Seyer Investigates Development of Doctoral Degree in Genetic Counseling

By Purnell T. Cropper | October 22, 2010

“Discussion of a doctoral degree for the field of genetic counseling first began in the 1980s, just ten years after the inception of the field. Since then, several studies have shown that there is interest in an advanced degree, although all studies have focused specifically on a research oriented degree. Other allied health professions have introduced a clinical doctorate, an advanced degree that maintains focus on clinical practice. This project assessed interest and concerns about advanced degrees including a clinical doctorate,” according to a contributed paper abstract by Lauren Seyer, Arcadia University Genetic Counseling student, at the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ (NSGC).

The Development of a Doctoral Degree in Genetic Counseling: An Investigation of Current Opinions and Future Considerations was authored by L. Seyer1,2, K. Valverde1, L. Conway1. (1 Arcadia University, 2 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

“Four focus groups of practicing genetic counselors (n=29) were performed in Tampa, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Participants were asked their opinions of an advanced degree, potential benefits and drawbacks of such a degree, financial commitment and curriculum content. Transcripts of the focus groups were analyzed for common themes and responses. The majority of participants were in support of an advanced degree, although some of the respondents were unsure. Many stated that an advanced degree would appropriately move the field forward, and had suggestions regarding the format and curriculum content of a potential degree.

“Emerging issues included respect, billing, research, and salary. Participants supported online and part-time learning opportunities that would allow genetic counselors to continue working while pursuing a doctorate. Respondents had concerns about the process, whether employers would support genetic counselors with an advanced doctorate degree, and if there are ways of improving current training.

“The possibility of discrimination against genetic counselors holding master’s degrees was also raised. This project showed that there is still interest in an advanced degree for genetic counselors, and that a clinical doctorate may be an appropriate option for this field. A comprehensive, quantitative survey is now being developed that will be distributed to all genetic counselors who are members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and American Board of Genetic Counseling to further explore advanced degree options in the field.”