Genetics is the biological science that studies the ways in which hereditary qualities are transferred from one generation to the next. Genetics provides an essential basis by which all living organisms, from microorganisms to plants, animals and the human race, are studied.

Geneticists study the genetic composition of living organisms and attempt to explain how information is transferred from one cell to another and from one generation to the next.

Genetics can be divided into the following fields:

Cytogenetics: the genes that occur in the genetic material of the organism determine the characteristics of organisms. This genetic material (DNA) is packed in the cell in the form of chromosomes. The qualities of chromosomes and their behaviour form the central part of cytogenetics.

Molecular genetics: A study is made of the molecular nature and functioning of genetic material. Techniques are developed through which scientists are able to characterise, change and utilise genes for commercial use. This technology is applied in genetic engineering and biotechnology and plays an increasingly important role in the medical, agricultural and industrial fields.

Population genetics and plant and animal breeding: The study of genes on the cellular level and the behaviour of genes in groups of organisms go hand in hand. This gives rise to one of the most important fields of genetics application, namely the use of genetics to make predictions, which are then used in the breeding of plants and animals.

Human genetics: An important field of genetics is the study of genetic diseases in humans. Better knowledge of human genetics and the molecular nature of defective genes makes it easier today to successfully diagnose and prevent possible genetically associated diseases.

Other fields of application are: Microbe-genetics, pharmaco-genetics, cancer-genetics, immuno-genetics and the genetics of mental disabilities.

Geneticists often perform laboratory work but also work on farms where they work on plant breeding. These are outdoor posts, but geneticists can also be office and/or lab bound. They do laboratory research, computer analyses, mathematical analyses in population studies and breeding, and diagnostic work in the human, plant and animal fields.


  • universities

  • hospitals

  • research institutes such as the CSIR, the Medical Research Institute, the Veterinary Research Institute

  • agricultural research institutes

  • National Botanical Gardens

  • private institutions such as AECI

  • plant breeding companies

  • animal breeding companies

  • forensic laboratories

  • self-employment, plant and animal breeders can start their own businesses

Getting Started

  • read up as much as possible about genetics

  • speak to geneticists in different fields to find out more about this type of career


Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Multimedia University of Kenya, Open University of Tanzania, Sokoine University of Agriculture, South Eastern Kenya University, Technical University of Kenya, University of Johannesburg, University of Nairobi, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Free State

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