University Masters Degree in Genetics: Program Overviews
Master-level genetics programs are often highly competitive, but can provide widespread opportunities to work in scientific settings. Master of Science in Genetics programs are often completed en route to doctoral degrees in the same subject or a related field.
Master's Degree in Genetics
Studie in genetics are divided among several fields, including molecular genetics, biomedical genetics, human genetics and cellular genetics. Molecular genetics is the study of how genes function at the molecular level, focusing on how genetic information is transferred between generations. Biomedical genetics concerns itself with the study of hereditary disorders. Human genetics differs from biomedical genetics because while it does focus specifically on human genes, it does not specifically investigate genetic applications in medical care. Cellular genetics, or cytogenetics, is a branch of genetics that studies hereditary components of cells (namely chromosomes). All fields of genetics study variations in hereditary information among living things.
Master's degrees in this field typically take 2-3 years to complete. Programs commonly offer a both a thesis and non-thesis option. A program structured around a thesis focuses on an original research project, which is overseen by an advisory committee. Students who elect to pursue a non-thesis option must usually take more courses than those pursuing a thesis option. They must also complete a comprehensive examination, which takes the place of a thesis. Comprehensive exams test a student's knowledge of coursework; they also challenge information from a reading list selected by an advisory committee in consultation with the student.
Genetics master's degrees are often supported by well-endowed institutions. This is largely because of the technology, facility and faculty requirements. All instruments and laboratories must be state-of-the-art, while faculty is expected to be not only specialized by highly trained. As such, admission to these programs is competitive. It should also be noted that master's degrees in this field are often featured as part of dual degree doctoral programs and may not be offered individually. The degree conferred is typically a Master of Science.
Applicants to master's degree programs in genetics must have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission. College transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and a personal essay will likely also be required for consideration. The strongest applicants typically have volunteer or work experience in a related field, such as medicine, biology or chemistry.
Students can expect to log extensive hours in laboratories throughout the course of a master's degree program in genetics. However, many courses are structured around traditional lecture formats as well. Some classes that might appear in the curriculum are:
- Biomedical statistics
- Genetic model systems
- Population genetics
- Biology of the gene
- Molecular evolution
Popular Career Options
A master's degree in genetics can open the door to a number of career paths. They may also precede doctoral programs in a related field, including a medical doctorate. Career options for graduates include:
- Molecular biologist
- Biomedical scientist
- Pharmaceutical scientist
- Genetic engineer
- Governmental research positions
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