Geneticist: job description

Last updated: 7 Jul 2023, 09:07

Geneticists research aspects of heredity – inherited traits passed down through generations – and use their knowledge to advise others.

Geneticist working in a lab

What does a geneticist do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Geneticists study genes and the science of heredity. This is a fast-moving field in which research features heavily. This knowledge can be applied within roles across a number of sectors. In a medical setting, clinical geneticists advise patients with inherited conditions.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • examining patients and collecting detailed information about their health
  • conducting lab research and experiments
  • extracting DNA or performing diagnostic tests
  • interpreting, reviewing or approving genetic lab results
  • diagnosing medical conditions and advising patients and their families of the impacts it could have
  • documenting processes and results
  • analysing genetic data to draw conclusions and publish research
  • conducting research and communicating the findings of this, for instance at conferences or in scientific journals
  • supervising or directing the work of other geneticists, biologists, technicians or biometricians working on genetics research projects
  • working with health professionals such as counsellors and social workers
  • when more senior, spearheading new research.

There are also opportunities for geneticists to teach at university level, where there will also be research opportunities. In the commercial sector, geneticists are employed by pharmaceutical firms and manufacturers, where, for example, they may be involved in developing new agricultural products.

Graduate salaries

Starting salaries for clinical geneticists in the NHS are around £29,384, according to Earnings will rise once you have finished training and, if you reach consultant level, your salary could be around £85,000.

Outside the NHS, according to our website research, you could earn around £30,000 as a starting salary in an academic role. Salaries in manufacturing and pharmaceutical roles are likely to be higher.

Typical employers of geneticists

  • NHS trusts
  • Research institutions
  • Universities
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Agricultural and horticultural companies
  • Biotechnology and genetic engineering companies

Job vacancies are advertised by the British Society for Genetic Medicine. Look on for NHS jobs, on for university posts and on specialist science jobs boards. The recruitment process could involve a technical interview.

Qualifications and training required

To become a clinical geneticist, you first need to qualify as a doctor and complete the foundation programme. After this, you can apply for specialist training in clinical genetics.

Outside the NHS in non-medical geneticist roles, you’ll need at least an undergraduate degree in a life science. A PhD may also be necessary, especially if you want to lead your own research projects, become a university lecturer or work for a pharmaceutical company.

Competition for roles is tough, so work experience will boost your application. If your degree doesn’t include a placement year, look for research work, hospital laboratory placements and experience using scientific and analytical techniques.

It’s possible for a school leaver to enter the science industry through an apprenticeship as a laboratory technician but, if you ultimately want to become a geneticist, you will need to get a degree.

Key skills for geneticists

Successful geneticists will demonstrate:

  • excellent communication skills, including the ability to communicate with people from all sections of the community
  • attention to detail
  • problem-solving skills
  • critical thinking
  • the ability to understand complex concepts.

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