Genetics is a subset in biology where genes, heredity, mutation, genetic variation and the roles of genetics in aging and disease is studied. There are also several branches of genetics. A person who studies genetics is known as a geneticist while an environmental geneticist studies how environmental factors interact with genes to cause the various diseases or the adaptation of species to it.
What does a geneticist do?
Some of the things that geneticists do include:
- Study the inheritance of traits focusing on a molecular, organism, or population level
- Conduct experiments to determine the origin, mechanisms, and laws of inherited traits
- Analyzing determinants responsible for specific traits to understand the relationships between hereditary and factors such as fertility and maturity
- Treating patients who have a genetic disorder
- Trying to understand how certain environmental factors interact with genes to cause illness or disease
- Develop new methods to modify or generate new traits using chemicals, radiation, or any other means
- Genetic counseling
- Teaching future geneticists
Branches of Genetics
There are a few branches of genetics that the geneticist can specialize in. Each specialization has its own unique and interesting challenges. For example:
- Agriculture – Geneticists in this field aim to increase crop yield and to learn about the resistance to all the different diseases that usually affects valuable crops.
- Biomedicine – Analyzing the genetic origin of certain diseases so medication can be created to target the causes of these disorders. They may also seek to invent new treatment for genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia and more.
- Forensics – DNA tests can be used to verify if a suspect is guilty or innocent.
- Archaeology / history – A geneticist may be called to assist in the analyzing of ancient organic matter.
- Bioinformatics – A combination of computer science and biology, a geneticist in this field may be involved in analyzing information such as in the human genome project.
Regardless of what the geneticist specializes in, most still perform similar tasks such as planning and conducting research. They also keep notes that record their methodology, procedures and results while results are analyzed via mathematical and statistical methods. Geneticists are in an ever-evolving field and must keep up with current technology such as new methods, tools, and findings from other scientists. Grant writing and fund-raising are almost a must as it is needed to fund their projects while academic journal articles are written and published so their findings can be shared and presented to their other peers in the same field.
Place of work
Geneticists can work anywhere depending on the field they specialize in. For example:
- Research geneticists – work in the lab or research facility
- Medical geneticists – work in hospitals, medical facilities, or biotechnological facilities
- Academics – work at learning institutions such as colleges and universities
On average, geneticists in the United States earn approximately $52,200 - $83,430 per year.
Currently, there is no predicted change for the demand of geneticists in the field and the competition for basic research positions will remain strong. It is predicted that growth will only be likely if there are advances in big data and hyper-computing that necessitates the analysis of genetic and ecological data. Opportunities for environmental geneticists will also increase if there is more interest in the environment and focus on medical genetics.
Pursuing the Career
Those interested in pursuing this career should major in genetics, biology, environmental science, or any other related disciplines. The most important courses to have a career in environmental genetics are biology, population biology, ecology, chemistry, math, statistics, and computer science. Although a bachelor’s degree is enough for an entry level job, the advancement and long-term prospects necessitates advance study and continued professional development. Independent research positions or academic positions in genetics will generally require a doctoral degree.