For further information, please contact Marj Haanstad of Genetics Graduate Admissions.
It is with pleasure that I welcome you to our Web site and introduce you to the Genetic Counseling Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Genetic counseling is an exciting profession that combines advanced education in human, molecular, and medical genetics with skills and experience in counseling.
Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Most enter the field from a variety of disciplines, including biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, public health, and social work.
Genetic counselors work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. They identify families at risk, investigate the problem present in the family, interpret information about the disorder, analyze inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence, and review available options with the family.
Genetic counselors also provide supportive counseling to families, serve as patient advocates, and refer individuals and families to community or state support services. They serve as educators and resource people for other health care professionals and for the general public. Some counselors also work in administrative capacities. Many engage in research activities related to the field of medical genetics and genetic counseling.
- The NSGC Web site
If you wish further information about careers in genetic counseling, you may contact the National Society of Genetic Counselors Executive Office at 233 Canterbury Drive, Wallingford, PA, 19086-6617.
The University of Wisconsin offers a Masters degree in Medical Genetics specifically designed to train genetic counselors. We hope that after you read the information that follows, you will find that our program meets your needs.
Catherine Reiser MS CGC
Director, Genetic Counseling Program Director
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Rm 333 Waisman Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
Madison, a city of about 200,000, is the state capital and Wisconsin's second largest city. It consistently ranks as one of the most desirable American cities in which to live. It has three lakes: Mendota, Monona, and Wingra. The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is located on Lake Mendota on acres of rolling hills and scattered woods. Both the city and the University sponsor numerous concerts, recitals, fairs, plays, and sporting events. Madison also offers a great variety of high quality restaurants.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison ranks among the nation's top universities. Outside sources have traditionally identified UW-Madison as one of the leading institutions in the nation for educational quality.
The Laboratory of Genetics is the oldest and one of the finest genetics centers in the nation. It is highly regarded for its research contributions in the areas of plant genetics, population genetics, developmental genetics, molecular genetics, immunogenetics, neurogenetics, cytogenetics, viral genetics, bacterial genetics, mammalian genetics, behavioral genetics, and medical genetics. The Laboratory consists of two departments: Genetics, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; and Medical Genetics, in the School of Medicine. Although they are administratively distinct, these two departments function as one at both the faculty and student levels.
Students admitted to the Medical Genetics MS program (Genetic Counseling) at UW-Madison gain counseling skills and a genetic knowledge base that prepares them for the genetic counseling profession. The curriculum includes a carefully structured sequence of courses and practicum experiences in clinical genetics and counseling that are scheduled over approximately 21 months. Students participate in courses such as Theory and Practice of Interviewing, Family Stress and Coping, Human Genetics, Embryology and Cancer Genetics. Clinical skills are acquired by active participation in diverse clinical rotations throughout both years of training. Clinical rotations include the Bone Dysplasia Clinic, Biochemical Genetics Clinic, General Genetics Clinic, Prenatal Clinics, Oncology Clinics and specialty clinics such as Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, Neurofibromatosis Clinic and Sickle Cell Clinic. Upon completion of the program, students will have earned an M.S. degree in Medical Genetics and will be eligible to sit for the national certifying exam sponsored by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.
Over 100 counselors have trained in our program since its inception in 1976. We admit only five applicants each year to assure that each student has a stimulating experience sufficient clinical participation to qualify for ABGC certification. Clinical experiences are supervised by certified Genetic Counselors and Medical Geneticists. The program is accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.
The Genetic Counseling Training Program is administered through the Laboratory of Genetics, one of the oldest and most respected genetics centers in the nation. The program is located at the Waisman Center, whose mission is to advance knowledge about human development, developmental disabilities and neurodegenerative through research, training, service and outreach.
Acceptance for admission to the Medical Genetics MS program (Genetic Counseling) requires approval by the Graduate School and by the Medical Genetics Department. Students should have a strong background in biology, basic genetics, biochemistry, and one semester of calculus or statistics.
Applications for admission received by February 1 are evaluated by the Genetic Counseling Admissions Committee of the Medical Genetics Department. Selection for a mandatory preadmission interview is based on a careful review of the complete file of the applicant that includes the online application, the applicant's description of personal experiences and reasons for applying for study in genetic counseling, resume, transcripts, overall grade point average, grade point average in science courses completed, percentile scores on graduate record examinations, and at least three letters of recommendation. We require the verbal, quantitative, and writing sections of the general GRE. We prefer that letters of recommendation are written by teachers, supervisors of advocacy experiences, or researchers.
To help us with the difficult task of assessing your potential as a genetic counselor, your reasons for graduate study essay must summarize your perception of what a genetic counselor does, and your reasons for choosing this field of study. Be sure to include a description of any related experiences, volunteer or paid, that you feel have prepared you for this profession. The essay should be no longer than three pages. Be aware that admission to master’s degree programs in genetic counseling is very competitive nationally. We carefully evaluate your statement for indications of maturity (which is not a simple reflection of age) and readiness for graduate study. Please prepare your statement thoughtfully.
The final admissions selection will be made from among those applicants who are invited to and complete an interview.
For more complete details about the admission process and requirements, please explore our web site at How to Apply
We realize that the cost of graduate training is high. Although we have no financial aid specifically designated for students in the Genetic Counseling Program, students are often successful in obtaining student teaching assistantships or project assistantships.
In fact, for the last five years, interested students have held such positions for at least two of their four semesters of residence. Current compensation for a TA or PA is full tuition waiver (resident and non-resident), a monthly stipend and insurance benefits. We also use program monies to at least partially fund student travel to professional regional and national meetings.
The University maintains unfurnished apartments on campus near Lake Mendota for married graduate students and simply furnished apartments for single graduate students. Most students select from a wide variety of rooms and apartments that are available in Madison off campus where rates vary considerably. Information on off-campus housing may be obtained from Visitors and Information Programs.