The ancient people have long known that living beings inherit traits from their parents. That’s why many people insist on marrying into “good” families, and that’s how they improved their livestock and crops through selective breeding. It was an Austrian friar named Gregor Mendel who in the mid-19th century started the formal examination of this phenomenon, thus earning him the title the “Father of Genetics”.
But it was only in the 1890s after Mendel’s death that other scientists who were working on the same problem rediscovered his work. A proponent of Mendel’s work came up with the word “genetics” in 1905 for this particular field of study. Soon they discovered that genes were passing on traits to other organisms, and that genes were on chromosomes. Chromosomes are made of both DNA and protein. By 1944, scientists were able to identify DNA as the molecule that caused traits to be inherited.
What is a Genetics Degree?
Genetics is a field of study that is part of biology. The focus of genetics is on how traits can be transmitted to other living organism and how these organisms change as a result.
There are several topics within this field of study, including Mendelian genetics, how genes are regulated, the structure and replication of chromosomes, how gender is determined, DNA repair and recombination, and evolutionary genetics. Other subjects include cell biology, plant genetics, and population gene studies.
In a university setting, a genetics program is science-intensive, with numerous classes in biology and biochemistry. Other prerequisite classes are general and organic chemistry, physics, biostatics, and calculus.
For high schools students who are considering becoming Genetics majors, good grades must be achieved for chemistry, biology, and advanced math.
Classes in a university may take place in a classroom, or they may also be held in laboratories. Some undergraduate Genetics programs allow students to participate in supervised scholarly research. Other programs enable students to engage in public service through participation in a genetics outreach program.
Some students may use their bachelor’s degree in Genetics to get a doctorate degree, while others may want to earn a medical degree. However, some go straight towards employment.
Graduates often apply to pharmaceutical companies and health care facilities, while others may work with universities and government agencies. The jobs may include being a technician in a genetics lab or as an assistant in genetics research. Others become genetic counselors who counsel patients with genetic disorders. They may also be part of a sales team for pharmaceutical companies. A few also become technical writers.
Biological technicians as of 2012 earn a median salary of about $40,000 while genetic counselors earn a median salary of $57,000. Technical writers, with a 17% job growth outlook from 2010 to 2020, earned a median salary of $65,500 as of 2012.
Top Universities for Genetics Undergraduate Programs
Many universities offer degrees in Genetics, but some only offer postgraduate programs. Fortunately there are several excellent schools offering bachelor’s degrees. These include University of Wisconsin Madison, Ohio State University, University of California Davis, Michigan State University, and Iowa State University. Other universities you may want to consider include Rutgers University, Texas A&M University, Duke University, and University of Rochester.