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Master of Genetic Counselling (MC-GENCOUN)

Masters (Coursework)Year: 2019 Delivered: On Campus (Parkville)

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Award titleMaster of Genetic Counselling
Year & campus2019 — Parkville
CRICOS code061969D
Fees informationSubject EFTSL, level, discipline and census date
Study level & typeGraduate Coursework
AQF level 9
Credit points200 credit points
Duration24 months full time or 36 months part time

Genetic counsellors are employed across many healthcare settings, often working as part of a multidisciplinary team with clinical geneticists, nurses, social workers, dietitians and other health professionals. Genetic counselling is defined as:

“The process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates the following:

  • Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence
  • Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research
  • Counselling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition”

Resta,R; Biesecker,B.B; Bennett, R.L et al. Journal of Genetic Counseling (2006) 15:77 doi:10.1007/s10897-005-9014-3

In Australasia, a professional qualification in genetic counselling is a two-part process:

  1. University-based academic training in genetics and counselling

The Master of Genetic Counselling (MC-GENCOUN) program in the Department of Paediatrics at The University of Melbourne fulfils the requirements for academic training. Successful completion of the MC-GENCOUN is the entry point to become an Associate Genetic Counsellor following individual approval from The Human Genetics Society of Australasia (HGSA) Board of Censors (BOC) for Genetic Counselling.


  1. Submission of a professional portfolio to the HGSA BOC

Associate genetic counsellors are required to have a minimum of one year full time equivalent on-the-job training in paid employment after which they are eligible to submit professional portfolios to qualify as a certified genetic counsellor. This process, involving a number of submissions, may take up to 5 years.

For further information and the training guidelines –see the HGSA website http://www.hgsa.org.au

The MC-GENCOUN program is designed to develop a range of relevant skills and competencies across clinical practice and research. Assessment tasks mirror the skills needed in genetic counselling practice and for professional certification. Students must achieve 70% in all subjects to progress to the second year of the course. Students who pass the first 100 credit points but do not achieve the marks necessary to progress will be given the opportunity to exit with a Graduate Diploma award. Note, this Graduate Diploma is not accredited by the Human Genetics Society of Australasia and will not enable practice as a Genetic Counsellor.

The MC-GENCOUN program has close associations with clinical genetics services across Victoria, interstate and overseas. Content is delivered using a range of learning modalities web based activities and tutorials within the University of Melbourne Academic Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville. Teaching faculty include genetic counsellors, medical specialists including clinical geneticists, scientists, patients and community members.

The MC-GENCOUN program has well established links to international training programs. Overseas clinical placement opportunities are available to students in second year in addition to local and interstate placements. Past graduates are employed throughout Australia and in many countries overseas including New Zealand, England, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia.

Entry requirements

  1. In order to be considered for entry, applicants must have completed:
    • an undergraduate degree in a cognate discipline; or
    • an undergraduate degree in any discipline and at least 1 year of documented relevant work experience; and
    • at least one first year undergraduate biology subject and at least one second year undergraduate genetics subject (preferably human genetics), or equivalent; and
    • relevant voluntary/professional work experience in providing peer/counselling support to others at times of need or crisis; and
    • three written, signed references to attest to volunteer/work experience and ability
    • a personal statement outlining why they wish to be considered for the course; and
    • an interview (restricted to shortlisted applicants), which involves:
      • writing a 500-word reflective piece on a relevant topic as determined by the Selection Committee; and
      • completion of a genetics quiz to demonstrate mastery of basic genetic/genomic concepts; and
      • completion of a resilience survey
    Meeting these requirements does not guarantee selection.
  2. In ranking applications, the Selection Committee will consider:
      • prior academic performance; and
      • relevant professional and/or voluntary work experience and
      • the personal statement; and
      • the performance at the interview; and
      • the references.
  3. The Selection Committee may seek further information to clarify any aspect of an application in accordance with the Academic Board rules on the use of selection instruments.
  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 7+ is required.


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 subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Objectives, Assessment 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 subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/

Professional accreditation

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)

Intended learning outcomes


  • demonstrate expert knowledge of human genetics & genomics
  • demonstrate expert knowledge of counselling theories relevant to genetic counselling practice
  • illustrate awareness and understanding of research methods for use in in healthcare settings


  • display competence in communicating genetic and genomic concepts
  • display mastery of empathic, client focused counselling, communication and advocacy skills
  • demonstrate skills in designing, developing, carrying out and presenting research

Application of knowledge and skills

  • apply comprehensive knowledge of genetics and genomics in order to analyse, interpret and convey health information to clients and other health professionals;
  • implement best practice interpersonal and counselling skills to deliver client centred, empathetic and respectful care within a socially and culturally diverse environment;
  • contribute evidence based genetics and counselling expertise to multidisciplinary clinical teams;
  • display behaviour in keeping with relevant ethical, legal and professional standards;
  • design and manage genetic counselling related research projects and training programs;
  • critically review and reflect on personal performance in the professional environment;
  • identify future learning needs in order to maintain an expert knowledge level and high quality client care;
  • be able to contribute to the genetic counselling knowledge base and support the ongoing development of the genetic counselling profession
  • demonstrate readiness for further development of skills and competencies in line with professional guidelines from the Human Genetics Society of Australia (HGSA)

Graduate attributes

Academic Distinction

The Master of Genetic Counselling provides graduates with

  • in-depth knowledge of the advancing discipline of genomics
  • skills in explaining complex genetic concepts to individuals and families to promote informed decision making
  • ability to provide non-directive and non-judgemental psychosocial support

Graduates will be critical thinkers with strong reasoning skills to address challenges in their workplaces and communities. They can apply genomics knowledge, information and research skills to complex problems in a range of contexts and are effective oral and written communicators. Graduates are adept lifelong learners.

Active citizenship

Master of Genetic Counselling graduates will have engaged with contemporary local, national and global genomics issues. They have a high regard for human rights, social inclusion, ethics and the environment. Graduates are aware of the social and cultural diversity in communities and can work collaboratively with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. In particular, they have an understanding of and deep respect for Indigenous knowledge, culture and values.

The Melbourne experience supports a commitment to civic service in graduates' lives and careers, equipping them to be active, well-informed citizens who make substantial contributions to society. Graduates have the potential to be leaders in their professions and communities, with the capacity to work effectively across disciplines and cultures. Through advocacy and innovation they are able to lead change for a sustainable future.

Integrity and self-awareness

Master of Genetic Counselling graduates are motivated, self-directed and well-organised, with the ability to set goals and manage time and priorities. They are able to work effectively both independently and in groups. They are also highly self-aware and reflective, with skills in self-assessment, and place great importance on their personal and professional integrity.

Course structure

Students will complete all 11 core subjects (200 credit points) to graduate with a Master of Genetic Counselling.

Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling is available after completion of year one (100 credit points), only as an exit award. Completion of the Graduate Diploma in Genetic Counselling does not satisfy requirements to register as a practicing Genetic Counsellor.

Subject options

Year One

Code Name Study period Credit Points
GENE90001 Human Genetics & Genomics in Healthcare
Semester 1
GENE90002 Clinical Genomics
Semester 2
POPH90226 Societal Implications of Genomics
Semester 1
GENE90005 Genomics in Practice
Semester 2
WELF90006 Fitness to Practice 1
Semester 1
WELF90007 Fitness to Practice 2
Semester 2
WELF90004 Principles of Counselling 1
Semester 1
WELF90005 Principles of Counselling 2
Semester 2
HLTH90014 Healthcare Research-Principles & Designs
Semester 1
HLTH90011 Research Project in Human Genomics 1
Semester 2

Year Two

Code Name Study period Credit Points
GENE90021 Advanced Clinical Genomics 1
Semester 1
GENE90022 Advanced Clinical Genomics 2
Semester 2
WELF90009 Genetic Counselling Practice 1
Semester 1
WELF90008 Genetic Counselling Practice 2
Semester 2
PAED90020 Clinical Practice
Year Long
HLTH90013 Research Project in Human Genomics 2
Year Long

Last updated: 5 September 2019