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Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences

Genetic Counseling Program Overview

Genetic Counseling Program Overview



Introduction and Program Goals

The Genetic Counseling Training Program, leading to a Master of Science degree in Genetic Counseling, is a two-year academic program comprised of didactic course work, laboratory exposure, research experience and extensive clinical training. The program, directed by Anne L. Matthews, R.N, Ph.D., is an integral component of the teaching and research programs in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences (G&GS) at CWRU under the leadership of Dr. Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, MD. Ph.D., chairman of G&GS. Program leadership also includes Rebecca Darrah, MA, MS, PhD, Associate Director and the program's medical director, Shawn McCandless M.D., Associate Professor of G&GS and Pediatrics and Director of the Center for Human Genetics, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. The Program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) and graduates of the program are eligible to apply for Active Candidate Status and sit for the American Board of Genetic Counseling certification examination.

The overall objective of the Genetic Counseling Program is to prepare students with the appropriate knowledge and experiences to function as genetic counselors in a wide range of settings and roles. With unprecedented advances in our understanding of the genetic and molecular control of gene expression and development, and in our ability to apply this knowledge clinically, the Program strives to train students who can interface between patients, clinicians and molecular and human geneticists. Students gain insightful and multifaceted skills that will enable them to be effective genetic counselors, aware of the many new technical advances and often-difficult ethical, legal and social issues that have surfaced in the light of the Human Genome Project. Graduates of the Program will be prepared to work in a variety of settings including both adult and pediatric genetics clinics, specialty clinics such as cancer genetics, cardiovascular genetics and metabolic clinics, and prenatal diagnosis clinics, as well as in areas of research or commercial genetics laboratories relevant to genetic counseling and human genetics.

A unique aspect of the Genetic Counseling Training Program that it is housed within Case Western Reserve's Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences that is internationally known for both its clinical expertise and cutting edge research in molecular genetics, model organisms and human genetics. Thus, the Department of G&GS at CWRU provides an interface between human and medical genetics with basic genetics and provides an exciting atmosphere in which to learn and develop professionally. The direct access to both clinical resources and advanced technologies in human and model organisms affords students with an unparalleled environment for achievement. The Graduate Program in Genetics in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences provides an interactive and collaborative environment for both pre (genetic counseling and PhD students) - and post-doctoral trainees to come together in a collegial atmosphere. By fostering interactions between pre- and post-doctoral trainees in genetic counseling, medical genetics, and basic research at an early stage of their careers, it is anticipated that graduates will be well-rounded professionals with an understanding of the importance of both clinical and basic research endeavors. Moreover, such resources as the Department of Biomedical Ethics, the Center for Genetic Research, Ethics and Law, the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, and the Law-Medicine Center provide for an enriched learning experience for students.

Curriculum and Course Requirements

The curriculum consists of 40 semester hours: 22 semester hours of didactic course work and 7 semester hours of research. Additionally, there are four 8-week clinical rotations, one 3-week laboratory rotation and one 6-week summer clinical rotation required of all students, which provide an additional 11 credit hours. Courses include material covering basic genetics concepts, embryology, medical genetics, biochemical genetics, molecular genetics, cytogenetics, genomics, cancer genetics, population genetics, genetic counseling principles, human development, psychosocial issues, interviewing techniques, and ethical and professional issues in genetic counseling.

Clinical rotations include one intensive three-week laboratory rotation in diagnostic cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics as well as the Maternal Serum Screening program. There are four 8-week clinical rotations during year 2 during which students obtain clinical experience in General Genetics (children and adults) including Specialty Clinics such as Marfan Clinic, Prader-Willi Clinic and Craniofacial Clinic; Prenatal Diagnosis Clinic, and Cancer Genetics Clinic. These rotations take place at The Center for Human Genetics at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth Medical Center. Students also will have the opportunity to pursue an elective rotation with specialty clinics or intern with genetic counselors in such areas as commercial testing companies. Additionally, there is one off-site rotation - a 6-week clinical rotation which is held at Akron Children's Hospital in Akron Ohio during the summer. Moreover, students rotate through the Cleveland-based institutions for weekly observational experiences starting early in year 1 of the program.

Students are also required to attend and participate in a number of other activities such as weekly Clinical Patient Conferences, Genetics Grand Rounds, Departmental Seminars and Journal Club. Students also participate with the doctoral graduate students in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences' annual retreat and present their research projects during the poster sessions. In addition, counseling students present their research during the program's Research Showcase. Students also have an opportunity to give educational talks to local schools, participate in DNA Day at local high schools and other groups when available.

Course of Study

Gene 528Principles & Practices of Genetic Counseling
Gene 524Advanced Medical Genetics: Molecular & Cytogenetics
Gene 526Advanced Medical Genetics: Quantitative Genetics & Genomics
(even years)
Gene 527Advanced Medical Genetics: Metabolic Disorders
(odd years)
SASS 477Direct Practice Foundation: Methods & Skills
On-line Embryology
Gene 532Clinical Observations
Gene 525Advanced Medical Genetics: Clinical
Gene 529Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling
Gene 531Cancer Genetic Counseling Seminar
Gene 532Clinical Observations continue
Gene 601Genetic Counseling Research Seminar
Gene 532Clinical Rotation I
Laboratory Rotation
Gene 526Advanced Medical Genetics: Quantitative Genetics & Genomics (even years)
Gene 527Advanced Medical Genetics: Metabolic Disorders(odd years)
Gene 532Clinical Rotations II
Gene 601Research
BETH 412Ethical Issues in Genetics and Genomics
Gene 532Clinical Rotations III
Gene 601Research

Course Descriptions

GENE 524Advanced Medical Genetics: Molecular and Cytogenetics2.0
An in-depth forum for discussion of fundamental principles regarding clinical cytogenetics and molecular genetics and their relevance to medical genetics, genomics and genetic counseling. Following a historical overview, topics include a discussion of numerical and structural aberrations, sex chromosome abnormalities, issues regarding population cytogenetics, clinical relevance of such findings as marker chromosomes, mosaicism, contiguous gene deletions and uniparental disomy. The course will cover principles of molecular genetics including structure, function and regulations of genes (DNA, RNA, proteins), genetic variation, inheritance patterns and both cytogenetic and molecular laboratory techniques (fluorescence in situ hybridization, micro-array, SNP analyses, sequencing) in the clinical laboratory.
GENE 525Advanced Medical Genetics: Clinical Genetics2.0
Fundamental principles regarding congenital malformations, dysmorphology and syndromes. Discussion of a number of genetic disorders from a systems approach: CNS malformations, neurodegenerative disorders, craniofacial disorders, connective tissue disorders, skeletal dysplasias, hereditary deafness, cardiovascular genetics, etc. Discussions include diagnosis, etiology, genetics, prognosis and management.
GENE 526Advanced Medical Genetics: Quantitative Genetics and Genomics2.0
This course provides a foundation in quantitative genetics as well as genomic approaches and technologies which have greatly expanded our understanding of not only rare genetic disorders but common ones as well. Concepts related to risk assessment and calculation and its application to medical genetics including principles and application of Hardy Weinberg equilibrium and applying Bayes' Theorem as a mechanism to refine risk assessment based on patient specific data are covered. The clinical implications of interpreting next generation sequencing results, identifying limitations of genomic technologies, and practicing annotation and interpretation of genomic testing results are also covered. In addition, resources and bioinformatics tools including national databases and clinical labs to aid in the interpretation of genomic test results including variants of uncertain significance are discussed.
GENE 527Advanced Medical Genetics: Metabolic Disorders2.0
Fundamental principles of metabolic testing; amino acid disorders; organic acid disorders; carbohydrate disorders; peroxisomal disorders; mitochondrial disorders; etc. Discussion of screening principles and newborn screening as well as therapy for metabolic diseases.
GENE 528Principles and Practices of Genetic Counseling3.0
Fundamental principles needed for the practicing genetic counselor. Topics include skills in obtaining histories (prenatal, perinatal, medical, developmental, psychosocial and family); pedigree construction and analysis, physical growth and development; the genetic evaluation; the physical examination and laboratory analyses; prenatal issues, prenatal screening and diagnosis; and teratogenicity.
GENE 529Psychosocial Aspects of Genetic Counseling3.0
Fundamental principles regarding the psychosocial aspect of birth defects and genetic disease, its psychological and social impact on the individual and family. Topics include the genetic counseling interview process, issues regarding pregnancy, chronicity, death and loss, as well as the impact of cultural issues. Resources for families are also explored. Basic interviewing skills are addressed. Students will have an opportunity for practice of skills through role play and actual interviewing situations.
GENE 531Clinical Cancer Genetics2.0
This seminar discusses basic concepts in cancer epidemiology, principles of cancer genetics, inherited cancer syndromes, cytogenetics of cancers, pedigree analysis for familial cancer risk and approaches to the differential diagnosis of inherited and familial cancers. Additionally, topics of risk assessment, genetic testing, screening, management and psychosocial issues in providing genetic counseling to patients with familial and inherited cancers will be discussed.
BETH 412Ethical Issues in Genetics and Genomics3.0
This course is designed to familiarize graduate students with the major controversies regarding the generation and use of new human genetic information. Topics will include the growth of susceptibility and predictive genetic testing, prenatal diagnosis, genetic discrimination, human genetic variation research, eugenics, genetic counseling, and the limits of human gene therapy. The course will be conducted as a seminar, involving discussions of readings, guest speakers, and student presentations.
SASS 477Direct Practice Foundation : Methods & Skills3.0
The course introduces major social work theories (i.e., systems-based, cognitive-behavioral, and relationship-based intervention approaches utilized in social work [and genetic counseling] practice with individuals and families. The course is structured to include lecture, discussion and experiential laboratory learning. Interviewing skills for beginning practitioners relevant to work with individuals and families will be a major focus of work both in lectures and during the skills lab incorporating engagement, assessment, goal-setting/treatment planning, intervention and evaluation, termination and follow-up.
GENE 601Genetic Counseling Research Seminar2.0
This required research seminar is a continuation of the fall research seminar. The major focus of the spring semester will be to provide guidance regarding the development of a research proposal. Discussion continues regarding quantitative, qualitative and mixed research approaches except now in the context of specific research projects. Students will identify their specific research question and specific aims, discuss issues regarding review of the literature, develop the appropriate research design (study population, data collection, data analysis) to answer the research question, discuss the required format of the proposal, human subjects' protection (IRBs) issues and the proposal defense. The end product of the seminar will be a written research project proposal.
On-lineClinical Embryology
This on-line course, developed by the faculties of the Genetic Counseling Program and Department of Anatomy at the University of Cincinnati, provides students with an in-depth review of normal human development and provides a basis for explaining the process of developmental anomalies. Moreover, the course provides an introduction to the treatment of patients with congenital anomalies as well as counseling options for families of affected individuals. Students are given access to the course prior to being classes of the first year. They are required to have completed the course by the end of September of the first year.
GENE 532Clinical Rotations
There are six rotations; five in the clinical areas and one in the laboratory. These begin over the summer semester with a six-week General Genetics/Prenatal Diagnosis/Cancer Genetics/Specialty Clinic Rotation at Akron Children's Medical Center Hospital and a three -week Clinical Cytogenetics/Molecular Genetics Laboratory rotation. Rotations continue through the second year of the program with four 8-week rotations including General Genetics and Specialty Clinics rotation (includes children and adults); Prenatal Diagnosis Rotation; and Clinical Cancer Genetics. Students rotate at the Center for Human Genetics Case Medical Center, the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and at MetroHealth Medical Center. In addition, student start observational experiences at these institutions early in the first year.
GENE 601Research Requirement
The Program requires a research project be carried out for the completion of the Program. This scholarly project may be literature-based, a clinical or counseling project, or laboratory-based project and must relate to some aspect of genetic counseling. At the completion of the project there is a committee oral defense. The final research project is submitted to the research committee in manuscript format suitable to submit for consideration of publication. All students present their research to the department faculty, staff and students at the poster sessions during the annual departmental retreat. In addition, the students present their work at the Genetic Counseling Research Showcase held at the end of the second year.
Class of 2015Class of 2014

Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid

Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $1,827.00 per semester hour. Currently, other fees include student health insurance ($986 per semester) and a student activity fee of $14.00 per semester.

The Department of Genetics is unable to provide financial aid or research/teaching assistantships to students; however, it does award some scholarship funding in the form of a monthly stipend to genetic counseling students. The amount of the stipend is determined yearly and will be shared with applicants at the time of their interviews. In addition, the costs of the on-line embryology course as well as the CWRU Technology fee of $852.00 per year are covered by the Department. Moreover, students receive funds to cover the costs associated with their research projects and second year students receive funds to travel to the National Society of Genetic Counselors' annual education conference held in the fall.

Financial aid is available to graduate students. The university has extensive information regarding financial aid and scholarship opportunities to assist students in funding their education. For additional information or assistance, please contact the Office of University Financial Aid at or (216) 368-4530.

For further information, please contact the Genetic Counseling Program Assistant:

Clarice Young at (216) 368-3431 or email:


The Program Director:

Anne L. Matthews, Ph.D.
Director, Genetic Counseling Training Program
Department of Genetics & Genome Sciences
Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-4955
(216) 368-1821

Genetic Counseling Program Application Information

Direct Application only

Please Note: The Direct Application link will take you to the School for Graduate Studies webpage. Go to Prospective Students - Admissions Information - Graduate Program Applications. You will see a link on the right hand side of the page entitled Application Log In to begin your application.


The application includes:
  • CWRU on-line application form completed by the student
  • Official transcripts sent directly from all previous institutions attended (includes both degree and non-degree programs, regardless of the number of courses taken.
  • Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the general exam (quantitative, verbal and writing) taken within 5 years of the application and sent directly from ETS. The GRE subject exam is not required.
  • The institutional code is 1105 and department code is 0210 (there is no separate genetic counseling code). GRE
  • TOEFL score for international applicants
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal Statement
  • Current CV/Resume
  • A $50.00 application fee (check or money order in US $ payable to CWRU)

Admission Requirements and Process

Fulfillment of the requirements for admission to the School of Graduate Studies at Case Western Reserve University must be met as well as those required by the Genetic Counseling Training Program. An applicant having graduated with excellent academic credentials (minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale) from a fully accredited university or college. Complete credentials must be on file with the School of Graduate Studies.

Admission requirements are as follows:

  • Successful completion of the following prerequisite courses:
    Biology - minimum of one year
    Genetics - minimum of one semester
    Biochemistry - minimum of one semester
    Statistics - minimum of one semester
    Psychology - minimum of one semester
    Anatomy and/or Physiology are highly recommended

  • Results of Graduate Record Examination scores on the general examination. Scores at the 60th percentile and above are considered competitive.

  • Advocacy Experiences. Counseling experiences that are relevant to genetics, medical genetics and genetic counseling are highly recommended. Such experiences as counseling with a crisis hot line, Planned Parenthood program, peer/community counseling centers (paid or volunteer), working with individuals with disabilities and shadowing a genetic counselor are examples of experiences that highly desirable. Experience working in a DNA/molecular genetics/cytogenetic laboratory, or teaching assistant positions in biology or genetics courses are also very appropriate. The applicant should strive for experiences that provide for one-on-one interactions with others. Moreover, in the application personal statement, applicants should demonstrate an understanding of the field of genetic counseling, what led to choosing this field as a career and discuss how previous experiences have enriched his or her understanding of the profession of genetic counseling.

  • Interview. A personal interview is required. All interviews are by invitation only to assess maturity, written and oral communication skills, an awareness of the professional role of the genetic counselor and the genetic counseling profession.

Class of 2006Class of 2013


The Genetic Counseling Training Program at Case Western Reserve University 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 at ( to register for the match, review detailed information about the matching process, and to view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works.

Important: After you have registered with NMS, you will need to put your NMS ID number at the top of your CV/Resume and/or at the top of your personal statement.


1. How much weight is given to GPA and GRE scores?

The average GPA for matriculating students is 3.5 and GRE mean scores are approximately, 60-70th percentiles and above. However, we take a holistic view of the applicant's complete file in determining admission, which means we look at everything the applicant has submitted. A high GPA or GRE score will not automatically lead to admission; neither will low scores automatically lead to a denial.
*While the CWRU application form asks for your GRE scores, please include the percentile score as well.

2. What do we look for in the Personal Statement?

The Personal Statement is extremely important and applicants need to pay specific attention to how they present themselves in their Personal Statement. Aspects to remember include: Is the applicant's Personal Statement grammatically sound, and does it give us a clear picture as to who the applicant is? Applicants' should emphasize those experiences which have directly assisted them in becoming aware of and knowledgeable about the genetic counseling profession. Genetic counselors are highly motivated and hardworking individuals. Thus, the Admissions Committee looks for applicants who demonstrate initiative, self-direction, excellent communication skills and who have "gone the extra mile" to show their passion for becoming a genetic counselor.

3. Who should write letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation should be written by individuals who can provide an accurate picture of your academic capabilities, your communication skills (both written and spoken) and your potential to successfully complete graduate education. At least two referees should be faculty from your past institutions. Other excellent referee sources include genetic counselors you have shadowed or supervisors of internships or advocacy experiences which you have had. Recommendation letters from friends or family members are discouraged. Please note, while CWRU provides an on-line recommendation form for referees to complete, your referee should also provide a personal letter to accompany the form.

4. How many people apply to the genetic counseling program and how many are accepted?

While the number of applications received by the Program varies from year to year, in general we receive approximately 60 - 70+ applications each year. At this time, the Program is able to accept 8 students per year.

5. What is the application deadline and can students do the Program part-time?

December 15th of each year is the application deadline. It is important that all required materials such as GRE scores (including their percentiles), transcripts from all institutions in which you have completed coursework and letters of reference be submitted by the application deadline if you wish to have your application reviewed by the Admissions Committee. If you will be taking a prerequisite course or courses in the upcoming semester that will not be reflected on your current transcripts, please let us know in your personal statement (or Resume) which course or courses you will be taking to meet the pre-requisites. Also, please submit a current CV or resume along with your personal statement. The Program only admits one class per year -- in fall semester. Because of the intensive nature of the Program, all students must be full time, we are unable to accommodate part-time students.

Class of 2017 and 2018
Class of 2010Department of
Genetics & Genome Sciences Retreat!
Last update on: 16th April 2018