Education and Training Requirements
In high school, take as many science classes as possible, including biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Strong writing and oral communication skills are important for success in this career, so be sure to take English, speech, and writing classes. Learning a foreign language will help you to expand your cultural horizons, collaborate with scientists who do not speak English fluently, and even open up the possibility of working abroad. Other recommended courses include mathematics, statistics, computer science, health, and social studies.
The majority of CRISPR scientists have doctoral degrees in molecular biology, cellular biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, biological sciences, genetics, bioinformatics, computational biology, neuroscience, or a related field—although some only have master’s degrees. Many students also participate in postdoctoral fellowships, assisting a prominent scientist with research. Those with a bachelor’s degree in one of the aforementioned majors can work as science or laboratory technicians.
The American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics accredits postsecondary clinical biochemical genetics and laboratory genetics and genomics programs. Visit http://www.abmgg.org/pages/training_accredprog.shtml for more information.
Aspiring CRISPR scientists who also plan to work as physicians must earn an M.D. or D.O. degree from a medical school, then complete a three- to-five-year residency in a medical specialty, followed by an additional two to three years of specialized training in genetics.
Certificate programs in CRISPR, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and related fields are offered by colleges and universities and private, for-profit education companies. For example, Harvard University offers an eight-week, online CRISPR: Gene-Editing Applications certificate program. Courses include:
- Basic Principles of Molecular Biology
- CRISPR and Genetic Engineering
- Treating Genetic Diseases
- Promoting Resistance to Infectious Diseases
- Combating Cancer Through Research and Treatment
- Optimizing and Fighting Microorganisms: The Food, Health, and Energy Industries
- Improving Agriculture: Optimizing Crops
- The Ethics of Using CRISPR
Other Education or Training
Many professional associations, colleges and universities, and online learning platforms offer continuing education (CE) classes, webinars, and workshops. For example, the American Society of Human Genetics offers courses and webinars such as How to Prepare for a Career in Computational Genetics/Bioinformatics, Molecular Genetics, and Research & Development; Julia Meets Mendel: Algorithms and Software for Modern Genomic Data Analysis; and Therapeutic Genome Editing. These educational opportunities are a great way to expand your knowledge base and build your career in this constantly changing field. The American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, Genetics Society of America, and organizations at the state and local levels also offer CE opportunities.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Genetics professionals who pass an examination and meet other requirements can receive voluntary certification from the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics. Epigenetics researchers who are also physicians must be licensed to practice medicine.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Any experience one can obtain in genetic science—such as an internship, co-op, fellowship, volunteer opportunity, or a part-time job—will be useful. Aspiring scientists obtain experience via a postdoctoral fellowship, while those who want to work as physicians must complete clinical training and a medical residency.
CRISPR scientists must have excellent research, analytical, and problem-solving abilities, as well as a love of knowledge, a desire to use CRISPR technology to make the world a better place, and a willingness to continue to learn throughout their careers. Other important traits include excellent communication (both oral and written) and interpersonal skills, strong ethics, and top-notch time-management and organizational skills.