Career Clusters: STEM

What you need to know

What is a geneticist?

Geneticists study genes from plants, animals, and humans to determine how genes interact with each other, evolve, and duplicate.

What does a geneticist do?

Geneticists usually work in laboratories to study genetic material. They use both standard equipment, such as microscopes, and more advanced tools, such as DNA scanners. Some equipment is designed for gene therapy and gene manipulation procedures.

Geneticists also pore over vast amounts of data with the help of computers and special software.

Some of the things a geneticist might do:

  • Plan and conduct complex projects in basic and applied research
  • Manage laboratory teams and monitor the quality of their work
  • Isolate, analyze, and synthesize proteins, fats, DNA, and other molecules
  • Research the effects of substances such as drugs, hormones, and nutrients on tissues and biological processes
  • Review literature and the findings of other researchers and attend conferences
  • Prepare technical reports, research papers, and recommendations based on their research findings
  • Present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues
  • Secure funding and write grant applications

Watch this video to learn more about what our geneticist role models do:

What skills are needed?
  • Analytical skills. Geneticists must be able to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision.
  • Communication skills. Geneticists have to write and publish reports and research papers, give presentations of their findings, and communicate clearly with team members.
  • Critical-thinking skills. Geneticists draw conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.
  • Interpersonal skills. Geneticists typically work on interdisciplinary research teams and need to work well with others toward a common goal. Many serve as team leaders and must be able to motivate and direct other team members.
  • Math skills. Geneticists use complex equations and formulas regularly in their work. They need a broad understanding of math, including calculus and statistics.
  • Perseverance. Geneticists need to be thorough in their research and in their approach to problems. Scientific research involves substantial trial and error, and biochemists and biophysicists must not become discouraged in their work.
  • Problem-solving skills. Geneticists use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex scientific problems.
  • Time-management skills. Geneticists usually need to meet deadlines when conducting research. They must be able to manage time and prioritize tasks efficiently while maintaining their quality of work.

Watch this video to learn more about what skills are needed to be a successful geneticist:

How much does a geneticist make?

The average pay for all biochemists and biophysicists, including geneticists, in the United States was $107,460 in May 2023 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A geneticist’s pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

About 2,800 new job openings for all biochemists and biophysicists, including geneticists, are projected each year, on average, over the next 10 years in the United States.

Overall employment of all biochemists and biophysicists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2022 to 2032 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

Geneticists will continue to be needed to do basic research that increases scientific knowledge and to research and develop biological products and processes that improve people’s lives.

The aging population will drive demand for new drugs and procedures to cure and to prevent disease. In addition, these researchers will continue to study topics that advance our capabilities related to clean energy, efficient food production, and environmental protection.

How to become a geneticist

There are a few different options for geneticists based on your education level. At the minimum, you will need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree and some major options include:

Bachelor’s and master’s degree holders are qualified for some entry-level positions in biochemistry and biophysics.

Study at the master’s level is generally considered good preparation for those interested in doing hands-on laboratory work. Ph.D.-level studies provide additional training in the planning and execution of research projects.

Geneticists need a Ph.D. to work in independent research-and-development positions. Most Ph.D. holders begin their careers in temporary postdoctoral research positions. 

Ph.D. programs typically include advanced coursework in topics such as toxicology, genetics, and proteomics (the study of proteins). Several graduate programs include courses in bioinformatics, which involves using computers to study and analyze large amounts of biological data. Graduate students also spend a lot of time conducting laboratory research. 

Watch this video to learn more about how to become a geneticist from our role models: