Standards of Accreditation

On October 1, 2019, ACGC released the revised Standards of Accreditation for Graduate Programs in Genetic Counseling. Please see the table below for details about the compliance timeframe. Programs must comply with Section D of the new Standards: Accreditation Status and Decisions effective October 1, 2019.

Download the Revised Standards(Effective October 1, 2019) Download the Previous Standards(Effective Through September 30, 2019)

The Standards for Accreditation as established and adopted by ACGC are used by the board in accrediting master’s degree-granting programs that prepare individuals to enter the genetic counseling profession. The extent to which a program complies with these standards determines its accreditation status. The Standards therefore constitute the minimum requirements to which an accredited program is held accountable. The Standards are to be used for external and internal evaluation of existing graduate programs in genetic counseling and should provide guidance for the development of new graduate programs.

Compliance Dates for Revised Standards

The table below outlines the dates by which programs that are currently accredited by ACGC or proposed programs seeking Candidacy are required to come into compliance with the revised Standards.

Accredited Programs
Compliance Date Requirements
October 1, 2019 All accredited programs must comply with Section D: Accreditation Status and Decisions.
June 15, 2021 All accredited programs are required to be in full compliance with the revised Standards by the RCS submission.
Developing Programs
Compliance Date Requirements
October 1, 2019 All proposed programs are required to comply with Section D: Accreditation Status and Decisions.
October 1, 2019 All developing programs applying for Candidacy must submit application materials that demonstrate compliance with the revised Standards.
May 15, 2020 For this program review slot, programs seeking Accredited, New Program Status must submit self-study documents that demonstrate compliance with the revised Standards.

Revised Standards FAQs

ACGC developed this resource to help provide answers about key areas of the Standards changes to note. Click the plus sign next to the appropriate section below to view the answer. You can also download the Revised Standards FAQs in PDF format.

Section A

A2.1 Question: Why is a medical director no longer a required program leadership position?
Answer: This change was made to allow for more flexibility in program leadership structure. The titled roles for additional leadership positions have been changed to better capture the fact that these roles are designed to complement and support the program director. ACGC strongly supports the collaborative relationships genetic counselors have with medical geneticists and other health professionals. Programs may include a medical director as an additional leadership position at their discretion (See Additional Leadership Positions Standard A2.3).
To ensure the continued valuable contributions medical geneticists can provide program leadership, a medical geneticist was made a required member of the Advisory Board (See Standard C1.4).
A2.2.2 Question: Why are the program director/co-director qualifications more rigorous?
Answer: The program director must provide effective program leadership, which requires experience and skills in genetic counseling as well as in postsecondary education, administration, and supervision. First-time program directors may not have an equivalent depth of experience in these areas, so additional hours dedicated to training in postsecondary education and student supervision are now included. The new standard aligns program directorship qualifications with the best practices of other allied health graduate programs and provides an objective way to ensure consistency in these areas across graduate programs. To ensure ongoing competency, the standard now includes the maintenance of ABGC certification and the requirement to document training or other experiences related to leadership, professional development, management, scholarly activities, mentoring, academic advising, and andragogy.
A2.6.1b Question: Why is it now required that fieldwork supervisors have at least one year of experience?
Answer: To be a competent supervisor, an individual must have knowledge and skills specific to clinical supervision and must also be competent in the area(s) of clinical practice. In the absence of an evaluative tool to measure genetic counselor competence in these areas, “years of experience” is often used as a proxy. Benner’s Stages of Clinical Competence suggest that “competence” is evident at Stage 3 and that “employees in this area usually have 2-3 years of experience in the given area or skill.” The new standard, which requires clinical supervisors to have one year of experience, balances the need for maturation of clinical proficiency with the demand for available fieldwork supervisors.
A3.2.2b Question: Why are cumulative board examination pass rates, attrition rates, and employment rates required to be published on the program’s website?
Answer: Success with respect to student achievement is at the heart of accreditation. In the interest of transparency, accrediting agencies that are recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org) or that seek such recognition require the institutions and programs they accredit to make available to the public evidence of student success, including board pass rates, attrition rates, and job placement rates.

Section B

B3.1.2 Question: Why do the standards related to clinical training require a minimum of 50 participatory cases, with at least 40 of these 50 participatory cases required to be with individuals being evaluated for risk of, or affected by, diverse genetic conditions across the lifespan (i.e., non-simulated patients; not a research participant)?
Answer: ACGC referred to the work of the Clinical Training Assessment Taskforce (CTAT) to develop the clinical training requirements.

While CTAT found that the number of cases does not predict competency as defined by board exam performance, stakeholder feedback supported the retention of a minimum threshold for exposure to non-simulated clients, in diverse practice settings and with a variety of indications.
Moreover, the review of competency-based education literature did not identify an existing tool to assess and determine clinical competency in genetic counseling trainees, and such a tool would be necessary for the implementation of a competency-based approach. CTAT found no viable alternative approaches that would eliminate the need for a minimum number of required cases. CTAT also noted that the profession has a set of well-defined practice-based competencies (PBCs) and that clinical training and all components of a program should support trainees’ development of the PBCs.

Section C

C2.1 Question: Why is a first-time board pass rate of 80% over a 3-year period the threshold below which the program must submit a plan for remediation?
Answer: The Standards Committee and CTAT had extensive discussions about defining a standard related to the ABGC Board Examination Pass Rate. A 3-year period was selected in order to include several years’ worth of graduate data to prevent issues that may arise due to small class cohorts. Since the passing score for the certification exam is an absolute criterion and not a comparative one, it stands to reason that this should work in a similar manner. Historically, the first-time pass rates for the ABGC Board Examination have been close to or more than 80%. Additionally, 80% is consistent with what is used for certification exams for other similar organizations.
If a program falls below this threshold, a remediation process is required as opposed to an automatic revoking of accreditation. This allows the program time to make modifications to its curriculum to address consistent deficiencies in specific categories.

Interpretative Guidance Form

Programs may submit this form to request guidance regarding the previous or revised Standards. You must complete and submit this form online in the accreditation management system for ACGC. Please contact Olesya Lamb at Olesya.Lamb@gceducation.org for instructions. You can download the Interpretive Guidance Form in PDF format for your reference. Programs may submit this form to request guidance regarding the previous or revised Standards. Payment of the Interpretative Guidance Form fee (effective January 1, 2019) must accompany the submission.