Epigenetics Researchers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take as many science classes in high school as possible, including biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Researchers must be able to effectively convey their findings to colleagues, as well as to company and organization executives who do not have hard science backgrounds, so it’s important to take English and speech classes to develop your writing and oral communication skills. Other recommended courses include mathematics, statistics, computer science, foreign language, health, and social studies.

Postsecondary Education

The majority of epigenetics researchers have doctorate degrees in genetics, biochemistry, bioinformatics, computational biology, molecular/developmental biology, or a related field—although some 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 epigenetics researchers 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.


Many colleges and universities offer certificate programs in genetics, biochemistry, and related fields, and some schools offer certificates in epigenetics. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine offers a Chromatin and Epigenetics Certificate Program. Typical classes include Advanced Molecular Biology; Advanced Topics in Chromatin and Epigenetics; Biochemistry of Human Disease; Principles of Genetic Analysis; Principles and Experimental Approaches of Mammalian Genetics; Practical RNA-Seq; Development of New Applications for Next Generation Sequencing; and Seminars in Chromatin and Epigenetics. Stanford University, Columbia University, and other schools also offer certificates in epigenetics.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education classes, webinars, workshops, and conference sessions are provided by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American Society of Human Genetics, and the Genetics Society of America. Contact these organizations for more information.

Additionally, colleges and universities offer classes, bootcamps, and other educational opportunities that help people learn more about epigenetics. For example, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health offers a two-day Epigenetics Boot Camp. Participants will become familiar with “principles of epigenetics, concept ideation and study design, sample collection and processing, laboratory methods and platforms for analysis, data handling and cleaning, data analysis, study design advantages and pitfalls, and emerging epigenetic topics and laboratory platforms.”

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics offers voluntary certification to genetics professionals who pass an examination and meet other requirements. 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.

Successful epigenetics researchers are highly intelligent, inquisitive, strong problem solvers, and passionate about epigenetics and conducting research in the field. They need an analytical and logical personality in order to effectively assess results and determine the next steps in their research. They must have strong communication and interpersonal skills in order to communicate effectively with colleagues and managers. Other important traits include patience, attention to detail, time-management skills, and strong ethics.