STEM Career Spotlight: Geneticist

Some children look like one parent, while others look like both parents; some siblings practically look like identical twins, while other siblings couldn't look more different. Why are some genes passed down through generations, while others aren't? Ask a geneticist.

A geneticist studies genes and tries to understand how characteristics are inherited by a new generation of a species. Why might someone be interested in such a field? Geneticists are working to tell us how we can decrease the chances of a child inheriting a genetic disease. They work with agriculture to create plants with new genes, such as ones that resist drought; some work in the law field, using their genetics background to mold new laws regarding the production of genes. A geneticist understands and works with genes, but in what context he or she works with genes is able to be defined individually.

A student interested in genetics should consider taking biology and chemistry courses in high school. In college, it may be possible to major in genetics. If a college or university does not offer genetics as a major, a budding geneticist should consider biology, biochemistry, or chemistry as fields of study. If research is in the future, statistics is also an important course to take. Many geneticists go on to earn either a master's or doctorate in genetics, though not all choose this course of action. It is also possible to earn a dual M.D./Ph.D. for genetics, allowing geneticists to do broader medical work.

According to, the average geneticist in the United States earns $55,080-$82,620 per year. However that number varies greatly among geneticists with bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees. Good news: according to a Georgetown University study of the economics of college majors entitled "What's It Worth?" 99 percent of genetics majors are employed after graduation.