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Geneticist

Genetics is a branch of biology that studies the inheritance of physical traits of living things and how they are passed down through generations. It is a fascinating, rapidly evolving and hugely rewarding branch of science and medicine.

Alternative job titles for this role

  • Biomedical scientist
  • Genetic engineer
  • Genetic technologist
  • Molecular biologist

Introduction

Geneticists study the science of heredity – the passing on of inherited traits from a parent or ancestor to children through genes – and variations of organisms. Research is a major part of a geneticist’s work. They conduct experiments to determine the origin, mechanisms and governing laws of particular inherited traits. They also seek out determinants (such as disease resistance) responsible for certain traits. If they obtain a medical degree they can treat patients with genetic disorders. 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 counselling, in managing a hereditary disease or in teaching a new crop of future geneticists.

What the job involves

  • Lab research
  • Review, approve or interpret genetic lab results.
  • Analyse genetic data to draw conclusions and publish research
  • Extract DNA or perform diagnostic tests
  • Communicate results of findings, for instance at conferences or in scientific journals
  • Supervise or direct the work of other geneticists, biologists, technicians, or biometricians working on genetics research projects.

How your career can develop

Geneticists working in research facilities, hospitals, universities can progress to be responsible for setting up and carrying out experiments and spearheading new research. Some manufacturing companies employ geneticists to work on research and development so a shift to industry is also a possibility, especially crops and livestock research. Medical genetic scientists and genetic consultants would be responsible for advising on the diagnosis and treatment of inherited conditions.

Why it matters

Geneticists in China have discovered the secret for creating rice varieties that could improve breakfast, lunch and dinner for tens for tens of millions of people. Two teams of molecular geneticists, working independently, have identified a gene that controls both shape and texture and can be selected for without sacrificing the yield of the crop.

Skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Abstract thinking (complex concepts)
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork and communication skills

Typical employers

  • Hospitals
  • Research institutes
  • Industry, especially pharmaceutical sector
  • Agriculture
  • Biotechnology sector

Typical salary

  • Graduate/Starting €33,000
  • Senior/Potential €75,000+ after 10 years

Typical qualifications

Geneticists can begin working in an entry-level research role such as a laboratory assistant, usually with a bachelor’s degree focused on genetics and/or biology. Oher areas of study such as microbiology, biochemistry, biotechnology, forensics and bioinformatics/biostatistics may also be relevant. Students can also find an entry route through studying a related PLC or diploma course and may further progress onto degree level. For those wishing to lead research or become a faculty member in a university or college, a doctoral level qualification
(PhD) in genetics would usually be required. Many geneticists are experienced in programming languages such as Java, Perl, C, C++, Python and SQL.