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How do I Become a Genetic Scientist?

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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2016
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Genetic scientists unravel the mysteries of DNA and genetics. The job might entail locating, analyzing, and decoding genes and genetic mapping. To become a genetic scientist, you generally will need a college degree, a post-graduate degree, and a medical degree in some cases.

In order to become a genetic scientist, it is helpful to get a college degree in chemistry or biology. Having an undergraduate biology or chemistry major is advantageous in that these majors will prepare you for the more rigorous science study that you will do in graduate school. Also, getting good grades and having a high grade point average (GPA) overall in college can be very helpful in convincing a graduate program that you have the science knowledge and academic potential to succeed in graduate school.

Typically, application for graduate school occurs during the last semester of college. If you want to become a genetic scientist, it is generally recommended that you pursue the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in genetics because there are comparatively fewer jobs for those with less than a doctoral education. The Ph.D. in genetics usually takes from four to six years and includes courses such as biochemistry, biomedical ethics, biophysics, chemical systems biology, comparative medicine, and a dissertation on a genetics-related topic.

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If you want to become a genetic scientist, it may also be desirable to attend medical school to get the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree to supplement your understanding of genetics and give you additional career options. In fact, many genetic scientists have their MD degrees and it is not uncommon for genetic scientists to eventually leave their scientific lab work and actively pursue the practice of medicine with patients. If you are interested in going to medical school, it will be necessary to put together a medical school application and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which assesses your skills in science, writing, critical thinking, and problem solving. It can be important to do well on the MCAT because your MCAT scores will give medical schools a sense of whether you have the potential to do well in medical school.

Once you complete schooling and become a genetic scientist, you can choose from several potential career paths. For example, you could become a research genetic scientist who does research and college teaching at a university. You could work at a biotechnology company. Or, you could become a laboratory genetic scientist who works with a pharmaceutical company or with the police department in doing research to assist with crime investigations. By contrast, you could pursue a career as a medical geneticist or physician who specializes in diagnosing patients who have illnesses of genetic origin.

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