Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes, their structure, and their inheritance.
This is a lab-based science that involves processing and analyzing chromosomes in order to detect and interpret chromosome abnormalities. This field combines the studies of chromosome morphology and genetic disease. Cytogenetic abnormalities may be found in individuals with birth defects, developmental disabilities, cancer and recurrent miscarriages. The finding of a chromosome abnormality in a patient can be critical for appropriate diagnosis and medical management. The clinical cytogeneticist is an important member of the genetic health care team.
Cytogenetics is an exacting field, requiring meticulous record keeping and a reliance on a wide variety of methods that include cell culturing, cell staining, use of a microscope and computer imaging, and often molecular genetic technology.
While positions as clinical cytogeneticists are competitive, advances in the field generate new opportunities. Most qualified applicants find work in this field.
Working Conditions & Context
Clinical cytogeneticists work in laboratories that may be based in a university medical center, hospital or commercial setting. They rarely interact with patients, instead working closely with other medical specialists like hematologists and molecular and medical geneticists. The nature of their work requires a strict adherence to biosafety procedures. Many teach at the university level or in medical schools. Others may engage exclusively in research.
A typical Salary Range for this career is $80,000 - $200,000 annually.
The Median Income for this career is about $140,000 annually.
A clinical cytogeneticist requires a Ph.D. or M.D. degree and post-doctoral training in Clinical Cytogenetics. Because of the fast pace of scientific advances in this field, it is important that clinical cytogeneticists stay abreast of developments throughout their career. The best cytogeneticists will read scientific journals, attend conferences, and take continuing education courses as their career progresses.
Certification & Licensing:
After completion of a fellowship (generally two years) in Clinical Cytogenetics, a cytogeneticist must pass a certification examination by the American Board of Medical Genetics to obtain Board certification. Some states also require that clinical cytogeneticists be licensed.
** More than a minimum degree may be required for some careers.