What Does a Geneticist Do?

Genetics and Geneticists 101

What is Genetics?

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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

Geneticists are leaders in biology and are directly involved in unlocking some of the secrets of life. A geneticist has many roles such as putting together the puzzles of heredity and DNA. They spend most of their life looking for the answers to one to several specific questions and are incredibly dedicated to their work. With this devotion, the field of genetics has thrived, advanced, and progressed throughout the years.

Where Does a Geneticist work?

Most geneticists are drawn to the fields of medicine, agriculture, and crime. With these three fields geneticists have a good chance of finding employment in government, universities, biorepository or biobanks, and major pharmaceutical companies. These three fields can be closely related in terms of research. This means that geneticists can make a lot of useful contacts within the industry regardless of specialization. Generally, there are two types of geneticists:

  •  Laboratory geneticist – the field that most geneticists choose to enter. This role involves the application of genetic technologies.

  • Genetic counselor – a field where geneticists work as consultants or as a nurse. This role involves working closely with parents who are at risk of conceiving children with birth defects. They also play a crucial part in consulting with healthcare and insurance companies regarding new medical technologies.

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.


a)       There are several applications of genetics in a variety of fields. More are expected to become prevalent with the progression of technology and new research. The major fields involved in genetics are crime, medicine, and agriculture. Geneticists working at pharmaceutical companies help to uncover birth defects, the origin of diseases, developing prevention techniques, and even therapy. 

b)      With the population increase, there are no more people to feed in the world. This also means that it is important for the supply to meet the demand of the people. Geneticists in the agricultural specialty strive to develop and improve crops that can grow in harsh conditions, yield more produce, or increase the size of the produce itself. 

c)       Geneticists, with the advancement of technology, now have a better understanding of the DNA from tissue samples and are now applying it to their knowledge of solving crimes. Geneticists are able to be laboratory detectives with DNA sampling to ensure that the right perpetrator is convicted of the crime.

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.

Demand for Geneticists?

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.

Qualifications of a Geneticist

To be a geneticist, extensive study at bachelor level is most often required. Most commonly  a Bachelor of Science in chemistry or biology is sought. However, any physical science will be accepted as long as it is paired with a minor in biology. There are very few positions available to those with only a Bachelor of Science. Most of these are lab assistant positions which lack the same upward mobility. A master’s in the field of genetics would be helpful but those looking for authority in research and development should acquire a Ph.D. or M.D. Generally, four to six years after the completion of an undergraduate degree is spent taking advanced science classes and conducting personal research projects. These are done with grants from pharmaceutical companies, universities, or the government. This project will be one of the main points in the resume and will play a major role in the hiring decision making process. Fresh graduates usually enter the company as a lab or research assistant. However, those with more advanced degrees will move faster through the ranks to develop new technologies and methods.

Pursuing a Career in Genetics

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.

What is a Geneticist’s Salary?

On average a geneticists salary is comparatively high. A person new to the field, with less than five years experience can expect a salary in the range of $70,000. The more experience the higher the geneticist salary becomes. $70,000 is a really competitive starting salary and a geneticists salary can go well into the 6-figure range with more experience.


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