Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 136–149 | Cite as

Transition to the Clinical Doctorate: Attitudes of the Genetic Counseling Training Program Directors in North America

  • Aaron J. Stuenkel
  • MaryAnn Campion
  • Dawn Allain
  • Heather Hampel
Original Research


In North America, genetic counseling is an allied health profession where entry level practitioners currently must hold a master’s degree earned from a graduate program accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. This is one of many health care professions that could transition to an entry level clinical doctorate degree. This study explored the attitudes of genetic counseling training program directors toward such a transition. Thirty-one North American program directors were invited to complete an online survey and a follow-up telephone interview. Twenty-one program directors completed the survey and ten directors also completed a follow up phone interview. There was disagreement among the respondents on the issue of transitioning to a clinical doctorate degree (nine in favor, six against and six undecided). Respondents disagreed about whether the transition would lead to higher salaries (six yes, eight no, and seven unsure) or increased professional recognition (eight yes, eight no, and four unsure). Approximately half (n = 10) of directors were not sure if the transition to a clinical doctorate would help or hurt minority recruitment; six thought it would help and four thought it would hurt. However, the majority (n = 13) thought a clinical doctorate would help genetic counselors to obtain faculty positions. If the field transitions to a clinical doctorate, 11 of the directors thought their program would convert, seven were unsure and one thought their program would shut down. Themes identified in interview data included 1) implications for the profession 2) institution-specific considerations and 3) perception of the unknown. Opinions are quite varied at this time regarding the possible transition to the clinical doctorate among genetic counseling training program directors.


Genetic counseling Clinical doctorate Program directors Genetic education Training 



The authors would like to acknowledge Laura Conway, PhD, CGC and Kathleen Valverde, MS, CGC for their review of the survey instrument and advice on the study. We would also like to thank Bev Yashar, PhD, CGC and Monica Marvin, MS, CGC for piloting the survey. We also extend our gratitude to the program directors who completed our survey and volunteered for follow-up interviews.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron J. Stuenkel
    • 1
  • MaryAnn Campion
    • 1
  • Dawn Allain
    • 2
  • Heather Hampel
    • 2
  1. 1.Master of Science Program in Genetic CounselingBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Division of Human Genetics, Department of Internal MedicineThe Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer CenterColumbusUSA

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