Genetic and Genomic Counselling (MSc)

You will be given a thorough grounding in human genomics, genetics, genetic analysis and bioinformatics, in communication and counselling skills, and in the skills required for you to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team providing genetic and genomic counselling for families.

The primary aim of this course is to train graduates interested in the clinical application of advances in human genetics and genomics so that they can provide and critically evaluate genetic and genomic counselling services.

You will be given a thorough grounding in human genomics, genetics, genetic analysis and bioinformatics, in communication and counselling skills, and in the skills required for you to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team providing genetic and genomic counselling for families. 

The course is particularly suitable for students interested in pursuing a career as a genetic counsellor. It is designed to meet the UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board (GCRB) Set ‘A’ educational requirement to submit a Notification of Intention to Register with the GCRB (see www.gcrb.org.uk/), as well as the European Board of Medical Genetics (EBMG Genetic Counsellors division) educational requirement to submit a Notification of Intention to Register with the EBMG.

Distinctive features

The MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling is an innovative part-time, largely distance learning course.  Being a ‘blended learning’ course, this opens up our well established genetic counsellor training expertise to a European and international audience, as it removes the need for you to relocate to Cardiff for full time study to train as a genetic counsellor.  Instead, you will attend short intensive teaching blocks in Wales (UK) and engage in the online learning components throughout the remainder of each year.  Approved placement learning in your own location is also undertaken in year 2. 

We are committed to developing your practice in evidence-based genetic and genomic counselling, with a strong emphasis on preparing you to contribute to clinical and health services research in genetic and genomic counselling.  The programme team includes world-class researchers in genetic and genomic counselling and counselling skills are taught by an expert counsellor.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration3 years
QualificationMSc
ModePart-time - distance learning
Admission Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

Typical graduate offer:

In addition to satisfying the requirements of the Cardiff University General Entrance Requirements, applicants must:

  • 2:1 in biological / (bio)medical science or equivalent science, social science, nursing, psychology.
  • Evidence demonstrating knowledge, motivation, and commitment to a career in genetic and genomic counselling i.e.knowledge/experience of genetics and genomics in healthcare
  • >6 months full-time equivalent caring experience e.g.healthcare work, volunteering with a counselling service, in a genetic or genomic counselling clinic or supporting a vulnerable child or adult (e.g.with a disability)
  • Evidence of English language ability: 7.0 (with minimum 6.5 in each sub-domain) or equivalent.

In your personal statement, please answer the following questions:

  1. What motivates you to apply for this course?

  2. What personal qualities and attributes do you possess that would enhance your ability to work as a genetic counsellor?

  3. Please describe any experience you have had working with individuals who might be considered vulnerable.

If you have previously applied for this course and were unsuccessful please describe what further experience you have gained which may strengthen your application.

Places are limited, so early application is recommended.

Please note that having a valid Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) or Local Police Check (for EU and International applicants) in place is a condition of enrolment so successful applicants are advised to commence this process, following the offer of a place, in good time before the prospective enrolment date. 

Selection process:

Shortlisting:

To be shortlisted for interview, applicants must supply all of the evidence listed above with their online application by 31 May.

Interview:

Applicants must demonstrate at interview:

  • Knowledge of genetic and genomic counselling
  • Reflective and self-awareness skills
  • Ability to reflect on psychosocial impact of disease and disability
  • Post-interview, in order to be made an offer, applicants must also have access to and concrete plans for genetic counselling placement.  Please contact the course team to discuss your placements before making contact with placement providers.

The MSc programme consists of two stages: The taught stage lasts for a total of 24 months.  The dissertation stage R lasts for a further 12 months, following completion of the taught stages.  The total normal duration to complete the full MSc programme is three academic years, from the date of initial registration on the programme.

Taught Stage

This stage consists of eight modules with credit values of 10, 20 or 50 credits, totalling 180 credits, at Level 7.

You can exit the course after successfully completing 180 credits of the taught (Stage T) component (including all required modules) with a Postgraduate Diploma.

 

Dissertation Stage

This stage will include a dissertation of 60 credits at Level 7, to achieve a combined total of 240 credits at Level 7 to complete the MSc programme.

A placement module runs throughout Year 2 of the course.  This is supported by significant patient interaction.  Access to and concrete plans for your genetic counselling placement is a criterion for selection at interview.  Please consider discussing your plans for placement with the programme team prior to application, by contacting the Admissions tutor.

Year one

The Year one modules total 90 credits.  In addition to the online modules, there will be two face-to-face teaching blocks in Cardiff in Year 1, the first in September/October, and the second in April/May.  The rest of the teaching and assessment will be via distance learning using the Cardiff University virtual learning environment.

Year two

The modules in Year two total 90 credits.  In addition to the online modules, there will be two face-to-face teaching blocks in Wales (UK) in Year two, in December and March.  The rest of the teaching and assessment will be via distance learning using the Cardiff University virtual learning environment. 

A major component within year two is the placement module, through which the knowledge and skills you have developed on the MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling will be applied and assessed in a clinical genetics / genetic counselling service.  You must complete a clinical placement of at least 72 days in a clinical genetic service, participating in the regular activities of the service and contributing to the genetic counselling of clients of the service in accordance with a pre-arranged Placement Agreement. 

Year three

To progress to the Dissertation stage, you must first pass all components of the taught stage of the programme.  In Year three, you will focus on completing your MSc dissertation project.  An experienced Cardiff University supervisor will be provided who will support you in achieving the goals of the project.

Year three will include one three-day face-to-face teaching block in Cardiff in November.  This block is to provide teaching, guidance and support for your dissertation project.  It will include a consolidation of previous teaching on research design and methodology and enable you to discuss your project plans with the tutors and supervisors. 

Module titleModule codeCredits
Dissertation: Genetic and Genomic CounsellingMET82060 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

You will be taught through a combination of face-to-face and online lectures, tutorials, seminars, self-directed study and experiential learning on placement.

Lectures take a range of forms but generally they aim to provide a broad structure for each subject, to introduce key concepts, and to convey relevant up-to-date information.  In tutorials and seminars, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss particular genetic counselling and genomic counselling topics, to consolidate and receive feedback on your individual learning and to develop skills in oral presentation.  Tutorials will enable you to make individual contributions to group study, for example by summarising a particular genetic condition or your dissertation project for the group.

You will have the opportunity to practise and develop counselling, intellectual, team-working and presentational skills by participating in diverse learning activities, such as solving clinical problems, small-group discussions, debates, oral presentations, independent research tasks and written assignments as well as your practical placement activities in year 2. 

How will I be supported?

You will be allocated a personal tutor who will help you reflect on your performance on the course and advise you on study techniques and career planning.  They will also provide a first point of contact if you experience any difficulties.  You will have the opportunity to meet (virtually or otherwise) one-to-one with your personal tutor once per term.

Extensive careers expertise is available within the School.  In addition, our programme team members are experienced EBMG and/or GCRB registered genetic counsellors and can provide career guidance where appropriate.

A range of staff are available to provide further support, including an academic support tutor and a specialist medical librarian.  A member of academic staff acts as a designated Disability and Diversity Officer and ensures that reasonable adjustments are made for students with disabilities.

All Modules within the Programme make extensive use of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central, where you can access discussion forums and find course materials including recordings of lectures, links to related materials, multiple-choice tests, past exam papers and examples of student work from previous years.  Learning Central will also be used for discussion boards, tutorials, student presentations and class discussions.

You will be allocated a nominated supervisor at Cardiff University when undertaking your dissertation, with whom to schedule meetings, which may be via Skype or other online environment, to discuss progress, provide advice and guidance, and will give you written feedback on a single draft dissertation.

The programme team will support you and your peers to develop strong relationships within the class.  Your fellow students are a great source of support, and the programme team will work hard to create an environment that will foster this as your classmates will continue to be useful sources of support throughout your career as a genetic counsellor.  We will strive to create opportunities for the group to meet and have fun socially during the face-to-face blocks in Cardiff and Gregynog Hall.  The programme team also moderates a Facebook closed group for all current and past students, and you will be encouraged to create your own class Facebook closed group (which the programme team do not access) to foster supportive class relationships.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of means including written work (blogs, essays), presentations, reflective pieces, video skills assessment and a dissertation.

The dissertation is based on a literature-review or an empirical study and normally not more than 20,000 words supported by such other material as may be considered appropriate to the subject and should include the results of your period of project work.  Topic areas could include, for example: individual, family or patient experiences of genetic or genomic testing and counselling; patient outcomes from genetic or genomic testing and counselling; social and ethical implications of genetic technologies and genetic or genomic counselling; or the professional experiences of genetic counsellors.

Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is feedback that does not contribute to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of formative feedback is to improve your understanding and learning before you complete your summative assessment.  More specifically, formative feedback:

  • helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work;
  • helps staff to support you and address the problems identified with targeted strategies for improvement.

Summative Feedback

Summative feedback is feedback on assessments that contribute to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of summative assessment is to indicate how well you have succeeded in meeting the intended learning outcomes of a Module or Programme and will enable you to identify any action required in order to improve. 

You will have the opportunity to discuss feedback one-to-one with the course directors, lecturers and tutors as needed.  You will also have the opportunity to benefit from peer feedback from your fellow students.  Tutorial sessions provide a forum for group feedback to and from the course directors. 

What skills will I practise and develop?

The course will provide you with the opportunity to gain a range of valuable skills, both discipline specific skills and more generic employability skills.  Through the programme, you will have the opportunity to develop counselling and communication skills, IT and practical clinical skills, and you will be presented with a number of opportunities to extend your communication and analytical skills.

Knowledge & Understanding:

On completing the Programme, you will be able to:

  1. Appreciate ways in which a range of healthcare sciences contribute to the practice of genetic counselling

  2. Combine knowledge of human genetics and genomics including Mendelian inheritance patterns, cytogenetics, molecular genetics and genomics, for the purposes of genetic and genomic counselling.

  3. Assess and calculate individual genetic risks using the principles of probability and statistics.

  4. Predict the psychosocial aspects of genetic conditions using theories of counselling, sociology of health and illness, cultural awareness, family dynamics and decision-making.

  5. Calculate an individual’s risk of inheriting or developing a genetic condition that runs or may run in their family, taking in to consideration the inheritance pattern of the condition, their family structure and any conditional events that may have influenced their risk. 

Intellectual Skills:

On completing the Programme, you will be able to:

  1. Integrate knowledge of genetics and genomics, including dysmorphology, inherited and multifactorial disorders, cancer genetics, genetic and genomic testing, bioinformatics and screening including prenatal diagnosis for the purposes of genetic and genomic counselling.

  2. Utilise and critically appraise published evidence for the purposes of accurate and appropriate genetic and genomic counselling.

  3. Appreciate and critically appraise the philosophical, legal and ethical issues that arise in genetic and genomic counselling and apply appropriate theoretical frameworks to resolve these issues.

  4. Propose how current counselling theory and research evidence can inform genetic and genomic counselling practice.

  5. Critique the role and development of clinical genetics service within the NHS and internationally

  6. Critically evaluate published research evidence and its role in the delivery of quality genetic and genomic counselling services.

  7. Design, implement and complete a small research, clinical audit, innovation or service evaluation project.

Professional Practical Skills:

On completing the Programme, you will be able to:

  1. Provide safe, effective, patient-centred genetic and genomic counselling with appropriate professionalism.

  2. Apply counselling skills appropriately in genetic and genomic counselling practice.

  3. Critique the wider impact of disability on individuals and families and the services available for these people.

  4. Assess psychosocial responses to the diagnosis of a genetic condition, genetic risk status, genetic or genomic test results or termination of pregnancy, using theories of coping and grief-bereavement.

  5. Defend the importance of confidentiality of genetic information.

  6. Critique ways in which genetic and genomic counselling integrate with other healthcare sciences and health professions.

  7. Apply professional self-awareness and self-reflection to their own professional development in ways that enhance their practice in genetic and genomic counselling, and improve patient outcomes.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On completing the Programme, you will be able to:

  1. Apply problem solving skills to a range of diverse issues

  2. Manage and prioritise workload and time effectively
    for the completion of quality projects, including working to deadlines

  3. Demonstrate ability to work effectively with others to develop innovative solutions and solve problems

  4. Demonstrate initiative, taking responsibility for accomplishing objectives and goals

  5. Listen effectively to understand and process important and/or complex information

  6. Communicate accurately, clearly and concisely in variety of styles, using a range of media to a wide variety of audiences

Career prospects for graduates with an appropriately accredited MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling are excellent.  In the UK and in the US, the demand for genetic counsellors has increased in recent years.  The US has seen, over the past 2—3 years, a rise in job postings from about 300/year (mirroring US graduate numbers) to over 600 in 2015.  Proportionately similar increases in job postings are being seen in the UK.  Graduates from existing UK MSc in Genetic (and Genomic) courses will be insufficient to meet the needs of the UK NHS over the next few years, as many UK genetic counsellors are approaching retirement.  The Transnational Alliance of Genetic Counsellors (a partnership of genetic counsellor educators from eighteen countries) have strongly emphasized the need for training more genetic counsellors to practice internationally, specifically across the EU, Asia and South America.

There are currently (2016 figures) about 250-300 genetic counsellors in Canada, the UK and Australia respectively, with growing numbers in France, Spain and other European countries, also the Philippines, Taiwan, India, Japan and South Korea.  There are larger numbers of genetic counsellors in the high-income developed nations, with fewer genetic counsellors in the developing nations, reflecting the availability of clinical genetics services in those nations.  Over 90% of graduates from the Cardiff University genetic counsellor training programme have obtained employment as genetic counsellors since we began training genetic counsellors in 2000.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

In year two, you will be required to complete 72 days of placement work-based experience in a local (to you) genetic or genomic counselling service.  This will be discussed as part of the selection process as the ability to arrange it is a prerequisite for being accepted onto the course.  The placement allows you the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills developed on the MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling in a clinical genetics / genetic counselling service and be assessed in core competences.  You will need to liaise with the MSc programme team about the suitability of your proposed placement, and provide contact details for proposed placement providers to the MSc programme team, who will negotiate an appropriate agreement between you, Cardiff University and the placement provider.  You will work with Placement supervisors to complete the requirements of the placement, including a placement supervisor’s report, a Case Log and a Skills and Competences Log.

On placement, you will participate in the regular activities of the service and contribute to the genetic counselling of clients of the service.  You will have the opportunity to reflect on your developing skills in genetic and genomic counselling, supported by a local placement supervisor and by online genetic counselling supervision (as defined by the UK Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors) provided by the MSc programme team.