What is a Geneticist?
Geneticists are basically biologists who specialize in the science of genetics. This is a branch of biology that deals with the characteristics of the different organisms, the development of such characteristics, and how these characteristics are passed on to their progeny.
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What does a Geneticist do?
Research is one thing all geneticists do in common. They study how different life forms vary and how these variations are passed on to succeeding generations. This requires them to conduct experiments in order to determine the origin, mechanisms, and governing laws of particular inherited traits.
Geneticists also seek out determinants (such as disease resistance, size, and color differences) responsible for certain traits. They do this through careful analysis in order to gain understanding of the various relationships between heredity and factors like fertility and maturity.
Depending on where they work, geneticists might then develop methods to modify or generate new traits through the use of chemicals, radiation, or other means, or to use what they learn in genetic counseling, in managing a hereditary disease, or in teaching a new crop of future geneticists.
What does it take to be a Geneticist?
Because genetics is a graduate level course, people start off as biologists on the road to becoming geneticists. They might also begin as professionals of one of the subfields of biology, like botany or zoology. Those who are medical geneticists start off as medical doctors who then specialize in genetics. Some specialize even further into various genetics subfields like biochemical genetics or molecular genetics pathology.
In high school, prospective geneticists should have excellent foundation and grades not just in science but also in mathematics. Their college education will be heavy on these particular fields. The fact that genetics is a graduate level course should not be a deterrent for them.
Because this profession entails a lot of research even for those who work at educational institutions, patience, perseverance, and attention to detail are important traits to develop. They should also be innately curious about the implications of genetics on the health and disease. All the information gathered should also be communicated clearly to minimize mistakes or misunderstanding. This makes having good communication skills, both oral and written, essential.
Most schools do not offer an undergraduate genetics program. Those interested in this career major in Biology, Molecular Biology, or some other similar course. They then proceed to graduate programs (Masters and Doctorates degrees) in genetics. However, a medical geneticist goes into medicine first before he or she may specialize in genetics.
What is the workplace of a Geneticist like?
The workplace depends on the type of work being done. Most research geneticists work in the laboratory of a research facility. On rare occasions, some may go to the field to extract samples. This, however, is usually done for them by others.
Medical geneticists might work in a hospital, a medical research facility, or a biotechnological research company. Many who continue to practice medicine work at both places. Their research work may also require them to work in these places in order to link medical practice with medical research on genetics and heredity.
The laboratory of a research facility, medical or biotechnological, is a very clean and sterile environment. Such labs are filled some of the latest technological advances in analyzing an organism’s genome. Banks of computers are also present to properly keep track of data gathered and to make mathematical calculations.
Of course, professors teach at various learning institutions. Most work at colleges with biology departments with strong concentrations in genetics. Research may also be conducted by these learning institutions, and it is quite common to see biology and chemistry laboratories in such schools conducting genetic research.
How much does a Geneticist earn?
The salary varies depending on whether one is employed in research, counseling, education, or medicine. On the average, those paid the highest are the ones who work in medical genetics, closely followed by those in genetics research for biotechnological companies. These are followed by those working as counselors and professors in graduate schools. The lower end of the spectrum consists of those working as technologists and research associates.
Some of the highest paid geneticists have six-figure annual salaries. They do research work for large multinational firms or corporations that deal with biotechnology. The salary range though for those in research range from approximately $60,000 to almost $100,000. Some earn as much as $230,000 a year. Comparatively speaking, researchers who work for the government earn less than those who work in the private sector.
Medical geneticists who are also medical doctors are paid more on the average. Their starting salary is about $90,000. This can then go as high as about $125,000. This is only fair considering the amount of responsibility they face and their educational background, which starts with pre-med courses during college followed by medicine, then ultimately specializing in genetics. Those paid really high among them have taken further subspecialties in molecular genetics pathology or medical biochemical genetics.
Genetics counselors and professors have similar salaries, with professors earning a little bit more. Those in genetics counseling earn $53,000 on the average. Assistant professors earn a bit more ($54,000) while associate professors earn an average of $64,000. Full professors earn about $84,000. Incidentally, biotech technical writers earn considerably more compared to others in genetics education with the exception of full professors. They are paid an average of $75,000.
Those who basically assist other geneticists have the lowest salary among geneticists. This is approximately $45,000 for the molecular biology research associate and $42,000 for the cytogenetic technologist. The average salary of those who are employed by private companies is higher than those employed by government institutions. A biological science technician employed by the US Federal government earns around $38,000 a year.
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