This introductory course aims to instill the value of research as it applies to the practice of genetic counseling, and its implications for the community.

GC Seminar
This course promotes lifelong education for the profession of genetic counselling through exposure to interdisciplinary events and engagement in community activities. Students will give effective presentations tailored to a variety of audiences. Students will identify community engagement opportunities to promote a deeper understanding of patient experience.

Molecules to Cells
This course is designed to provide students with necessary background knowledge in cell biology, molecular genetics, biochemistry, and embryology as it pertains to clinical genetics. There will be emphasis on the clinical relevance of these topics and how abnormalities in these cellular processes can lead to human disease. In addition, students will be introduced to different genetic and biochemical testing and screening options that are commonly used to diagnose genetic disorders.

Genetic Counseling 1: Skills and Practice
Students will be introduced to the history and evolution of the genetic counseling profession. Students will be oriented to fundamental genetic counseling skills including pedigree construction, pedigree analysis, case preparation, contracting, documentation and risk assessment. Students will begin to consider legal, ethical, social and cultural issues related to genetic counseling and be encouraged to explore their own values and biases. Development and adaptation of oral and written communication skills to various audiences will be applied through course assignments and case-based learning. Students will be introduced to professional issues such as credentialing, professional development and lifelong learning.

Human Development and Prenatal Genetics
Students will be introduced to the history and evolution of the genetic counseling profession. Students will be oriented to fundamental genetic counseling skills including pedigree construction, pedigree analysis, case preparation, contracting, documentation and risk assessment. Students will begin to consider legal, ethical, social and cultural issues related to genetic counseling and be encouraged to explore their own values and biases. Development and adaptation of oral and written communication skills to various audiences will be applied through course assignments and case-based learning. Students will be introduced to professional issues such as credentialing, professional development and lifelong learning.

Translational Genomics
The primary goal of this course is to teach students how to develop a research program to ask relevant genetic questions in the clinical setting utilizing the molecular genetics toolbox. To this end, students will be provided with background in molecular genetics strategies and study designs as well as an understanding of common genetics questions emanating from the clinic so that they will be better able to make connections between bench and bedside. In addition, they will be challenged to think creatively and through a translational focus during course-long case studies and group projects.

Cancer Genomics
This course will familiarize students with hereditary cancer syndromes and the underlying causes of cancer. The interdisciplinary care of cancer patients will also be explored through case-based study. Students will gain knowledge of various cancer risk assessment models and genetic testing options. Students will incorporate genetic test results with personal and family history information to create a personalized risk assessment for a variety of indications. Students will learn to appreciate different psycho-social considerations affecting families with cancer.

Genetic Counseling 2: Theory and Practice
This course prepares students to conduct a full genetic counseling session including case preparation, facilitation of session components and follow-up. Students will expand upon their interviewing skills develop case conceptualization ability and hone their patient education skills. Through standardized patients and in class role play, students will learn to recognize psychosocial aspects of the genetic counseling session and apply their counseling skills. Students will engage in course activities to further develop their communication abilities (oral and written), apply advanced risk assessment and examine professional boundaries. Students will have the opportunity to enhance personal skill development through the giving and receiving of feedback with peers and supervisors.

Research Thesis
Thesis credits are required for program completion. The culminating experience for students in the MCW MS Genetic Counseling Program is a formal thesis research project focused on the practice of genetic counseling in which she or he participated in the design, execution, data analysis, and write-up. Working on the research thesis allows students to develop skills that enhance intellectual development and critical, flexible thinking. Our research program is driven by the interests of the individual student and takes advantage of the wide variety of genomics initiatives across our MCW community and the state of Wisconsin. The timeline for the thesis project begins in the Fall of the first year in the Research Methodologies & Informatics Course when students identify a research question they are interested in studying, complete a comprehensive literature review on the subject, and identify a thesis advisor(s). Continuation of the research process happens within this Research Thesis Course throughout the rest of the Program. Students will secure a Thesis Committee comprised of their primary thesis advisor (Committee Chair) and two additional faculty members. The Committee will approve the project in advance, will provide guidance and supervision of the project, and will critique and, approve the final thesis. Students present their results in local and regional forums, including the Genetic Counseling Colloquium in the final semester of the Program near graduation, and are strongly encouraged to submit their findings as abstracts to regional or national conferences, and for publication.

Medical Genomics
This course aims to familiarize students with a medical genetics evaluation typical to what would be seen in the pediatric or adult genetics clinic. Students will appreciate the interprofessional collaboration required for the diagnosis and management of children and adults with complex disease. Students will be introduced to a plethora of genetic conditions spanning multiple disease categories. A differential diagnosis and genomic testing plan will be formulated using information gathered from thorough chart review, birth, family, and developmental histories, and the physical exam. Students will be able to determine the clinical significance of genetic testing results.

Bioethics in Precision Medicine
The development of a “new” paradigm of precision medicine built around emerging genetic/genomic knowledge and technologies raises a host of important ethical, legal, and social issues. This course will overview these issues as they manifest in a variety of biomedical and health policy contexts. The first part of the course explores the historical, philosophical, rhetorical, and ethical foundations of precision medicine. The second part focuses on a host of ethical issues that arise at the individual and family level of precision medicine, including obligations related to informed consent, non-directive genetic counseling, disclosure of genetic information, privacy and confidentiality, warning or rescuing those in danger, and preserving autonomy for children. The third part transitions to ethical issues that arise at the institutional, community, and societal level of precision medicine, including the social contract between precision medicine research and practice and its stakeholders, the governance and use of biobanks, data repositories, artificial intelligence, and big data in precision medicine, the proliferation of direct-to-consumer genetic testing and non-medical uses of genetic/genomic information, and the ethical implications of health disparities that might be facilitated by precision medicine. Finally, the fourth part of the course concludes with consideration of the competing futures for precision medicine and their ethical implications.

Genetic Counseling 3: Psychosocial Issues
This course builds on Genetic Counseling 2: Theory and Practice by further exploring psychological aspects of the genetic counseling process. Students will learn to apply counseling theories in the development of their clinical communication skills. Students will learn to integrate client factors including cultural, socioeconomic, emotional, behavioral, gender, and educational status into the genetic counseling session. Students will develop more advanced techniques to address the psychosocial impact of a genetic condition on the family, complex family dynamics and unique issues that may occur in genetic counseling. Continued professional development will be emphasized by exploration of personal strengths, limitations, values and biases as they relate to genetic counseling.

Genetic Counseling 4: Advanced Topics
This course will prepare students for life beyond the classroom with a focus on honing skills needed to become an independent successful genetic counselor. Students will develop an appreciation for the growth of the genetic counselling field and for life-long learning inherent in the profession. Discussion of current and emerging topics will put students in a position to become leaders in the field. As future practitioners in their communities, students will appreciate the scope and complex nature of health disparities and embrace cultural humility. In addition, students will also develop habits to build resilience necessary for personal growth and self-care.

Lab Practicum
The purpose of the laboratory practicum is to introduce students to the many different types of tests involved in clinical as well as research genetics, to start to develop the skills necessary to understand and communicate genetic testing strategies and results, and to encourage students to think about the roles genetic counselors can play in the testing process. This practicum will function as a “rotation” with students moving through different experiences in small groups. The practicum will expose students to different molecular, cytogenic, and biochemical tests and help them develop an understanding for how these tests are performed and when they are appropriate. Students will have the opportunity to see how an individual sample moves from the point of collection through the laboratory and ultimately into a research or clinical report for several specific testing modalities, helping them to think about how to explain the testing process to patients, providers, and other audiences. Students will also learn about how genetic testing has changed over time and how genetics professionals adapt to those changes. Finally, students will be encouraged to explore the different ways genetic counselors are involved in the testing process through interviews, field trips, and other experiences.

Clinical Practicum
Clinical practicums are required for graduation and program completion. The overall goal of clinical practicums is to prepare students to enter the workforce and be able to operate successfully in a variety of different roles and specialties. Throughout the MCW MSGC, students will participate in five total practicums which are each 8-weeks in length. Students will be required to be in clinic for at least 16 total days for each 8-week practicum. Each student will participate in a prenatal, cancer, pediatrics, and “other adult specialties” rotation. The fifth practicum may focus on a different specialty of the student’s choosing or a repeat more advanced practice of one of their previous rotations. Through the practicums, students will apply their knowledge in a supervised clinical setting and will participate in a minimum of 50 cases where students demonstrate their continued growth in the practice-based competencies for genetic counselors.

Students will be evaluated extensively throughout their practicums by their supervisors as well as program leadership. They will be responsible for setting practicum rotation goals and expectations alongside their clinical supervisor. Students will be responsible for keeping a timely logbook of cases. Supervisors will monitor throughout the rotation to ensure that they are getting the necessary variety of cases regarding referral indications and ways in which the student actively participated in the case.

In addition to their participatory cases with a certified genetic counselor, students will also participate in supplemental fieldwork experiences throughout the duration of the program.

View the Genetic Counseling MS Program Curriculum Chart (PDF)
Admissions

Admissions

Required: Completed application, submitted, paid and all required materials received.

Prerequisites

Bachelor's degree: Applicants must have a bachelor's degree. Although a specific major is not required, most applicants have a degree in a biological science (e.g. biology, genetics, biochemistry).

GPA: A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 is required. If a student has an undergraduate GPA less than 3.0, coursework completed after graduation demonstrating a higher GPA will be considered.

Prerequisites listed below must be completed with a grade of C or better, prior to the program start date. Applications will still be considered with coursework pending. College credit for high school Advanced Placement courses do not satisfy the requirement.

Prerequisite course work includes one semester each of the following:

  • Genetics
  • Statistics
  • Psychology
  • Biochemistry

An applicant must complete courses in biochemistry, statistics, psychology and genetics. We encourage students to take as many courses as possible relevant to genetic counseling to strengthen their application. All required courses should be taken prior to applying as it is difficult to evaluate courses “in progress” at the time of application.

Transcripts

Transcripts will be required. Arrange for your official transcript to be sent to the MCW Graduate School from your current or any previously attended college/university. Official transcripts must be in an original, sealed envelope or sent electronically from a certified service provider. Electronic transcripts may be accepted from institutions that subscribe to the following services:

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required from instructors of relevant courses, supervisors of advocacy experience, genetic counselors, or other professional experiences who can assess your potential for a career in genetic counseling.

Recommendation letters can be submitted electronically through the graduate school online application system (preferred), as an attachment via email to gradschool@mcw.edu, or in the mail. Applicants should refrain from having family members and those that they receive healthcare services from submit letters, even if those individuals happen to also to be one of the types of recommenders that we will accept letters from.

Resume

A personal CV or resume is required. Be sure to include shadowing or exposure to genetic counseling and any advocacy experiences. Please upload your resume through the graduate school online application system.

Personal Statement

A personal statement is required. Your personal statement should detail your experiences and how they have influenced your decision to pursue this profession is helpful. Personal statements will be submitted through the graduate school online application system.

GRE

A GRE Test Score is NOT required for admittance to the program.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)/IELTS

An official International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test score is required of all applicants who did not receive a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a U.S.-based, non-online degree granting program. Please arrange for your IELTS/TOEFL scores to be sent directly to the MCW Graduate School from their respective service. For TOELF, use institution code 1519. A score of 100 or higher on the internet-based version of the TOEFL or a score of 6.0 or higher on the IELTS is recommended for competitive consideration.

Genetic Counseling Shadowing/Internship Experience

Observation of genetic counselors in a clinical setting is strongly recommend to aid in applicant’s understanding of what the career entails and if it aligns with their professional goals. Intern and shadowing experiences are available through Wisconsin Genetic Counselors Association website. Resources are also available on the National Society of Genetic Counselors website such as simulated genetic counseling sessions.

Additional experiences including advocacy, crisis counseling, and research exposure is also highly recommended.

Application Deadline

Applications for the MSGC Program must be submitted to the MCW Graduate School by December 15, 2020 11:59 pm CST. The MSGC application portal will open September 1, 2020.

Genetic Counseling Match

MCW will participate in the National Genetic Counseling Admissions Match program administered by National Matching Services, Inc. on behalf of the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD). The program is currently undergoing accreditation and cannot participate in the match until the accreditation is granted.

The GC Admissions Match has been established to enhance the process of placing applicants into positions in masters-level genetic counseling programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The Match uses a process that takes into account both applicants’ and programs’ preferences. Please visit the NMS website to register for the match, review detailed information about the matching process and to view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works.

The MSGC Admissions Committee reviews all application materials and invites the most promising applicants to a mandatory, preadmission, on-site interview early spring. At the conclusion of all program interviews, both applicants and programs will submit ranked lists of preferred placements to NMS according to deadlines posted on the NMS website. The binding results of the Match will be released to both applicants and programs simultaneously in late April. Accepted students begin classes in the fall.

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements

By the end of their curriculum, students must be able to demonstrate all the ACGC Practice Based Competencies. Students will demonstrate these competencies through satisfactory completion of their coursework, practicums and research thesis. Students will also need to pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their final semester (as part of their GC4: Advanced Topics course), which encompasses material from all aspects of the program. If a student does not pass this comprehensive exam, remediation will be available; if students demonstrate sufficient remediation, they will have considered to have passed.

Per the Graduate School Student Handbook, students are expected to maintain a "B" (3.0) average in course work. Students must have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) to be in good academic standing and to be eligible to graduate. Students must complete all required program courses.

The Academic Standing & Professionalism Committee will determine if a student has satisfied the requirements for the MSGC degree program. Three months prior to graduation this committee will review all student records and preparedness for graduation and communicate outcomes to the student.

If students complete all requirements, including obtaining the required number of “participatory” cases for their log book, they will be conferred with the Master of Science in Genetic Counseling, and will be eligible to sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling exam.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and Fees Schedule (PDF)

Application fee: $50

Master’s of Science in Genetic Counseling Students Tuition: Flat rate of each year – $34,000

Late Fees

There will be a $100 late registration fee for anyone not completing registration by the date indicated on the schedule each semester.

There is also a $250 late payment fee for tuition not paid on time according to the Tuition Payments policy in the All Student Handbook (PDF).

Late payment fee is in addition to any late registration fee.

Program and Student Data

Program and Student Data

Not available until 2024.

  • Cumulative board examination pass rates.
  • Attrition rate for the past three years.
  • Job placement rate in a genetic counseling or related position for the past three years.
Prospective Students

Prospective Students

Genetic Counseling Intern Position

The objective of this position is to learn more about the career of genetic counseling through assisting the genetic counselors in case preparation, observing patient counseling sessions, contributing to program development projects and participating in clinical research.

Learn More (PDF)

Resources

Contact Us

MCW Graduate School
8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

(414) 955-8218
(414) 955-0084 (fax)
gradschool@mcw.edu

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