Core Competencies in Genetics

This resource was created by an interdisciplinary group led by the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG) to provide core competencies in genetics that are essential for all health professionals. These competencies may be helpful for faculty developing curriculum, or an individual health professional seeking additional education in a specific area of genetics. This is the third version of the competencies, published in 2007.

Baseline Competencies

At a minimum, each healthcare provider should be able to:

a. examine one’s competence of practice on a regular basis, identifying areas of strength and areas where professional development related to genetics and genomics would be beneficial;

b. understand that health-related genetic information can have important social and psychological implications for individuals and families; and

c. know how and when to make a referral to a genetics professional.


1.1 Understand basic human genetics terminology.

1.2 Understand the basic patterns of biological inheritance and variation, both within families and within populations.

1.3 Understand how identification of disease-associated genetic variations facilitates development of prevention, diagnosis and treatment options.

1.4 Understand the importance of family history (minimum three generations) in assessing predisposition to disease.

1.5 Understand the interaction of genetic, environmental and behavioral factors in predisposition to disease, onset of disease, response to treatment and maintenance of health.

1.6 Understand the difference between clinical diagnosis of disease and identification of genetic predisposition to disease (genetic variation is not strictly correlated with disease manifestation).

1.7 Understand the various factors that influence the client’s ability to use genetic information and services, for example, ethnicity, culture, related health beliefs, ability to pay and health literacy.

1.8 Understand the potential physical and/or psychosocial benefits, limitations and risks of genetic information for individuals, family members and communities.

1.9 Understand the resources available to assist clients seeking genetic information or services, including the types of genetic professionals available and their diverse responsibilities.

1.10 Understand the ethical, legal and social issues related to genetic testing and recording of genetic information (e.g., privacy and the potential for genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment).

1.11 Understand one's professional role in the referral to or provision of genetics services, and in follow-up for those services.


2.1 Gather genetic family history information, including at minimum a three-generation history.

2.2 Identify and refer clients who might benefit from genetic services or from consultation with other professionals for management of issues related to a genetic diagnosis.

2.3 Explain effectively the reasons for and benefits of genetic services.

2.4 Use information technology to obtain credible, current information about genetics.

2.5 Ensure that the informed-consent process for genetic testing includes appropriate information about the potential risks, benefits and limitations of the test in question.


3.1 Appreciate the sensitivity of genetic information and the need for privacy and confidentiality.

3.2 Seek coordination and collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of health professionals.

Competencies that delineate the components of the genetic counseling process are not expected of all healthcare providers. Clinicians should, however, be able to facilitate the genetic counseling process and prepare clients and families for what to expect, communicate relevant information to the genetics team, and follow up with the client after genetic services have been provided. Those healthcare providers who choose to provide genetic counseling services to their clients should be able to perform all components of the process.