While the roles are similar, genetic nurses and genetic counselors do have some differences; mainly, the education required.

Genetic nurses are nurses with either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing. In some cases, a master's degree with a concentration in genetics is required. Nurses can even further their education and become certified in the specialty.

Genetic counselors are usually master's-prepared clinicians who have earned their degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling. The curriculum includes courses in topics such as:

  • Molecular genetics
  • Genetic testing
  • Prenatal genetic counseling
  • Pediatric genetic counseling
  • Genetic counseling capstone project

The patient care approach may also differ. Nurses are trained as caregivers and nurturers. Genetic nurses are unique in that they bring the nursing process to the field of genetics:

  • Assessing family history, risk factors, and genetic predisposition to disease
  • Creating a nursing diagnosis
  • Developing an individualized plan of care for families
  • Implementing or facilitating the plan of care
  • Assessing the outcome to interventions (for example, a patient's response to medications)

Nurses are also more holistic in their approach; not just focusing on the physical needs of patients, but on the psychological and spiritual needs as well, and include family and other social support systems as well.

In terms of pay, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that genetic counselors earn a median salary of $77,480, compared to registered nurses in general ($70,000). Additionally, the job prospects for genetic counselors is slightly more promising, with a reported 29% growth by 2026. Registered nurse jobs are expected to grow by only 15%. Of course, this data can vary depending on the state and city of employment, as well as experience.

Both disciplines help to assist families when they are faced with difficult decisions or diagnoses, and both are highly qualified to take care of patients in need of genetic counseling.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
Latest posts by Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN (see all)
  • Nurse Manager Leadership Recommendations for Staff Engagement and Success - January 2, 2018

Our Visitors Found These Nursing Topics Useful

Writing or Obtaining the Perfect Nurse Recommendation Letter

Landing the perfect nursing position is an incredible accomplishment in a nurse's career. Many nurses have a specific "dream job" that they hope to achieve and do whatever they can to stand out from the crowd to earn an interview…

Immune system icon with plus sign shield warding off viruses

8 Ways Nurses Can Boost Their Immune Systems In Times Of Stress

Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, nurses are working under more stressful conditions than ever before. Some nurses worry about not having proper PPE, as well as the potential of a wave of COVID-19 patients arriving on their unit at any…

What Does it Mean for a Nurse to Sign a Consent for Surgery Form?

The duties of the preoperative or perianesthesia nurse include many specific tasks that may affect outcomes for the surgical patient. Initially, registered nurses conduct a preoperative (pre-op) phone or in-person assessment and triage to ensure all the appropriate lab work,…

The Importance of the Nurse-Patient Relationship for Patient Care

Taking care of patients can be rewarding and fulfilling. However, sometimes it can also be emotionally and physically draining. Nurses work in patient care, but also in customer service. Maintaining a professional, courteous interpersonal relationship can be challenging. However, it…

Beyond the Bedside: Nurse Navigator

Nurses have numerous options beyond caring for patients in a hospital setting. Communities need nurses throughout the continuum of care; from preventive health services to complex disease states. When patients and their families are facing a health crisis, nurses are…