Geneticists study how traits are inherited in people, animals and plants at the molecular or population level. They must be familiar with biology to study organisms and their interdependence and chemistry to determine the composition of substances. They also must be able to communicate their findings to students, other scientists and the public.
In its 2011 Salary Survey Report, the American College of Medical Genetics found that clinical geneticists made average annual base salaries of $159,339 to $194,895 in the public sector, with total compensation ranging from $166,525 to $210,277. In the private sector, information was only available for those with 16 years of experience and over. It showed average base yearly salaries of $265,000 to $274,000, with total compensation of $280,500 to $317,600. In general, salaries increased with experience. The National Society of Genetic Counselors' 2010 Professional Salary Survey showed averages of $63,700 a year for genetic counselor, with highs up to $150,000.
The American Society of Human Genetics points out that geneticists can work at universities not only as researchers but also as teachers. Instructors, who do not have tenured positions, averaged $47,847 for the 2011-12 school year, according to the American Association of University Professors. Geneticists seeking a full professorship started on the tenure track as assistant professors, earning an average of $66,564. Those who became professors averaged $113,176.
Universities require a doctorate or professional degree for an academic appointment, and other types of employers mandate it for research positions, according to the American Society of Human Genetics. Genetics educational programs typically cover biology, chemistry, calculus, physics, cell biology and molecular genetics. Those specializing in human genetics explore topics such as clinical treatments and abnormal development. Those focusing on agricultural genetics look at plant development.
The American Society of Human Genetics predicts increases in genetic testing, especially by clinicians, counselors and laboratory geneticists. Other growth areas include pharmaceuticals and clinical testing, as well as bioinformatics, which combines computer science, robotics and genetics.