The Arcadia University Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program is transitioning to the University of Pennsylvania beginning in the Fall 2019.
Our current Master of Science in Genetic Counseling second-year students will graduate from Arcadia University in May 2020, and all future incoming students will graduate from the University of Pennsylvania.
Please see the Press Release and Fast Facts/FAQ tab for more details about the transition.
Arcadia's Genetic Counseling program is one of 43 accredited programs in North America. Established in 1995, the program has graduated over 250 students and is one of the largest programs in the country. The program meets the requirements of the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) for curriculum content, clinical experience and overall program design and received full accreditation for eight years from the ACGC in 2016. Accepting 14-16 diverse and highly-qualified students annually, Arcadia provides personal attention and access to clinical opportunities at some of the nation's premier healthcare facilities. Graduates of the program are qualified to sit for the certification examination offered by the ABGC and to apply for state licensure. The overall pass rate on the ABGC certification exam is 95% for students in our last five graduating classes.
Arcadia's program has the full support of the genetics community in the greater Philadelphia area. Clinical training is one of the program's greatest strengths, with individualized clinical opportunities at clinical genetics sites throughout the Delaware Valley. Access to so many clinical training centers allows students to broaden their educational experience beyond traditional clinics to explore medical subspecialties, health care management, and non-traditional genetic counseling roles.
Arcadia alumni are working across the country in diverse genetic counseling roles. Employers have been extremely impressed with the Arcadia graduates' work ethic and performance. In fact, several institutions employ multiple Arcadia graduates.
A Growing Profession
Genetic Counseling is a growing profession that combines expertise in scientific knowledge and finely developed counseling abilities. Although the majority of graduates work in major medical centers, the range of positions open to genetic counselors continues to expand and now includes general genetics services (pediatric and adult), clinical services devoted to one diagnosis (a specialty clinic), community support organizations, public health departments and services, administration, research, commercial laboratories, and private practice. The continuing growth in understanding inherited conditions predicts expansion for the profession.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 29% for genetic counseling positions over the years 2014-2024. This far exceeds the average growth rate of 7% for all occupations. Recent data suggest that there are many positions available for new graduates in the field. The mean starting salary for a genetic counselor with a master’s degree is approximately, $70,000, based on the 2016 Professional Status Survey (PSS) of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC). Nine of ten genetic counselors (90%) report they are satisfied with their job as also stated in the PSS. NSGC is a strong professional organization which provides ongoing education and communication for genetic counselors through annual conferences, webinars, a newsletter and the Journal of Genetic Counseling.
Potential applicants are urged to contact the NSGC for information about careers in genetics at www.nsgc.org.
What opportunities will this transferral of sponsorship provide for Arcadia students?
The University of Pennsylvania will open up training sites for Arcadia Physical Therapist and Physician Assistant students and guarantee 192 clinical placements (38 PT and 154 PA, respectively) for five years, with the opportunity for Arcadia to renew at no cost (as opposed to the $1K a month PA students have to pay currently at some clinical sites). Penn will also provide access to resources unavailable at Arcadia including a simulation center, exposure to cadavers, and state-of-the-art virtual technology. Arcadia undergraduates, if they have the grades and pass the interview, may have the opportunity to matriculate to the Penn program. Collaboration will provide shadowing experiences for the undergraduate students interested in Genetic Counseling, as Penn will make it available to Genetic Counseling students.
How many students are currently enrolled in Arcadia’s Genetic Counseling program, and how will they be able to complete it?
The current class of 16 students admitted to Arcadia in fall 2018 will complete their curriculum at and graduate from Arcadia in May 2020. The students will continue to be taught by the core Arcadia Genetic Counseling faculty and be guaranteed clinical placements at the University of Pennsylvania.
Will this transfer of sponsorship cost or save Arcadia money?
At Arcadia, Genetic Counseling is a break-even program (with overhead being raised, the University would lose money). In the first year, Arcadia will save approximately $250,000, as Penn will pay the Arcadia faculty. Also, with this collaboration, Arcadia will save money in the future by not paying placement and rotation fees.
Will other programs on campus be affected by the suspension of the Genetic Counseling program?
In more than 20 years, fewer than 10 Arcadia alums have matriculated into the MS Genetic Counseling program in total.
Why is Arcadia transferring the Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program to Penn?
With Penn’s intent to bring a Genetic Counseling program to its campus, it had the ability to recruit not only Arcadia’s prospective students, but also the University’s faculty and staff. With a long-established history of collaboration in the field of genetics, Penn approached Arcadia and initiated conversations for the transfer of sponsorship. If not for the program’s transfer, it is likely that Arcadia’s Genetic Counseling program would have suffered a loss of students, faculty, and staff to Penn in the short- and long-term future, serving as a detriment to Arcadia. This transfer, instead, benefits both universities.
With the transfer of the program’s sponsorship, Genetic Counseling faculty at Arcadia will become Penn employees. As program founders, they have established a deep affinity for Arcadia, its students, and its Genetic Counseling alumni.
Coursework: As an Arcadia student, you will develop a comprehensive understanding of the complex clinical management of patients with genetic conditions as well as the options for diagnostic testing. Coursework in psychology and counseling helps you cultivate the knowledge and skills to address the needs of patients, families, community advocacy groups and other health professionals.
Clinical work begins in the first semester with observational practica and progresses in each of the five semesters to a performance of more complex and independent clinical responsibilities. At Arcadia, you will have three practica in the first year and four rotations in the second year, for a total of seven clinical placements. Individualized clinical opportunities at some of the nation's premier healthcare facilities, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, allow students to broaden their educational experience beyond traditional clinics to explore medical subspecialties, health care management, and diverse genetic counseling roles.
A research project/thesis is required for graduation. Beginning in the second semester, you will work with faculty and outside advisors to identify a topic, develop your ideas, conduct research, and complete the paper, gaining experience in all aspects of the research process. Students leave the program with an appreciation of how to develop an idea, how to conduct ethical research, how to interact with an IRB, how to convert raw data to a written and comprehensible document, and how to work collaboratively on a professional project. Many students submit their projects for presentation at national conferences and for publication each year.
Advocacy work is incorporated into the curriculum and clinical training as students regularly volunteer at fundraisers, conferences, and events for patients with genetic disorders and their families. These experiences are valuable for community service and public health awareness, and they provide opportunities for students to interact with patients and families in a non-clinical setting. We regularly participate in activities sponsored by the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance, the 22q and You Center at CHOP, FORCE, and the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund.
Supplemental Experiences: The Philadelphia area hosts many conferences and symposia, and our students attend multiple conferences through the program such as the annual Philadelphia Prenatal Diagnosis Conference, the Basser Center for BRCA’s Scientific Symposium at Penn, and specialty conferences on cardiac genetics and mitochondrial disorders. In addition, many students attend local professional genetics meetings such as The Human Genetics Association of New Jersey and Pennsylvania state genetic counselors meetings.
About Our Faculty
From the founding of the program in 1995 through the present day, Arcadia’s faculty has met a high standard of excellence. The founding program director, Debbie Eunpu, was a founding member and past president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, as well as the founding editor of the Journal of Genetic Counseling. Her successor, current program director Kathleen Valverde, has been involved with the program since its inception in 1995, and she personally maintains a high level of alumni contact and support. Associate Director Dr. Laura Conway (’99) and Clinical Coordinator Lisa Kessler (’00) are both alumni of the genetic counseling program and have strong research, teaching and clinical skills. The combined experience of the faculty working with genetic counseling students greatly strengthens the educational experience.
Laura Conway and Kathleen Valverde stay actively involved with the professional development of the genetic counseling profession locally and nationally, holding numerous leadership positions in the NSGC, ACGC, and the AGCPD. For nearly a decade they worked to establish licensure for genetic counselors in Pennsylvania, and in 2012 were invited to Harrisburg to witness the signing of the legislation. Faculty members are currently involved with the Pennsylvania Association of Genetic Counselors and in regular meetings of Philadelphia-area genetic counselors. Kathleen Valverde and Laura Conway are also the co-Academic Directors of the Online Review Course in Medical Genetics and Genetic Counseling (ORC) for the ABGC board exam. As such they are at the forefront of developments in genetic counseling education.
Kathleen Valverde and Laura Conway attend the licensure bill signing in Harrisburg Read More
Professor Laura Conway receives the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015 Read More
The Genetic Counseling House
The Genetic Counseling House serves as the center of the Genetic Counseling Program. The free-standing house located just across Church Road from Arcadia’s main campus is home base for our students, especially during the first year, when they attend class here three days a week. Second year students have one class day here per week, with a second class day at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The house is set up for full use by the students, who have access 24/7. The faculty offices are on the second floor, and there is space for group activities, quiet study, computers, research materials, meals and relaxation too. It’s the place to meet with faculty and classmates and to obtain information about conferences, job announcements and other opportunities. Recent graduates gather here on the weekends to study for the board exam. Amenities include:
24/7 Access. Many students choose to study here after class or on the weekends.
Easy access to program faculty—their offices are just upstairs.
Common area with computers (and plenty of comfortable seating)
Access to printing, faxing and scanning
Two small student offices with computers for private phone calls and quiet study
An eat-in kitchen equipped with a refrigerator and microwave
Through the Arcadia Genetic Counseling Program, students have access to premier clinical and research centers across the Delaware Valley. Internships and practica take students into a diverse array of settings, from academic research centers to specialty clinics, commercial labs, advocacy organizations and community hospitals. Students learn from expert clinicians and researchers as well as from families, children and advocates living with genetic disease.
Genetic Counseling students have quick access to all of the facilities, activities, and services on the main campus. (Link to interactive map) From lush Haber Green to the award-winning Landman Library, Arcadia's main campus offers plenty of space for recreation and study. The Commons is home to The Chat grill and deli plus ample meeting and lounge space for students. The Kuch Athletic Center features a fitness center, a gym and a pool. Grey Towers Castle provides meeting space for many Genetic Counseling events, in addition to housing the offices of the President, Provost, Admissions, Financial Aid, and more. The Templeton Bookstore, the Arcadia Theater, the Art Gallery, the Dining Hall, the Student Health Center, the Writing Center, the campus post office and the Easton Café are all just minutes away.
Arcadia University’s 81-acre campus in Glenside, Pa., is the former private estate of the late sugar refiner William Welsh Harrison. Since its purchase in 1929, Harrison’s land has been transformed into a thriving academic community in metropolitan Philadelphia.
All accepted students are eligible for partial-tuition scholarships for Genetic Counseling students. Upon acceptance into the program, students will be reviewed automatically for these scholarships, which are based upon financial need and academic achievement and are renewable for two years. For the last four years incoming students have each received a scholarship averaging $7,500 per academic year. Scholarship decisions are made by the department faculty and notification of any scholarship award is included with the acceptance letter. For more information on graduate financial aid: http://www.arcadia.edu/admissions/financial-aid-scholarships/graduate-students/scholarships-assistantships
The Eileen B. Wolfe Scholarship Award in Genetic Counseling, endowed by Eileen B. Wolfe, a graduate of the class of 2000, is awarded to an incoming graduate student each year who identifies as being of African or African-American descent. The recipient will demonstrate financial need as well as a commitment to both academic excellence and the field of genetic counseling.
Additional Program Scholarships and Awards
The program has benefitted from external funding including grants, fund-raising, and awards. Thanks to our additional revenue sources we provide scholarships, assistance for second year students to attend the NSGC conference, and small research stipends for student thesis projects. Philadelphia hosts major scientific conferences annually, and the program has also been able to support student attendance at those.
During the spring of their first year, students can apply for a series of scholarships and fellowships specifically for Arcadia University and Arcadia Genetic Counseling students, including the LEND Fellowship, the Marie Barr Award and the Ellington Beavers Awards. In addition, all students are eligible for thesis research small-grant funding and statistical support.
In addition to scholarships, graduate assistantships are available. Select students are automatically awarded graduate assistantships in the Genetic Counseling Department upon acceptance, but any full-time graduate student may apply for a position working eight hours per week for another university department such as Biology, the Office of Sponsored Research, Admissions or Student Affairs.
With so many hospitals and research centers in the Philadelphia area connected to our program, students also have an exceptional network to find part-time work as clinical and research assistants and interns. Approximately half of our first and second year students are currently taking advantage of this opportunity. In the past, many of these positions have transitioned into full time jobs upon graduation.
Students are also encouraged to contact external organizations to apply for additional scholarships. In the event that you are awarded an outside scholarship, you should send a copy of your award notification to the Arcadia University Financial Aid Office.
The Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), has approved transfer of accreditation for the Genetic Counseling program from Arcadia University to the University of Pennsylvania. For more information, visit the ACGC website www.gceducation.org. The Arcadia/University of Pennsylvania program has full accreditation through 2024.