Drawing on resources from two outstanding research institutions, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Bloomberg School of Public Health have collaborated to develop the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program (GCTP), a competitive graduate program that addresses the growing need for genetic counseling services.
The accelerated discovery of disease and susceptibility genes made possible by the sequencing of the human genome has brought new and exciting challenges to the field of genetic counseling. The traditional emphasis of genetic counseling has been on providing information coupled with supportive counseling, primarily for people facing reproductive decisions. The field has broadened dramatically to address a multiplicity of emerging needs, ranging from clients seeking disease susceptibility testing to those wanting to know if a therapeutic treatment option is right for them. Therefore, genetic counselors must not only convey to these individuals and their families information about risks but also the consequences of testing and the potential for therapeutic intervention. These choices are laden with uncertainty and raise difficult ethical, legal and social issues.
Genetic information can have profound psychological meaning for clients, particularly for members of families affected by a genetic condition or risk. Decisions about whether to use genetic tests require that clients evaluate scientific information in the context of their personal values and beliefs. Genetic counselors are trained to facilitate decision-making to promote informed choices. When there is no genetic test or therapeutic option to offer, genetic counselors help family members to adapt to the condition or risk, often under conditions of uncertainty.
As the scope of genetic counseling expands and evolves, patient, professional and community education will be imperative. Increasingly, primary care practitioners are providing aspects of genetic counseling and other genetic services, resulting in a need to educate nurses, social workers and physicians. Genetic counselors play a key role in educating these providers and developing standards of practice. Trained genetic counselors also provide a means for health professionals and patients to communicate with policy makers, the media and the public about new and emerging genetic technologies and services.
Graduate Program Overview
The JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program (GCTP) was established in 1996. Its goals are to prepare graduates to:
- Provide genetic counseling, with an emphasis on clients' psychological and educational needs.
- Conduct social and behavioral research related to genetic counseling.
- Educate health care providers, policy makers and the public about genetics and related health and social issues.
View our Frequently Asked Questions about the training program.
The GCTP distinguishes itself in offering extensive interactive coursework to support completion of high quality, publishable thesis studies. Since its inception, the GCTP has produced a cadre of genetic counselors who broaden the scope of genetic counseling by contributing to a growing research literature that critically examines a variety of aspects of the profession and shapes future directions in the field.
Additionally, program faculty provide students with one-on-one supervision for an hour each week throughout their graduate studies. These sessions offer students feedback based on audiotaped sessions with clients and on interventions consistent with development of counseling expertise.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health provides a strong academic home for the GCTP, while NHGRI provides funding, instruction and leadership. This collaborative program, which represents the first allocation of federal funds to support graduate education in genetic counseling, is regarded as an important effort to address new challenges resulting from genomics research.
An applicant's potential to become a skilled, compassionate, and self-aware counselor is an absolute criterion for admission. The greatest consideration will be given to applicants whom we consider best able to advance the profession of genetic counseling through their leadership in research and their interface with the fields of public health, public policy and health education.
An admissions committee, composed of the Executive Committee, reviews the entire application package and considers the overall balance of each applicant's qualifications.
- Completion of the General Aptitude Test of the GRE.
- Completion of undergraduate level courses in biochemistry and genetics.
- Counseling experience, either paid or voluntary.
In addition, prior coursework in statistics is strongly recommended.
The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health requires applicants from countries where English is not the primary, official language to submit official TOEFL or IELTS scores. A minimum TOEFL score of 250 on the computer-based test OR 600 on the paper-based test OR 100 on the Internet-based test is required for admission. The minimum IELTS score is 7. Applicants who have completed an accredited degree program within the United States are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement.
Applications must be submitted and completed by the January 15 deadline to be considered.
Invitations for interviews will be presented in late February, with final decisions and offers made on the agreed upon national notification date in late April or early May.
The JHU/NHGRI Program supports diversification of the genetic counseling profession. A diverse profession leads to a richer professional dialogue and enhances genetic counseling for minority communities. Therefore, candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences are welcomed. We especially encourage candidates from groups currently under-represented in the genetic counseling profession, including people with disabilities, men, and people from ethnic and racial minorities.
Learn more about the JHU/NHGRI Class of 2019.
How to Apply
You should use the standard application form for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. You will be following instructions and deadlines for the ScM degree in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society. This application website will provide instructions for submitting all supporting documents, which include:
- Official transcripts from their undergraduate institution(s)
- curriculum vitae or resume.
- Official scores from the GRE exam.
- Three letters of recommendation (at least one of which should be an academic recommendation from an instructor or advisor).
- A personal statement.
- When appropriate, scores from the TOEFL or IELTS exam.
The National Human Genome Research Institute/Johns Hopkins Genetic Counseling Training Program is participating in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match through National Matching Services (NMS) beginning with admissions for Fall 2018. The GC Admissions Match has been established to enhance the process of placing applicants into positions in masters-level genetic counseling programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC). The Match uses a process that takes into account both applicants' and programs' preferences. All applicants must first register for the Match with NMS before applying to participating genetic counseling graduate programs. At the conclusion of all program interviews, both applicants and programs will submit ranked lists of preferred placements to NMS according to deadlines posted on the NMS website. The binding results of the Match will be released to both applicants and programs simultaneously in late April.
Please visit the NMS website to register for the match, review detailed information about the matching process, and to view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works.
For Fall 2019 admissions, there is not a formal place for entering the NMS match number into the online Johns Hopkins application.
*Please put your NMS match number in the header of your personal statement. *
Specific inquiries regarding the program should be addressed to:
Lori Hamby Erby, ScM, Ph.D., C.G.C.
Or to the Program Coordinator:
Questions about the application procedure itself should be directed to the Admissions Office.
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University
615 North Wolfe Street, E1002
Baltimore, MD 21205-2179
Faculty and Clinical Supervisors
The faculty consists of tenured investigators, scientists and health care providers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Leadership for this joint program is provided by the faculty who serve on the Executive Committee.
The genetic counseling coursework, student supervision, coordination of clinical rotations and Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) accreditation are overseen by:
- Program Director Lori Erby, Sc.M., Ph.D., a genetic counselor and scientist in the NHGRI Medical Genomics and Metabolic Genetics Branch
- Associate Program Director Megan Cho, ScM.
- Charles Venditti, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, Medical Genomics and Metabolic Genetics Branch, NHGRI, serves as medical director of the program.
Program coordination is provided by Tyler Wisniewski at NIH.
Meetings and Workshops
- (Factor) Analyze This: PCA or EFA
July 31, 2015: Sam Wolford, Ph.D., PSTAT®, C.Q.E, Professor of Statistics and Director, Center for QuantitativAnalysis, Bentley University explains the similarities and differences between Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). View slides from the workshop
- 2014 GCTP Alumni Research Symposium
August 1, 2014: The GCTP hosted it's second full-day alumni research symposium, which was attended by approximately half of the alumni. During the symposium, alumni were invited to give presentations about current research projects. All alumni participated in seeking feedback from the group about potential future research endeavors.
Genetic Counseling Resources
To learn more about genetics, the field of genetic counseling and organizations that work in these areas, click on the links below.
- National Society of Genetic Counselors - About Genetic Counselors
- National Society of Genetic Counselors - Student Corner
- American Society of Human Genetics
- American Board of Genetic Counseling
- Information for Genetic Professionals
- American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics
- American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics
- National Organization for Rare Disorders
- Genetic Alliance