There are several career options for human and molecular genetics experts in the rapidly expanding genetic research field. Driven by the development of genomic technologies, improvements in personalised treatment and the growing field of molecular diagnostics, there is an unprecedented need for qualified practitioners.

The changing face of human genetics is driving the need for skilled graduates

The demand for human and molecular genetics experts has never been higher, driven by the emergence of new genomic technologies, improved personalised medicine and advancements in molecular diagnostics. 

The increased use of these in healthcare, research and biomanufacturing has led to the global clinical diagnostics market being valued at $86 billion in 2023. 

In the U.K. alone, the National Health Service (NHS) performs around 500 million biochemical and 130 million haematological tests each year. As these areas continue to grow there is an increasing need for a highly skilled workforce with a deep understanding of molecular genetics and an extensive and diverse practical laboratory skill set. We are, however, facing a skill shortage, so having a postgraduate qualification in human and molecular genetics provides students with this in-demand skill set and makes them highly attractive to employers.

What does a human and molecular genetics course involve?

A postgraduate course in human and molecular genetics uses taught theory modules to expose students to the breadth of human genetics and equip them with a deep understanding of core themes such as human genetics, molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, RNA metabolism and genome editing (CRISPR). Many courses offer the opportunity to further tailor learning with more specialised areas such as clinical genomics, genome stability, bioinformatics, cytogenomics, cancer biology and the clinical applications of molecular genetics.

Alongside academic studies, students should have an immersive experience in the laboratory, delivered across the academic year and in several formats. Intensive practical modules deliver hands-on training in a range of established techniques used in laboratories worldwide such as molecular cloning, DNA gel electrophoresis, m.pulation, CRISPR, PCR, SDS-PAGE and western blotting. An independent laboratory research project allows delving into cutting-edge molecular genetics research while working alongside world-leading researchers and acquiring advanced skills in techniques such as human cell culture, fluorescence microscopy, practical cytogenetics, qPCR, RNAi and many more. 

As educators, we also believe in a holistic approach to learning, where not only should students acquire knowledge and practical skills, but we aim to develop them into scientists. Skills modules develop their critical analysis, project management, teamwork, problem-solving and research skills, empowering them to approach tasks with confidence, work to a professional standard and become a scientist capable of working at the very forefront of molecular genetics.  

Available career paths

Human and molecular genetics graduates can pursue diverse and impactful careers in healthcare, research or industry, from patient-focused roles to creating the biotechnology that underpins healthcare or performing essential research to understand human diseases. 

One of the largest employers of human and molecular genetics graduates is the UK healthcare sector. Medical laboratory assistants, genetic technologists and healthcare scientists apply their laboratory skills in processing patients’ diagnostic samples and preparing them for analysis. Clinical scientists use their extensive clinical genetics knowledge to perform the vital analysis of these samples and genomic counsellors use their specialist knowledge to support patients in their diagnosis. 

Many graduates go on to pursue fantastic careers working as research scientists, laboratory specialists, technicians and managers at Fortune 500 such as Pfizer and ThermoFisher or internationally renowned research centres such as the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the Max Planck Institute. Others choose to pursue further their academic endeavours by undertaking PhDs at world-leading research institutes or completing NHS graduate schemes such as the Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) or Scientist Training Programme (STP). 

As a human and molecular genetics course lead, I frequently engage with both alumni and employers who share with me that the skills and professional attributes discussed in this article not only enable graduates to stand out from other candidates when applying but also lead to vastly accelerated career progression once employed. Choosing to study human and molecular genetics builds upon the foundation knowledge developed during your undergraduate studies and is a pivotal step towards an exciting and fulfilling career that will deliver significant societal impact.

The author is the Course Director of MSc Human and Molecular Genetics at the University of Sheffield, U.K.

Rahul Dev

Cricket Jounralist at Newsdesk

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *