MS in Genetic Counseling

This program is provided through Graduate Medical Sciences and has received full accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). Applications are available at the BU Graduate Medical Sciences site. For additional information on the genetic counseling profession, please visit the website for the National Society of Genetic Counselors. For questions regarding the genetic counseling program, please email gcprog@bu.edu. If you will be in the area, you are welcome to schedule a date/time to visit and learn more about the campus and program.

Mission Statement

The BU Genetic Counseling program is committed to providing high-quality training through dynamic coursework, dedicated mentoring, diverse fieldwork, and innovative research to develop motivated genetic counselors to meet the needs of an expanding landscape in genetics and genomics.

Program Overview

The primary objective of the Master of Science Program in Genetic Counseling is to educate graduate students in the core concepts of human genetics and counseling. Our focus is to provide students with the appropriate knowledge, experience, and mentoring to become competent, sensitive, and motivated genetic counselors. This is accomplished through a variety of educational experiences including coursework, clinical training, research project preparation, and supplementary activities such as case conferences, grand rounds, journal clubs, and seminars. Located in the heart of Boston, the Genetic Counseling program at Boston University provides a dynamic and enriching environment for genetic counseling students.

Boston University’s medical school and teaching hospital offer access to tremendous resources for clinical experience with a diverse patient population and specialized patient services. The BU Genetic Counseling Program also has the unique appeal of including coursework in the Mental Health Counseling & Behavioral Medicine Program, Graduate Medical Sciences, and the School of Public Health.

Program Requirements

Year 1

The first year of study focuses primarily on coursework in general genetics and counseling skills. Clinical, laboratory, research, and advocacy experiences complement the didactic curriculum. In addition, students will select a Capstone Project topic and begin their research during the second semester.

Semester 1
  • GMS GC 601 Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling (3 cr)
  • GMS GC 603 Embryology, Teratology, and Prenatal Genetics (3 cr)
  • GMS GC 605 Clinical Applications in Human Genetics (4 cr)
  • GMS GC 606 Genetic Counseling Seminar (2 cr)
  • GMS MH 703 Counseling Techniques (3 cr)
  • GMS GC 700 Genetic Counseling Fieldwork I (2 cr)
Semester 2
  • GMS GC 600 Genetic Diagnosis and Laboratory Methods (3 cr)
  • GMS GC 601 Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling, cont.
  • GMS GC 602 Clinical Genetics (3 cr)
  • GMS GC 607 Genetic Counseling Seminar (continued)
  • GMS GC 604 Cancer Genetic Counseling (3 cr)
Summer 1
  • GMS GC 702S Genetic Counseling Fieldwork II (2 cr)

Year 2

The second year of study focuses on fieldwork experience and research project development. In addition, the coursework covers more advanced topics in medical genetics, professional issues, and genetic counseling subspecialties. The number of required credits decreases the second year to allow students adequate time to complete their research projects, acquire a robust array of fieldwork experiences, and begin interviews for job placement.

Semester 3
  • GMS GC 712 Metabolic Genetics/Advanced Risk Assessment
  • GMS GC 606 Genetic Counseling Seminar (continued)
  • GMS GC 703 Genetic Counseling Fieldwork III (2 cr)
  • GMS GC 711 Advanced Genetic Counseling (4 cr)
Semester 4
  • GMS GC 607 Genetic Counseling Seminar (continued)
  • GMS GC 704 Genetic Counseling Fieldwork IV (2 cr)
  • GMS GC 711 Advanced Genetic Counseling, cont.
  • GMS GC 714 Advanced Topics in Medical Genetics (3 cr)
  • GMS GC 716 Social, Cultural, and Ethical Issues in Genetics

In addition, students must take:

  • One BU graduate-level course in research design, research methodology, and/or statistical analysis
  • One BU graduate-level course in counseling, public health, and/or education

Together, these two courses should be ≥ 5 credits, for a minimum of 48 total credits. Students are also welcome to take elective courses throughout BUMC that align with their personal interests and professional goals.

Fieldwork and a Capstone Project are also required to fulfill degree requirements.

Fieldwork

The clinical and non-clinical fieldwork experience provides students with opportunities to develop their counseling skills in a broad range of settings. These first-hand experiences familiarize students with individuals and families affected by a variety of genetic disorders. The following list includes a selected sample of the clinical settings available for student fieldwork experiences:

  • Boston Medical Center
    • Prenatal, Pediatric, and Cancer Genetics
    • Specialty clinics include Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Amyloid Treatment Program, Sickle Cell Program, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Project Respect
  • Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Pediatric Genetics
    • Multiple specialty clinics including Genomics, Neurogenetics, Cardiology, Down Syndrome Program
    • LEND Fellowship Program
  • Tufts Medical Center
    • Pediatric, Cancer, and Prenatal Genetics
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
    • Prenatal and Cancer Genetics
  • Dana Farber Cancer Institute
  • UMass Memorial Medical Center
    • Pediatric, Prenatal, Cancer, and Specialty Clinics
  • Rhode Island Hospital
    • Pediatric and Cancer Genetics

During the first year, students observe in a genetic counseling (or related) clinic for one half-day or full day per week. The observations include several core clinics at Boston Medical Center (BMC), including prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics, as well as several specialty clinics within and outside of BMC. During the second semester, students continue to observe in the specialty clinics, but they begin active participation in the core genetics clinics at BMC. Student participation in counseling sessions includes case preparation, contracting with patients, obtaining prenatal, medical, and family history information, and explaining basic genetic concepts to patients. Students are also involved in reviewing patient charts and online medical records, collecting patient literature and testing information, and writing follow-up letters.

During the intervening summer, each student spends six weeks full-time (or 30 days total) at an external rotation site. Students are encouraged to brainstorm early about potential cities and/or clinics of interest. To date, we have arranged clinical rotations in a wide variety of subspecialties and cities, including San Francisco, Miami, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, Providence, Washington DC, San Diego, Anchorage, London, and Madrid.

During the second year, each student completes four 7-week rotations at sites within Boston Medical Center and throughout New England. Each student will intern at a prenatal, pediatric/general, cancer, and non-clinical site. The non-clinical sites include opportunities in labs, research, industry, public health, and advocacy. Placements are assigned based on the student’s interest and site availability. Each rotation is approximately two full-days per week, or 14 days total. Students typically require access to a car for one to two of these rotations. For students who prefer not to own or borrow a car, we encourage them to inquire about Zipcar, a popular car sharing service here in Boston, or to take the MBTA commuter rail (when applicable).

Capstone Project

Each student completes their graduate training with the presentation of a Capstone Project. The purpose of the Capstone Project is to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to contribute to the field of genetic counseling. This individualized scholarly work may consist of a detailed case study and literature review, a clinical or laboratory research project, or a clinical application (such as developing clinical practice tools or professional educational programs or creating informational material to benefit individuals and families with genetic disorders). Students should pick a project that will pique their interests and passions, as well as contribute to the knowledge and/or practice of genetic counseling.

During the Spring Semester of their first year, each student selects a topic for study that is approved by the Executive Capstone Committee. Students submit their proposals for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval during the intervening summer, and then the projects are executed during the second year of study.

Genetic Counseling Research Seminars are provided throughout GMS GC 601 Professional Issues in Genetic Counseling and GMS GC 711 Advanced Genetic Counseling. Each Capstone Project is completed under the guidance of a Capstone Project Committee, which consists of a project advisor and a project reader, both of whom may be chosen from the primary or adjunct faculty. Each project culminates in a formal paper and an oral presentation to the department and invited guests. The paper should be of publishable quality, and each student is expected to present and/or publish their findings.

Degree Requirements

Qualifications for Completion of the Master’s Degree

The Genetic Counseling Program is a full-time program (two academic years and the intervening summer). Candidates for the MS in Genetic Counseling will be expected to perform at high academic and professional standards, defined as follows:

  1. Successful completion of 48 credit hours of coursework, research project development, and clinical rotations.
  2. Satisfactory grades, requiring a B– grade or better in all courses of credit. A grade of C in 8 credit hours or more is not permissible and will result in termination or temporary exclusion from the program.
  3. A minimum of 10 hours of genetic education through avenues such as: lectures to high school or college classes, resident groups, teachers’ courses, or community forums; peer educational activities; and class projects to develop patient, professional, or community educational materials.
  4. Students will also be required to attend and participate in a number of other activities, including: a weekly Genetic Counseling Seminar; a minimum of 8 grand rounds/seminars (i.e., pediatric, OB/GYN, etc.) per year; and a minimum number of hours of advocacy experience (including local support groups) during the first year.

In addition, students are encouraged to attend local, regional, and national genetics conferences, as funds and time allow.