Program of Study

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Johns Hopkins University/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program

The JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program prepares students for a Master of Science degree (ScM) in Genetic Counseling from the Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This two and one-half year American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC)-accredited program provides academic preparation beyond that available from most genetic counseling programs and is based on coursework taken at the NIH and Johns Hopkins, a minimum of six hundred contact hours of supervised clinical rotations in a variety of settings, and completion of an original research thesis. The program qualifies graduates to attain certification from the ABGC. Four or five students are accepted annually into the program.

Program faculty encourage students who are interested in continuing their education to apply to the doctoral degree (Ph.D.) program in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health, Behavior and Society. The Sc.M. degree requirements include a number of those required for the doctoral degree. Additional coursework, along with a doctoral dissertation, is required for the Ph.D. The master's thesis may provide pilot data for the doctoral dissertation. More information about the doctoral program can be found at: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health, Behavior and Society: Doctoral Programs []


The curriculum for the master's degree consists of at least 80 credit hours of didactic coursework in the areas of genetic counseling, human genetics, public health, public policy, research methodology, bioethics and health communication. An overview of the required coursework is provided below.

Counseling and Genetic Counseling Courses

Genetic Counseling Practice (1st year, NIH) teaches the history and goals of the profession, the scope of practice, values inherent in the relationship with clients, "non-directiveness," practice standards, ethical guidelines for professional conduct and research needs.

Introduction to Genetic Counseling (1st year, NIH) teaches the basic tools for genetic counseling and outlines professional roles in pediatric, prenatal, adult and research genetics clinic settings.

Counseling Theory and Practice (1st year, JHU) exposes students to the constructs, principles and techniques of the major counseling theories.

Genetic Counseling Seminar (1st - 3rd years, NIH) hosts a wide variety of professionals and clients who teach about services, research, policies, resources and experiences relevant to genetic counseling.

Therapeutic Genetic Counseling (1st year, NIH) provides experiential and didactic instruction to foster students' development of their own genetic counseling practice theory. Components of the counseling relationship are developed along with the application of various psychotherapeutic theories to genetic counseling.

Facilitating Family Adaptation to Loss and Disability (2nd year, NIH) teaches grief issues most relevant to genetic counseling, exploring issues for parents and providers in prenatal and perinatal loss. Loss related to the death and dying of older affected family members, chronic illness and disability is also explored.

Advanced Genetic Counseling (3rd year, NIH) uses role-play and literature to address educational, counseling and research issues integral to the client relationship within different settings including: prenatal, pediatric, adult, specialty, diagnostic lab, psychiatric and oncology.

Human Genetics Courses

Introduction to Human Genetics (1st year, NIH) teaches patterns of inheritance, cytogenetics, variation and mutation, population genetics, molecular medicine, gene mapping, risk assessment, complex traits, cancer genetics, screening and treatment.

Introduction to Medical Genetics (1st year, NIH) reviews teratology, clinical features and natural history of genetic disorders by specific organ systems, and gene therapy.

Cancer Genetics as a Model for Common Disease (1st year, NIH) reviews clinical and molecular aspects of cancer syndromes, the common counseling issues that arise and provides the framework for understanding genetic counseling for common, chronic conditions.

Current Topics in Clinical Molecular Genetics and Molecular Diagnostics (2nd year, NIH) illustrates state-of-the-art techniques in DNA-based diagnosis by reviewing a number of genetic conditions.

Developmental Biology and Human Malformations (3rd year, NIH) teaches developmental biology using model systems to illustrate human malformations.

Communication in Health Care Delivery

Communications Strategies for Health Education and Health Promotion (2nd year, JHU) presents communication strategies used internationally and domestically in health education and health promotion programs at the community level.

BioEthics and Public Policy

Research Ethics and Integrity (2nd year, JHU) familiarizes students with ethical, legal and social implications of research.

New Genetic Technologies and Public Policy (offered every other year, NIH) examines both the scientific basis and the policy implications of several new genetic tests that affect the public.

Ethical and Sociocultural Implications of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies (taught every other year, JHU) teaches students to conceptualize and evaluate the ethical and behavioral aspects of genetic services.

Public Health and Research Methodology

Statistical Methods in Public Health (1st year); Principles of Epidemiology (1st year); and Introduction to Methods for Health Services Research and Evaluation, (all at JHU), prepare students to conduct research and to critically evaluate research studies.

Thesis Proposal Development (1st and 2nd years, JHU) prepares students in the development of their thesis proposal by clarifying a research idea, discussing methodology and feasibility, and producing a first draft. Students also provide feedback on their peers' thesis proposals.

Public Health Genomics (offered every other year, NIH) covers the application of genomics to public health intervention and practice via a combination of lectures and workshops. Students work in teams to apply genomic discovery to address an emergent domestic or international public health problem.

Public Health Perspectives on Research (2nd year, JHU) introduces the substantive and methodologic basis for public health research presenting human health throughout the life span; the major causes of morbidity and mortality; and strategies for health interventions in each stage of life.

Concepts in Qualitative Research for Social and Behavioral Science (2nd year, JHU) provides hands-on experience in ethnographic methods including interviewing, focus groups, direct observation, and the management, coding and analysis of qualitative data.

Special Studies and Research (2nd and 3rd years, JHU) provides the forum for students to conduct their research, process the data and report their findings.

Journal Club (all years, quarterly) provides the opportunity to critique and discuss a classic genetic counseling research paper alongside a contemporary application. Held in the evening in faculty homes.

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Last Reviewed: April 18, 2014