“An educational degree in life science, hands-on working experience, a few publications, and sharpened wet and dry lab skills are the foundation to becoming a successful geneticist.”
Dr Jigar Suthar is a senior scientific officer in a genetic lab and has a 15,00,000 INR per year package. Tushar Kachhadiay is a scientific officer in a genetic lab and has a 12,00,000 INR per year package.
Dr Mitesh Patel and Palak Shah belong to academics and have yearly packages of 12-15,00,000 and 23 to 25,00,000 INR, respectively. All four are in a very good position in their field and trust me, I have a few hundred more examples. These 4 are my colleagues and are geneticists.
Genetic science has emerged gradually in the last decade. I’m the true witness! Nearly every field in recent times needs a geneticist– a person who can study and understand DNA, chromosomes and genes.
Moreover, after COVID hit, organizations and life science companies understand how crucial the role of a geneticist is! They need more and more geneticists. Universities are offering more new and diverse genetic courses.
The expected market cap of genetic tests would be >$43 BN until 2032. So Geneticists are in demand now! And will remain, at least for 2032. If you are fascinated by genetics and want to pursue a career in this field. Here is an article!
In this article, I will give you a complete roadmap and requirements to become a successful geneticist. I will explain the entire process in 10 steps.
Related article: Thinking Cytogeneticist? An Expert Cytogeneticist Shares Career Wisdom.
Roadmap to Become a Successful Geneticist
Step 1: Who is a Geneticist? Understand the role
A geneticist is an expert in the field of genetics including the study of DNA, genes, chromosomes and inheritance of traits. Their responsibilities extend to the field of diagnosis, research and education.
Their sole role is,
- To study DNA, RNA, chromosomes, genes, genetics and epigenetics.
- To study the inheritance of traits and genetic disorders.
- To conduct research, and discover new genes, genetic alterations, techniques and protocols.
- To apply genetic knowledge for clinical and diagnosis purposes.
- To test genetic disorders, counsel patients and deliver reports.
- To educate students, and guide students and researchers.
A geneticist has diverse roles in various fields. I have written an amazing article on this topic in which I have explained their contribution in 50 diverse fields. You can read it here: 50 Ways You Can Be a Geneticist Today.
Understanding the multifaceted role of a geneticist is the first step in this roadmap. Sounds exciting! Let’s move ahead.
Step 2: Education Requirements
Coming to the important point. What educational degrees are needed to become a geneticist? Well, it isn’t only genetic science or biotechnology. Any life science student can achieve a successful career in this field.
A bachelor’s degree should help them learn the basics, while a Master’s degree with a dissertation or one year or M.Phil prepares them for advanced knowledge and doing research.
Thus, a Master’s degree holder can work in any genetic setup, however, a decent research experience or a Ph.D prepares them for extensive research and supervising other students.
Upon successful completion of a doctorate, a student becomes a Doctorate of Philosophy in Genetics and earns higher positions and salary in any discipline or field. So in my personal opinion, a Master’s degree in life science with decent exposure is mandatory to work in the field of genetics.
However, a Ph.D. or doctorate is optional but suggested to get more successful career options.
Step 3: Gain Hands-on experience
As mentioned, an educational degree isn’t sufficient unless you have significant experience. Theoretical knowledge is the basic foundation for your learning, remember that! But you have to gain experience to apply it.
Substantial experience and exposure to genetic techniques can be gained during a dissertation or M.Phil, where you have to conduct a small research. Such modules prepare you with basic skills like– pipetting, chemical and solution preparation, research design and basic computational skills.
However, for more comprehensive experience, you can volunteer in a Ph.D. student’s research program, and seek an internship or laboratory assistant position. Or simply, become a secretary of a professor.
The technical experience prepares you to conduct genetic tests, validate technologies, conduct and design research and troubleshoot problems. However, you need to have a specialized skill set on the path toward becoming a geneticist.
Step 4: Essential Skills and Traits
Acquiring expertise is a critical step for becoming a successful geneticist. A few technical skills a genetics needs are;
- Common lab skills.
- Cell culture and harvesting.
- Nucleic acid isolation.
- Amplification and hybridization.
- Digestion and ligation.
- Computational analysis– probes and primer design, BLAST, In Silico PCR, genomic analysis, etc.
So if someone is teaching you any of these skills, don’t waste your time, go and learn it.
In addition, personnel should have exposure to handling instruments like a centrifuge, PCR, safety cabinet, pH meter, incubator and autoclave etc.
Traits like attention to detail, critical thinking, and effective communication are fundamental attributes to the present skill sets. I have written an article on the skills needed to become a cytogeneticist. You can read it here: 7 Essential Technical Expertise to Become a Cytogeneticist.
Step 5: Specialization Path in Genetics
Now, completion of steps 1 to 4 prepares you to work independently in the field of genetics, either in education, genetic lab or research. But to become an expert geneticist, a person has to keenly focus on specialization.
Genetics comprises many diverse specializations, each with its own exciting possibilities. For example,
- A cytogeneticist studies chromosomes and related abnormalities.
- A Molecular geneticist studies DNA, gene or RNA at a molecular level.
- A genetic counselor educates patients regarding genetic conditions.
- A clinical geneticist performs various tests.
- A plant geneticist studies the genetics of plants.
You have to choose your specialization and based on that, sharpen your skills further. These two articles are crucial resources to understand this point.
Step 6: Publications, Authorship and Citations
Whatever field you choose for your career, if you have a Ph.D. in genetics, you are a scientist, remember that! And trust me your scientific work will speak louder than you. Whatever work you are doing, you have to craft it as a text (research, review, report, letter) and publish it.
How many quality publications, books or book chapters you have and the citations you will gain for your work are valuable assets for your career. It also shows your scientific quotient and interest.
Every small work should be documented and published. Those extra 10 miles in your career path are achieved by publications, authorships and citations. Imagine, someone who wants to hire you, searching for you on the Internet and finding your profile, articles, book chapters and citations. How amazing impression you will get?
Note: quality publication doesn’t mean publishing research or book chapters in paid journals or media publications. Your work actually should have quality and depth, no matter how less reputed the journal is!
Step 7: Networking and professional exposure
Publication will help you prepare your network, certainly but some extra effort should be needed to become a renowned geneticist. Here are a few good things!
- Try to remain active on professional networks like LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Google Scholar, Researcher, etc and post your work and thoughts regularly.
- Try to attend every possible seminar, workshop and conference in your field. If possible try presenting some part of your work.
- Conduct guest lectures, workshops or knowledge sessions to contribute your knowledge to the scientific community and students.
- Joining relevant scientific societies and online communities or networks, and add value to their platform.
You need to invest additional time or money for this, but trust me your higher authorities, no matter in which field you are! will be impressed and give you more value.
Step 8: Licencing and permissions
Not all but some specialized fields need a specific license and permissions. For example, Genetic counsel often needs to be certified by a recognized board, PC-PNDT license is needed to work in the field of prenatal genetic studies and testing.
However, the licensing requirements vary based on the geneticist’s location and career path. To practice ethically and legally, a geneticist should know about the rules and regulations, and licensing procedures of the country or region he or she wants to achieve their career.
Step 9: Staying informed on the Latest Advancements and Discoveries:
Genetics is a rapidly evolving field, with breakthroughs and discoveries occurring regularly. A geneticist should have to cultivate a habit of ‘remaining updated’ with their field. They should know what’s going around– new techniques, technologies, concepts and research.
This way, they can conduct new research, or publish their work and gain additional authority in the community.
Step 10: Know your world
A geneticist isn’t restricted to academics or research. For your knowledge, various fields in which a geneticist can work, are
- Research organizations: research in evolution, clinical and human genetics, plant, animal and microbial genetics, ecology and environmental science, paleontology, population, cancer and nutrition genomics.
- Computational biology: research analyst, bioinformatician, biological data scientist and technology curator.
- Industries: Pharmaceuticals, drug development and clinical trials.
- Research: genetic engineering, recombinant technology and gene therapy.
- Online consultant, online educator or technology specialist and genetic counselor.
- Academics: Genetic educator, professor or assistant professor.
I hope now you know how wide a range of career options you have, as a geneticist.
Steps 1 to 10 are an entire journey from your academic tenure to 3 to 5 years of work tenure. During this period, you can craft your career as a geneticist to the next level. Trust me, once you have a decent skill set, keen expertise, a few good publications and citations, an amazing online presence and community contribution, your career will be boosted to the next level.
For instance, you can review my profile online. You can find my work, articles, publications and contributions. The present roadmap is a proven formula to achieve higher positions and decent salaries as a geneticist.
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