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Geneticist

Geneticists study genes, which contain the information controlling what a living organism is like. 

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £18,000 to £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree or a postgraduate master’s qualification in genetics or a related course which includes genetics, like biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, life sciences or biological sciences.

A PhD, or working towards a PhD would also be helpful.

The Royal Society of Biology has more information on becoming a geneticist.


2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • practical scientific skills
  • IT skills
  • the ability to think clearly and logically
  • problem-solving skills
  • the ability to work with statistics and relevant computer packages

3. What you'll do

Geneticists use the information in genes to make discoveries and developments in a range of areas like medicine and agriculture. Depending on the area you work in, your role could include:

  • developing disease and drought-resistant crops
  • finding and recording disease-causing genes
  • using genes to chart animal populations and conserve wildlife
  • researching and developing new drugs and gene therapies
  • using genetics in archaeology 
  • teaching students about genetics in a university
  • diagnosing genetic diseases 

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • using laboratory techniques to prepare and analyse samples of genetic tissue
  • recording and interpreting the results of experiments and tests
  • using data and statistics to develop computer models of genes
  • writing reports for other professionals
  • reporting and publishing your findings in scientific papers
  • planning lectures and teaching students
  • supervising, training and mentoring other laboratory staff

4. Salary

Starter: £18,000 to £20,000

Experienced: £30,000 to £42,000

Highly Experienced: £60,000 (professor)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. You may also need to work evenings and weekends. 

You’ll spend a lot of time in a laboratory using scientific instruments like microscopes. You may also spend a lot of time working at a computer.

In a laboratory, you’ll be expected to wear protective clothing, like a laboratory coat and safety glasses.

6. Career path and progression

As a research geneticist, with experience you may be able to work your way up to laboratory supervisor or clinical study manager. Lecturing in a university or teaching may also be an option. 

You could move into scientific sales or, with further studies, qualify as a genetic counsellor.

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Last updated: 07 December 2016