A Career as a Cytogenetic Technologist
Clinical cytogenetics is the specialty that studies cell division and the structure of chromosomes as applied to the diagnosis and monitoring of acquired and inherited abnormalities.
The most widely recognized use of cytogenetics is the study of inherited disorders through prenatal diagnosis by amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling or postnatal diagnosis by peripheral blood studies. Cytogenetic technology is also used in the study of acquired chromosomal abnormalities present in various forms of cancer.
In recent years the Human Genome Project has greatly affected genetic testing at all levels. The discovery of new genes and the identification of the DNA sequence and location of diagnostically relevant genes have lead to the development of the new field of molecular cytogenetics.
It is now widely accepted that most human disease is caused in part by a genetic defect. Identification of these genetic abnormalities has become an essential part in the medical treatment of patients in many specialty institutions across the country.
Please see the Student Catalog for a review of the objectives of the MD Anderson Program in Cytogenetic Technology. The review concludes with a description of career options.
The primary responsibility of the clinical cytogenetic technologist is the analysis and karyotyping of human chromosome preparations. The clinical genetics technologist must be able to perform all aspects of the cytogenetic procedure. Cytogenetics requires a basic understanding of cell culture and the cell growth cycle, the biochemistry of staining procedures, microscopy, computer imaging and new techniques in molecular cytogenetics.
As a member of the health care team, a cytogenetic technologist uses a strong background in the sciences to do cytogenetic analysis, a crucial step in the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and follow-up of genetic disorders. Cytogenetic results may also indicate that genetic counseling is required for family members other than the patient.
According to the salary survey conducted by the Department of Academic Affairs at MD Anderson Cancer Center, the average starting salary for a staff cytogenetic technologist is $38,000 to $50,000.