A genetic technologist is one who examines and draws conclusions from an individual's genetic information. This information is generally contained in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), the primary units of storage and transportation of genetic data, respectively. Most genetic technologists work in genetics labs on various projects relating to human health, but other focuses such as forensics are also possible. Genetic technology is very important in medical settings because of the ever-increasing emphasis on personalized medicine. A genetic technologist can, in some cases, use specific genetic cues to determine the best courses of treatment for patients on an individual basis.
There are many different options for one considering a career as a genetic technologist. Medical laboratories in specialized fields such as cytogenetics, molecular anatomy, and cardiovascular medicine can all benefit from the expertise of an experienced genetic technologist. One may also find jobs in teaching, administrative, or technical roles based on one's particular interests and areas of expertise. Outside of medical professions, genetic technology is sometimes used in forensics to link crime scene evidence or tissue samples to specific individuals. Consulting work is also an option for skilled genetic technologists who desire the greater freedom of self-employment.
A genetic technologist may be called upon to perform a wide variety of different tasks based on the specific nature of his workplace. One may, for example, be responsible for determining parentage or for matching tissue and organ donors to patients. Sometimes genetic technology can be used to diagnose diseases that have specific genetic markers or that are inherited from parents. The application of genetics in the area of personal identification extends beyond criminal forensics and may be used in such tasks as identifying disaster or war victims. Overall, it is a highly varied field of study that has many applications.
One who is interested in a career as a genetic technologist should generally pursue an undergraduate degree in some field of science relating to biology. Some schools have programs specifically focused on laboratory science. These programs can often be highly beneficial and relevant because a great deal of the work that a genetic technologist does is laboratory work. Beyond college education, some scientific institutes offer certification programs specific to genetic technology. These programs focus on teaching and refining the laboratory techniques that are specifically relevant and useful in the field of genetic technology and provide certification indicating that the certified individual is skilled in those techniques.