Technology has transformed healthcare in recent decades, from 3D-printed prosthetics to robot-assisted surgery. One of the most impactful advancements has been the ability to sequence the human genome — the complete set of DNA within our cells. Genomic sequencing has opened doors to understanding diseases better and developing personalized treatments. This emerging field of genomic data to transform healthcare is called genomic data science.
In this blog, we’ll explore what genomic data is, careers in genetics and genomics, and how you can get involved through a degree in genomic data analytics.
What is Genomic Data?
Genomic data is the insight into how an organism’s genome is structured and functions. This can include information about the sequence of molecules in an organism’s genes. Through examining genomic data and DNA sequences, scientists can apply statistical analysis to the genome to make new medical discoveries and scientific breakthroughs.
While genetic data looks at single genes, genomic data provides a bird’s eye view of all the genes and how they interact. Knowing the building blocks of life and the sequences that help humanity function enables scientists to make more informed diagnoses. Their work with genomic data can assist in their studies of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and cancer. As researchers and scientists learn more about these conditions, they can develop preventative screening, targeted treatments, and personalized medicine plans.
Genetics vs Genomic Data: What’s the Difference?
Genetics studies single genes and their mutations that impact health and development. Genomics, however, looks at the complex interactions between all genes and proteins. Genetics can tackle the variants apparent in specific genes, but genomics looks at the entire genome for patterns and connections. This big-picture perspective differs from genetics's targeted view, but both work together to enhance patient health and preventative care.
Careers in Genomic Science
Genomic data science careers require an understanding of genetics, data analysis, computer science, and healthcare. Professionals in this field have the chance to transform patient outcomes through their expertise, innovation, and insights.
Here are some of the most promising careers in genetics and genomics:
Clinical Variant Scientist
Clinical variant curators, or variant scientists, are responsible for analyzing and interpreting genetic information generated by genetic testing, including gene panels, whole exomes, or whole genome sequencing. These professionals write reports of their findings and present them to doctors, genetic counselors, and genomic scientists. They may participate in further genomics research themselves as well.
Acting as genetic detectives, variant counselors hone their curiosity and love of learning to discover new genetic information. They must also be knowledgeable on genetic variants, up-to-date on the latest research, and skilled in sifting through conflicting reports to find the most accurate data.
While under the umbrella of general human genetics and genomic data analytics, clinical variant curation takes discoveries to the next level, helping patients and doctors understand what’s happening in their bodies and unlocking possible disease treatments. This profession contributes to all medicine and research advancements in genetics, as every discovery leads to a better picture of human health and well-being.
Their work analyzing genomic data can earn them around $92,908 a year.
Genetic counselors help families and individuals determine and understand their risk for various inherited medical conditions. Their information helps ensure healthcare providers administer the proper care at the right time. Genetic counselors advise, educate, and advocate for individuals and families by facilitating decision-making and coping methods for those at risk of hereditary medical conditions.
Some counselors may work in clinics and hospitals, providing direct patient care, and some do telehealth counseling with their patients. Others may work in genetic testing labs, aiding in writing and interpreting test results. Genetic counselors run clinical communications in lab positions by answering questions for physicians, other genetic counselors, and patients. Some genetic counselors choose to work strictly in research or education, sharing their findings with the next generation of genetic counselors.
Genetic counselors impact the medical and scientific world by sharing their discoveries, empowering doctors and patients with valuable information, and channeling their expertise into advice for those struggling with recent diagnoses.
Professionals working in genetic counseling can expect to make around $92,575 a year and see industry growth at a rate of 18 percent by 2031.
Genomic Data Scientist
Genomic Data Scientists examine patients’ nucleic acid to identify genetic and genomic anomalies that may be markers for conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis or cancer. Like clinical genomic scientists, they work in the code of life: DNA. Genomic data scientists usually work as part of a larger team of doctors, bioinformatic genomic researchers, specialist nurses, and genomic nurses.
Genomic data science combines the experimentation of researching genetic diseases with the data analysis necessary to apply the findings. Both of these processes are used to analyze genetics as they stand today and to predict what future genetic issues could arise. Genomic data scientists earn between $90,194-143,000 a year.
Check out our blog to learn how to become a data scientist.
Pursue a Genomics Degree: KGI’s Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genomic Data AnalyticsAt Keck Graduate Institute, we’re looking to change the future of genomics today. Our Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genomic Data Analytics program gives students the tools to impact genomic science, from individual patients to whole-world health.
With the MSGDA program, you’ll gain hands-on experience with the technologies and information revolutionizing medicine's future. Through a unique combination of foundational coursework in human genetics, cutting-edge courses in the applied life sciences, and an innovative human genomics curriculum, our program allows students to work side-by-side with future genetic counselors and applied life scientists.
KGI also offers three different MSGDA concentrations depending on student interest so that you can find your niche within the world of genomic data. These concentrations are:
- Clinical decision support
- Clinical trial design
- Assay development
All three concentrations prepare students for various roles in the genomics industry and academia, pharmacogenomics, and more!
To learn more about what you can do with a genomic data degree, download our career guide, There's More to Medicine Than Meets the Eye: Your Guide to Careers in Healthcare and the Life Sciences.