It was not an easy decision for me to pursue a degree in genetic counseling. I previously taught high school biology and when I left teaching to go back to graduate school, I intended to pursue a PhD in genetics. However, I realized that my passion was not in the research lab, so I instead earned a master’s degree. I then joined a clinical genetics lab, where I felt I would have a more direct impact on patient lives.
Yet, I still felt something was missing. I like connecting with people and I love teaching about genetics, so I thought genetic counseling could be a great fit for me. I was hesitant to enter yet another round of graduate school but, fortunately, my family could see how sure I was that this was what I wanted to pursue. I took the plunge and already know that it was the right decision.
I did not expect that my first job would be working from home as part of a laboratory genetic counseling team. I worried that I should start out in a more “traditional” role to get “proper” experience, and then I could consider a lab position later in my career. However, I got an opportunity to transfer to the genetic counseling team at the lab where I had been working throughout GC school. It seemed like an opportunity I should not pass up.
I really enjoy my remote laboratory role. I am part of a strong team of genetic counselors with a wide range of experience in a variety of settings. I learn so much from my team and I appreciate the supportive environment. As a telegenetic counselor, I provide post-test counseling for expanded carrier screening. I get to have the direct interaction with patients that I was seeking. However, in the lab setting, there are also many other types of roles for a GC, such as in variant curation or as a medical science liaison.
Working remotely offers certain lifestyle benefits as well. I have traded a 2-hour daily commute for a walk downstairs. I can help get my kids on and off the bus and to their various activities. I have more time to spend with family and friends or getting back into an exercise routine. I worried about the isolation of working alone at home everyday, but my team makes many efforts to connect regularly.
I’m thankful that I decided it wasn’t too late to make another career change, and I’m glad I was willing to explore a “non-traditional” genetic counseling position. I think the laboratory setting and its variety of roles can be a good fit for both new and experienced GCs. I’m grateful to have finally found the right career in genetic counseling, and I hope others know that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams, and those dreams may not be what you once thought. Now I just have to pass that board exam!