The Master of Science in Genetic Counseling is a five-semester, 21-month, full-time graduate program designed to provide students with the knowledge base and skills required of a successful practitioner.
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. 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 93% for students in our last five graduating classes.
National Recognition, Local Support
Arcadia's Genetic Counseling program is one of 41 accredited programs in North America. Established in 1995, the program has graduated over 240 students and is one of the largest programs in the country. 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.
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.
Degree Requirements and Curriculum
A minimum of 87 credits including coursework, practica, clinical internships, and thesis.
Satisfactory completion of four clinical internships at approved sites with participation in at least 50 supervised cases.
A research paper (thesis) satisfactorily completed during the second year.
An overall minimum GPA of 3.0 maintained throughout the program. A grade below "C" is not acceptable in courses counting toward the degree.
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.
In addition to the general admission requirements, the following requirements must be met. All application materials must be in the Office of Enrollment Management by January 15.
All application documents, along with a $25 non-refundable application fee, must be submitted to the Office of Enrollment Management by January 15 of the year in which the applicant is seeking admission. Applicants must also register with the National Matching Service (NMS) before submitting their applications.
The NMS gives notification of admission to applicants by e-mail on the universal acceptance date in late April. Candidates who match with Arcadia's program will receive a letter and email shortly thereafter, and they are expected to reply by the date indicated in their notification. A $500 deposit must accompany the acceptance reply. This deposit is applied to the first semester tuition, and it is non-refundable if students fail to enter the program on the date for which they are accepted.
Books and supplies (estimated): Year one – $500; Year two – $400
Room and Board: Off Campus
Travel to clinic: Varies
Background checks and clinical clearances: ~$180
Upon enrollment into the program, all students must provide proof of medical insurance and information about their health and medical history. If needed, medical insurance can be purchased through the University. More information.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
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. The amount of the assistantship is $3,200 for the 2017-2018 academic year. Questions regarding graduate assistantships and employment should be directed to the Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies at 215-572-2925.
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.
For other questions about applying for financial aid, contact: Samantha Paone, Enrollment Management Counselor, Genetic Counseling, Arcadia University, 215-572-4034, paoneS@arcadia.edu.
Does Arcadia participate in the National Match Service (NMS) match?
The Arcadia University Genetic Counseling Program is participating in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match through the National Matching Services (NMS) beginning with admissions for students entering in the fall of 2018. All applicants must first register for the Match with NMS before applying to the program. Please visit the NMS website at https://natmatch.com/gcadmissions for detailed information and to register for the match.
When are applications due?
Applications are due on January 15 for the incoming class enrolling in September of the same calendar year.
How many students apply to Arcadia's program?
The Arcadia University Genetic Counseling program receives more than 125 applications per year, and our average class size is 14-16 students.
Can I visit Arcadia's Genetic Counseling program?
Graduate Open Houses are held three times a year in the months of April, August, and November. Other dates can be arranged by contacting the program director, Kathleen Valverde at email@example.com.
What is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) code for Arcadia?
Arcadia University's GRE code is 2039.
Whom should I ask for letters of recommendations?
Three personal letters of recommendation are required for admissions, including at least one from a college professor and one from a practicing genetic counselor or comparable health professional.
Where do I send applications and supporting documents?
Application forms can be completed on line. Supporting documents can be sent to Arcadia University, Enrollment Management Office, 450 S. Easton Road, Glenside, PA 19038-3295 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Official transcripts should be sent directly from the college or university to Arcadia.
Can I still apply even if I haven't finished all the pre-requisite courses?
Yes, applications will be reviewed from applicants who have not completed all of the pre-requisite courses, with the understanding that an accepted student must complete these courses before classes start in September. A form to list these courses is provided as part of the application.
Can I still apply if my GPA and GRE scores are below the recommended minimum?
We look for a minimum GPA of 3.3, and GRE scores of at least 150 on both the quantitative and verbal sections, and 4.0 on the analytical section. However, multiple factors are considered during the admissions process. The admissions committee weighs many variables when selecting a student, so students who do not have these minimum requirements are still welcome to apply.
What type of volunteer experience do I need?
The admissions committee would like to see that the applicant has observed some genetic counseling sessions prior to applying to the program. However, due to many constraints, shadowing opportunities are not available to all applicants. In lieu of genetic counseling observations, work in other health-related fields will be considered. Experience with some form of crisis counseling is also recommended.
Does Arcadia accept international students? If so, are there additional entrance exams?
The Arcadia Genetic Counseling program does admit international students. International applicants should visit www.arcadia.edu/international for detailed information on admission requirements and application procedures. Official results from the TOEFL or IELTS are required for all students for whom English is a second language, except for non-native speakers of English who hold degrees or diplomas from post-secondary institutions in English-speaking countries (e.g. the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand). A course-by-course evaluation of all transcripts by an independent evaluation service based in the United States also is required.
When will I be notified if I am offered an interview?
Invitations for interviews are emailed in mid-February with a list of our interview dates.
When do interviews take place?
Interviews are scheduled from late February through early April. Invited applicants will be instructed to contact the Genetic Counseling Department to schedule an interview.
When will I be notified whether I've been accepted to the program?
Notification of admission is made to applicants of all programs by the National Matching Service on the universal acceptance date in late spring. The date, usually the last Monday in April, is approved by the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD). In 2018, it is Monday, April 27th. Arcadia University’s office of enrollment management will send a letter of intent, and candidates are expected to reply by the date indicated in their notification.
Are scholarships or financial aid available to accepted students?
For the past five years, scholarships averaging $7,500 per student per year have been awarded to all accepted students. Students are eligible to apply for graduate assistantships which pay $14.29 per hour for eight hours per week and total $3,200 per academic year. All financial aid information will be clearly explained at interview sessions and in the acceptance materials.
Is the program full time?
Yes. The program is full time for five semesters, or 21 months, beginning in September with a break in July and August. Most students do work part time, typically eight hours per week, during the program as graduate assistants on campus or as laboratory or department assistants at our clinical sites.
Is there a thesis requirement?
Yes. Each student develops and conducts a thesis research project with the support of two thesis advisors. The projects are initiated in the second semester of the first year and written up as a thesis by the end of the second year. Many of these projects are subsequently submitted for publication and/or presentation at national meetings.
Arcadia University’s Master’s in Genetic Counseling program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), located at 4400 College Blvd., Ste. 220, Overland Park, KS 66211. ACGC can be reached by phone at 913.222.8668. For more information, visit the ACGC website www.gceducation.org. The Arcadia program has had full accreditation since 2000, and is currently accredited through 2024.