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Genetics, General

Program Description

Just the Facts

Genetics, General. A general program that focuses on the scientific study of the organization, recombination, function, regulation, and transmission of heritable information in biological organisms at all levels of complexity. Includes instruction in Mendelian genetics, mechanisms of gene regulation, chromosome structure and replication, epigenetic phenomena, DNA repair and recombination, sex determination, genetic interactions between genomes, and molecular evolution.

This program is available in these options:

  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Human genetics is just one area of specialization for genetics students. Graduates can work in a wide range of areas, from agriculture to forensic science.

At the undergraduate level, you'll usually take genetics courses as part of a biology degree. At the master's and PhD level, you'll be able to do more in-depth study in genetics. For most jobs, you need more than just a bachelor's degree.

Peter Maeba is a former microbiology professor. He says at his university, students seeking a BS in genetics can take an interdisciplinary honors program with genetics and related courses offered by different departments.

"Courses in biology, chemistry, maths, statistics and arts are required," says Maeba. "Space is available to take additional courses. Entry into the genetics honors program is after completion of first year."

Maeba says entry requires at least a B in first-year chemistry and a C-plus in first-year biology or vice versa -- a C-plus in chemistry and B in biology.

Professor Dan Gietz points out that a bachelor's program in genetics is designed to give the student a broad base of exposure to the field before reaching the specialized level that a more advanced degree offers. However, students can focus their degree on an area of interest.

Elizabeth Jones teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, which offers genetics as an elective in the biological sciences program. She feels students would be better off studying genetics through a biological sciences degree than choosing a specific major in genetics.

"I have a PhD in genetics and don't think that was the best decision I ever made," she says. "Genetics is intimately tied to biology and is best studied in that context."

Students at Carnegie Mellon can expect to take science courses as well as a computer skills workshop and a writing course. They also take courses in molecular biology, developmental genetics and advanced genetics.

"Most laboratory groups meet weekly to discuss successes and failures and to discuss results, experimental designs, etc.," says Jones.

Maeba notes that high school students should have high marks in math, chemistry, physics and biology. Jones says students should also be computer-literate, as well as good writers and speakers.

The main costs are tuition and books. Textbooks can be quite expensive for science students.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Biological Scientists

Careers in Genetics and the Biosciences
Great information on this site

Glossary of Genetic Terms
From the University of Kansas

American Society of Human Genetics
Features current headlines about genetics in the news