Master of Genetic Counselling

Course MC-GENCOUN (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Year and Campus: 2015 - Parkville
CRICOS Code: 061969D
Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Level: Graduate/Postgraduate
Duration & Credit Points: 200 credit points taken over 24 months full time. This course is available as full or part time.


Margaret Sahhar


Margaret Sahhar (Course Coordinator)

T:+61 3 8341 6256


Course Overview:

Genetic counsellors work in a multidisciplinary team with clinical geneticists, nurses, social workers, dietitians, communicating complex genetic information to individuals and families to facilitate decision making. Genetic counsellors are employed in clinical genetics units and work in many areas including: cancer genetics, predictive testing, paediatric genetics, prenatal genetics, adult genetics. Genetic counsellors increasingly are involved in qualitative and quantitative clinical genetic research.

The Master of Genetic Counselling constitutes the professional qualification for entry into employment as an associate genetic counsellor, and for Part 1 certification, awarded through the Board of Censors in Genetic Counselling (Human Genetics Society of Australasia).

The 2 year Master of Genetic Counselling is designed to build and increase skills and breadth in clinical practice and research, utilizing the expertise of tutors who are clinicians, genetic counsellors, scientists, people with a disability and community members. The Masters is taught within the clinical genetics service Genetic Health at the Royal Childrens Hospital Parkville Victoria. Students are encouraged to attend educational activities within Genetic Health including seminars, clinic meetings and journal club.

The existing Graduate Diploma, established in 1996, is a successful 1 year program and is an exit point after 1 year of study in the Masters.

Internationally, genetic counselling is taught within a 2 year clinical Masters. The Masters program aims to increase research and employment opportunities for graduates through developing reciprocity with other countries. With well established links to overseas training programs there are international opportunities for students, through an active exchange program for clinical placements and research collaborations. Past graduates are employed throughout the world -including in Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand. It is expected that graduates of the Melbourne Masters will be eligible to register to practise as genetic counsellors in the UK and Canada, further increasing employment opportunities.

The Master of Genetic Counselling will fulfil the requirements for certification and employment as a genetic counsellor in Australia and reciprocity with training overseas. The program teaches counselling skills, research skills and clinical genetics knowledge in small interactive student groups. Problem Based Learning is one mode of teaching in the genetics tutorials. This mode of teaching facilitates independent learning which equips the student to continue to develop professionally throughout their career. Students will complete a minor thesis with supervision, and have extensive counselling skills practice in varied clinical genetics and community settings. Assessment tasks mirror the skills needed in genetic counselling practice and for professional certification by the HGSA(Part 2)

Teaching staff are primarily practicising genetic counsellors, scientists and clinicians within the clinical genetics service.

Learning Outcomes:

Research and Evaluation Skills:

  • Develop skills of research methodology from the Graduate Diploma to effectively implement original supervised clinical research;
  • Understand the ethic committee process and develop an ethics proposal;
  • Undertake a critical literature review relevant to a particular topic of research;
  • Develop original research arising from clinical practice;
  • Present findings from a original research project at a professional forum;
  • Understand the principles of qualitative research, including research design and process in an ethical framework OR
  • Undertand biostatistical concepts and methods and their application in the assessment and management of health conditions OR
  • Develop an understanding of the nature and purposes of health program evaluation.

Critical Reflection and Cognition Skills:

  • Develop counselling skills through application of models of practice, in supervised clinical placements;
  • Critically evaluate different models of practice through theory, observation and participation in genetic counselling inverviews;
  • Respect differences in cultural, religious and socioeconomic beliefs in clients, throguh developing a critical understanding of difference through the literature and personal contact with clients;
  • Develop self-awareness through reflection and active participation in the process of supervision.

Communication Skills:

  • Analyse the genetic counselling process and the impact on families from a cultural, ethical and psychosocial perspective;
  • Understand and critically analyse the process of transferance and counter transferance in an interview;
  • Critically analyse the process of communication.

Ethical Skills:

  • Understand the ethical principles that guide and inform genetic counselling practice;
  • Consider personal, cultural and moral values which may impact on the individual practice of genetic counselling;
  • Recognise the ethical challences that may confront clients;
  • Understand and identify the potential for ethical challenges in emerging new genetic technologies;
  • Identify possible challenges to facilitating informed consent and maintaining patient confidentiality.

Genetic Skills:

The curriculum is based on the genetic knowledge requirements of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia Board of Censors for Genetic Counselling, which governs the certification of genetic counsellors in Australaia.

In Year One basic biological and genetic precepts, and genetic disease concepts will be taught via a combination of didactic and problem based learning (PBL) methods. Various human genetic conditions will be discussed to illustrate concepts. PBL will be used to facilitate the sharing of information between students and to support the development of group work - which models the work of a genetic counsellor, who works as part of a multidisciplinary team.

  • Understand the principles of inheritance;
  • Understand chromasomal disorders and the genetic basis of disease;
  • Understand clinical genetic risk assessments for patients and families;
  • Elicit and document a famity history and family pedigree, convey genetic information and discuss risk;
  • Understand the normal stages of human embryo developments and have an awareness of how this can be disrupted;
  • Understand the role of genetics as the underlying cause of various disorders of the human body;
  • Understand the role of genetics in cancer;
  • Have an appreciation for the range of molecular, cytogenetic and biochemical laboratory tests utilised in clinical genetic practice;
  • Understand the genetic testing approack taken for specific genetic disorders;
  • Understand the treatment approach taken for specific genetic disorders;
  • Understand the issues relating to population based screening;
  • Understand the role of prenatal screening and testing in pregnancy management and care, and the options available when fetal abnormality is detected;
  • Understand the organisational and economic aspects of health care in Australia;
  • Understand the role of the genetic counsellor in the context of the multidisciplinary approach to clinical genetic health care;
  • Understand the principles of the legal and professional duties and the responsibilities of genetic counsellors as health professionals and members of a health care team.
Course Structure & Available Subjects:

Students will complete 11 subjects in total (200 credit points). An exit point of the Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling is available after completion of year one (100 credit points).

Subject Options:

Year One

Students will complete the following eight core subjects (100 credit points). An exit point of the Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling is available after completion of year one.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Semester 2

Year Two

Students will complete the following three core subjects.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Entry Requirements:

1. In order to be considered for entry, applicants must have completed:
• an undergraduate degree with a cognate genetics subject at second year level, or equivalent; and
• a personal statement.
Meeting these requirements does not guarantee selection.

2. In ranking applications, the Selection Committee will consider:
• prior academic performance; and
• the personal statement.

3. The Selection Committee may seek further information to clarify any aspect of an application in accordance with the Student Application and Selection Procedure.

4. Applicants are required to satisfy the university’s English language requirements for postgraduate courses. For those applicants seeking to meet these requirements by one of the standard tests approved by the Academic Board, performance band 6.5 is required.

• Preference is given to applicants who have demonstrated relevant volunteer or professional experience.
• Students may choose to exit the course with a Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling following successful completion of the first 100 credit points. The Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling is only available as an exit award. Completion of the Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling does not satisfy requirements to register as a practicing Genetic Counsellor.

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this course are articulated in the Course Overview, Objectives and Generic Skills sections of this entry.
It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this course are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and the Disability Liaison Unit:

Graduate Attributes:


Graduates of the Master of Genetic Counselling Degree will have acquired:
1. a body of knowledge that includes the understanding of recent developments in a discipline and/or area of professional practice in the discipline of Genetic Counselling
2. knowledge of research principles and methods applicable to a field of work or learning in the discipline of Genetic Counselling


Graduates of the Master of Genetic Counselling Degree will have developed:
1. cognitive skills to demonstrate mastery of theoretical knowledge and to reflect critically on theory and professional practice or scholarship
2. cognitive, technical and creative skills to investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories and to apply established theories to different bodies of knowledge or practice
3. cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate complex ideas concepts at an abstract level
4. communication and technical research skills to justify and interpret theoretical propositions, methodologies, conclusions and professional decisions to specialist and non-specialist audiences
5. technical and communication skills to design, evaluate, implement, analyse, theorise about developments that contribute to professional practice or scholarship technical and communication
skills to design, evaluate, implement, analyse, theorise about developments that contribute to scientific professional practice or scholarship

Application of knowledge and skills

Graduates of the Master of Genetic Counselling Degree will demonstrate the application of knowledge & skills:
1. with creativity and initiative to new situations in professional practice and/or for further learning
2. with high level personal autonomy and accountability
3. to plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience and/or piece of scholarship with creativity and initiative to new situations in professional scientific practice and/or for further learning to plan and execute a substantial research-based project

Generic Skills:

The Master of Genetic Counselling is designed to enable students to:

  • Gain clarification from the professional Board of Censors in Genetic Counselling (Human Genetics Society of Australiasia) to practise as a professional genetic counsellor in Australasia;
  • Learn the scope of practice and models of practice of genetic counselling through taught theory, relevant literature, and supervised clinical placements in order to practice genetic counselling in Australia and internationally;
  • Learn the relevant core concepts of genetics as applied to the practice of genetic counselling;
  • Reflect on the ethical and personal implications of knowledge taught, to develop self awareness;
  • Develop the skills to formulate research projects within a clinical genetics setting;
  • Develop skills to communicate genetic information effectively within a genetics consultation, understanding the relevance of culture and psychosocial indicators consistent with their professional code of ethics;
  • Develop skills skills to work effectively in a multidisciplinary professional team and to udnerstand the scope of practice and models of practice of the profession of genetic counselling;
  • Understand the theories and principles of counselling and to be able to effectively use these within a genetic consultation to enable decision making and the transfer of relevant genetic information;
  • Understand the relevance of community resources;
  • Understand the rationale and principles of genetic predictive testing programs, and community access to these programs.

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