Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 948–962 | Cite as

Seekers, Finders, Settlers, and Stumblers: Identifying the Career Paths of Males in the Genetic Counseling Profession

  • Anthony Chen
  • Pat McCarthy Veach
  • Cheri Schoonveld
  • Heather ZierhutEmail author
Original Research


Genetic counseling is a female-dominated profession, with 96% of counselors self-identifying as female. Research suggests gender diversification benefits healthcare professionals and the populations they serve. Therefore, this study explored how men choose a genetic counseling career, associations between career satisfaction and their career entry dynamics and experience levels, and differences due to experience level in how they decide on this profession. Twenty-five novice, experienced, or seasoned male counselors and 8 male genetic counseling students participated in semi-structured phone interviews. Interpretive content and cross-case analyses of interview data were informed by Simpson’s “Seekers, Finders, and Settlers” theory describing career entry dynamics of men in non-traditional (i.e., female-dominated) fields. Results revealed 13 interviewees were Seekers, who initially knew they wanted a career in genetic counseling, actively chose the profession, and were satisfied with their decision. Eleven were Settlers, who had tried different, traditional jobs, with limited satisfaction before actively finding and choosing genetic counseling. Two were Finders, who discovered genetic counseling while in the career decision making process and made a passive choice to pursue it as they had no feasible, satisfactory alternative. Seven men fit a new category, we termed “Stumblers,” who were in another career and satisfied, but changed to genetic counseling after happening to hear about it. Prevalent themes pertaining to participants’ experiences in the career include desire for a multidisciplinary career; lack of a priori knowledge of genetic counselor roles; late exposure to the profession; and varied perceptions of being in a non-traditional career. There were few differences due to experience level and career satisfaction was high across the sample. Results suggest earlier exposure to the career and availability of detailed descriptions of its multidisciplinary nature may increase the number of males in the profession.


Male genetic counselors Career satisfaction Career interests Gender diversity Experience levels Recruitment 



This study was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the first author’s Masters of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. We would like to thank the participants for their time and valuable input.

Dr. Christina Palmer served as Action Editor on the manuscript review process and publication decision.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Anthony Chen, Patricia McCarthy Veach, Cheri Schoonveld, and Heather Zierhut declare they have no conflict of interest.

Human Studies and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. This study was approved by the University of Minnesota IRB. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Studies

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Genetic CounselingUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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