This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Advanced study in human genetics and genetic counseling is available through a dual degree program sponsored by the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the School of Medicine.

The dual degree Ph.D. in Human Genetics and M.S. in Genetic Counseling program allows students to earn two degrees with a minimum of 122 credits (or 123 with a concentration) rather than the 146 credits necessary if the two were pursued separately. This efficiency lowers the overall cost of tuition while also reducing time to earning both degrees.

Program goals

The objectives of this dual degree program are to:

  • Provide training in human genetics and competency in genetic counseling
    The program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as researchers and trainers in a broad spectrum of positions in human genetics and genetic counseling. The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter in human genetics and an ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation and experimentation in this discipline. The program relates the above framework to the development of the ability to design, implement and interpret experimental approaches that address the questions identified. In addition, the program will develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of human genetics knowledge and the expression of experimental design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences.
  • Eligibility for certification by the American Board of Genetic Counseling
    To prepare individuals for careers in genetic counseling and human genetics, successful candidates will demonstrate competency in all four genetic counseling domains: I – genetics expertise and analysis; II – interpersonal, psychosocial and counseling skills; III – education; and IV – professional development and practice.

The Department of Human and Molecular Genetics offers training that combines preparation for a career as a genetic counselor with research-based doctoral training in a coordinated program that integrates the complementary aspects of these two degree categories. In order to be admitted to this dual degree program, an applicant must be accepted into both programs individually, as well as the inter-program agreement to allow the student to pursue the dual degree.

Among the many benefits offered by participation in the dual degree program are the following:

  • Students holding these degrees may be more competitive in genetic counseling careers in academic institutions, notably in terms of professorial advancement or tenure eligibility.
  • Students with a dual degree may be more highly sought after in leadership positions in academic training programs.
  • Students may be more competitive in roles traditionally requiring doctoral-level qualifications that would benefit from clinical genetic counseling perspectives (e.g., diagnostic laboratory director).
  • Students will be prepared for clinician-scientist positions and for advancing the genetic counseling field through research, including being competitive for research funding.

The diplomas for this dual degree program are awarded simultaneously, although all requirements for the Ph.D. are first completed prior to beginning clinic rotations for the M.S. in Genetic Counseling degree (typically the final year of the program).

Student learning outcomes

See each degree program page for student learning outcomes.

Other information


The graduate program directors from each separate program and the director of the dual degree program help to develop a plan of study for the student. By the end of their first year, the student will have identified a research adviser to guide them through their dissertation project. By their second year, the student will have formed their graduate committee, which meets annually to monitor progress in their dissertation research. The director of the dual degree program meets with the student on a regular basis to ensure appropriate academic progress and designated entry into master’s studies pending doctoral research progress. After the student completes Ph.D. dissertation work and enters into dedicated genetic counseling studies, the director of the dual degree program will serve as the student’s primary adviser.