The American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) grants accreditation to genetic counselling graduate programs that meet or exceed their required criteria. The accreditation of programs ensures that the educational standards and professional expectations of the field are met. Through accreditation evaluation, the quality of programs remains consistent across the different institutions in the US and Canada. Consistent programming better prepares graduate students for the certification exams which are administered by the ABGC. Accredited programs foster the development of highly competent and qualified genetic counselling graduates entering the workforce.
While it is not necessary to have attended an accredited program to be hired as a genetic counsellor, employers are looking for professional certification from the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) or the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC). In order to be eligible to obtain these certifications specific course-work and clinical experience criteria must be met. Programs that are accredited by the ABGC have been specifically structured to ensure that their graduates meet these criteria and are eligible to sit the ABGC/CAGC board exams to obtain certification. Graduates from non-ABGC accredited programs may have to seek additional experience before becoming eligible to take the board exams.
Acceptance into a ABGC-accredited genetic counselling graduate program is highly competitive. This is largely due to the very limited number of new students accepted each year, especially in Canada. The class sizes range between 3 to 25 students each year, dependent upon the institution (at the time of this writing). Schools typically receive about 80 to 125 applications each year (at the time of this writing).
For the institutions listed below, *(X) indicates the approximate number of new students accepted into that program each year. These numbers are according to the various program websites around Dec 2014. Please consult the schools websites for the most up-to-date information.
Current Institutions (as of Dec 2014) with an ABGC Accredited Genetic Counselling Program in CANADA:
- University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC) *(6)
- University of Toronto (Toronto, ON) *(4)
- McGill University (Montreal, QC) *(4)
Current Institutions (as of Dec 2014) with an ABGC Accredited Genetic Counselling Program in the UNITED STATES:
- University of Alabama at Birmingham *(5-6)
- University of Arkansas *(5-6)
- University of California , Irvine *(4-6)
- California State University – Stanislaus (SF Bay Area) *(9)
- Stanford University *(7)
- University of Colorado Denver *(6)
- Howard University *(not stated)
- Emory University *(10)
- Northwestern University *(8-10)
- Indiana University *(6)
- Johns Hopkins University/National Human Genome Research Institute *(5)
- University of Maryland *(4-6)
- Boston University *(7-8)
- Brandeis University *(8-10)
- University of Michigan *(6)
- Wayne State University *(6)
- University of Minnesota *(6-7)
- Long Island University – CW Post *(not stated)
- Mt. Sinai School of Medicine *(6)
- Sarah Lawrence College *(25)
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro *(6-8)
- Case Western Reserve University *(4)
- University of Cincinnati *(12-13)
- University of Oklahoma *(not stated)
- Arcadia University *(12)
- University of Pittsburgh *(7-10)
- University of South Carolina *(6-7)
- University of Texas at Houston *(7)
- University of Utah *(6-7)
- University of Wisconsin-Madison *(not stated)
- Virginia Commonwealth University *(not stated)
There are some overseas international programs, beyond the USA, for genetic counselling but they are not accredited by the ABGC. Additionally, there are some international programs that are only 1 year and graduates receive a diploma in genetic counselling, rather than a Master’s degree. For graduates of a 2-year Master’s program, it is possible for them to return to Canada or the United States to practice. However, it can be a difficult process since their experience may not meet the criteria of the ABGC/CAGC and certification would be harder to obtain. To practice in Canada or the US, these individuals would still need to pass the ABGC/CAGC board exams to become certified.