University Masters Degree in Genetics: Program Overviews
Learn about master's degree programs in genetics. Find out about prerequisites, program specializations and courses, as well as career options for graduates.
Master's degrees in genetics 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 in Genetics. In this program, students can choose a specialization area, such as 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 is concerned with the study of hereditary disorders. Human genetics differs from biomedical genetics because it focuses specifically on human genes and does not 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 both thesis and non-thesis options. Students who elect to pursue non-thesis programs usually take more courses than those pursuing thesis options. Additionally, non-thesis candidates complete comprehensive examinations.
Genetics programs require state-of-the art instruments and laboratory facilities, and faculty members are expected to be specialized and highly trained. As a result, these programs are often found at well-endowed institutions. Also, admission to these programs is competitive.
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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