Genetic Genealogists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take health, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and genetics classes to learn about the scientific underpinnings of genetic genealogy. You’ll use computers to conduct research and analyze and store data, so be sure to take as many computer science, data science, data analysis, and database management courses as possible. Any classes—such as history, social studies, and philosophy—that help you to develop your research and critical-thinking skills will be useful. Additionally, English and speech classes will help you to develop the skills to communicate effectively with coworkers, as well as write reports about your findings. Learning a foreign language will help you to expand the number of genealogical records that you can search and also allow you to grow your client base.

Postsecondary Education

There is no single educational path that you can take to become a genetic genealogist. Many people in this career have started out as traditional genealogists and acquired knowledge of genetics and DNA testing by taking genetics courses at colleges and universities and/or those offered by professional associations. Some expand their knowledge by attending conferences such as the International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, which is sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA. Others choose to earn bachelor’s or graduate degrees in genetic science or bioinformatics.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, offers a bachelor’s degree in family history. Some aspiring genetic genealogists earn this degree in conjunction with a certificate or dual degree in genetics. Visit https://history.byu.edu/family-history to learn more about this program.


The University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut, offers a graduate-level forensic genetic genealogy certificate to students who complete the following online classes: Fundamentals of Forensic Biological Evidence, Forensic Genetic Genealogy, Traditional Genealogy Methods, and Forensic Genetic Genealogy Practicum. Some colleges—such as Boston University, Salt Lake Community College, and Brigham Young University—offer certificates in genealogical research, family history research, and related fields. Many schools offer certificates in genetics and genomics.

Other Education or Training

Many genetic genealogists receive the majority of their training via educational classes, webinars, and conference presentations that are offered by professional associations and colleges and universities. For example, the National Genealogical Society offers a variety of educational opportunities for genetic genealogists, including Understanding and Using DNA Test Result; Genetic Genealogy, Autosomal DNA; and Transcribing, Extracting, and Abstracting Genealogical Documents. You can learn more at https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cgs. Excelsior College offers Introduction to Genetic Genealogy (an eight-week, online course) and Advanced Genealogical Research (a 15-week, online course). Visit https://explore.excelsior.edu for more information. The Forensic Genealogy Institute (the educational arm of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy), Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, National Institute for Genealogical Studies, Association of Professional Genealogists, and the National Genealogical Society also provide in-person classes and webinars. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no specialized certification programs for genetic genealogists, but general genealogists can seek voluntary certification from several organizations. Earning a general certification shows that the genealogist has met high standards and that they have pledged to follow a code of ethics when working with clients. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers the certified genealogist and certified genealogical lecturer designations. The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists offers the accredited genealogist designation to genealogists who complete a number of professional requirements. The Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes grants genealogists working in Canada the following certifications: genealogical record searcher (Canada) and certified genealogist (Canada). Contact these organizations for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring genetic genealogists should have extensive experience in traditional genealogy along with at least one year of experience (employment, internship, co-op) at a company or law enforcement agency that utilizes genetic genealogy in its work.

Successful genetic genealogists have extensive knowledge of genetics and DNA testing; superior research, writing, oral communication, organizational, and time-management skills; an analytical personality; patience and tenacity to wade through data; and strong problem-solving abilities. They also must be highly ethical and respect the confidentiality of their clients.