There are many different employment opportunities as certified assistants, hygienists, and medical technicians since the dental health care industry has had a high demand for assistants in recent years. There are far too many vacancies
due to the lack of qualified individuals to fill these positions. Dental assistants provide a higher level of efficiency in the workplace and hold a comprehensive position responsible for a variety of duties. If you possess strong organizational skills, consider yourself a "people person", can multitask, and are looking for a job in the medical field without years upon years of study, then dental assisting may be the career for you.
Types of Dental Assisting Degrees
There are a wide variety of degrees available in the dental health care field. Many dental assistants will first complete an Associate's Degree of Science or Applied Science and then they receive formal training through academic programs at technical institutes, vocational schools, community colleges, or universities. These programs typically last one or two years, but there are accelerated programs which can be completed in a much shorter time frame. Students receive official certification after passing the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) examination.
A Bachelor's Degree in Dental Hygiene is offered at many public and private colleges/universities as a four year degree. The degree is typically awarded as a Bachelor of Science. There are also a variety of post-graduate degrees available within the field of dentistry; the most common are the Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) and the Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.D.M.) Dental school usually requires an additional four years of study after completion of the baccalaureate level.
Dental Assisting Admission Requirements
To become a dental assistant, there are no formal education requirements. Some dental assisting positions only require a high school diploma and provide on-the-job training, although tertiary programs provide more comprehensive career training. If you want to pursue a Bachelor's Degree, most colleges and universities require applicants to take the ACT or SAT entrance exam.
Some states require licensure to perform certain duties, but since these vary, you should check the requirements for the state you plan to work in. To become certified, you will need to complete some course work and pass the DANB examination. Applicants must hold a degree from a CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) -accredited program or have 3,500 hours of experience during the last 2-4 years. Dental assistants must also obtain CPR certification.
Careers Available with a Dental Assisting Degree
There are a number of career opportunities as a dental assistant within the dental healthcare field. Another great aspect of the field is the potential for growth and expansion. You can first improve your station and gain more responsibilities as a Certified Dental Assistant. You can also specialize as an Expanded Function Dental Assistant or a Dental Hygienist. For those with high aspirations, there are always options to continue your studies and become a fully certified DDS.
Salary and Job Prospects
The high demand for qualified dental assistants creates an expansive amount of opportunities. There are a variety of settings you can work in including private practices, group practices, specialty practices, prosthodontics, public health dentistry, hospital dental clinics, and dental school clinics. If you would prefer to work in a related professional field, there are also ample opportunities with insurance companies, vocational schools, and dental product sales.
Salaries are largely dependent on individual responsibilities and the geographic location of where you choose to work. Annual wages are comparable to other health care personnel such as medical assistant with a similar amount of training and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average wage for a dental assistant in the U.S. is $33,435. This can increase significantly if you move to an area with a higher population or a greater demand for skilled dental assistants. This number also increases with technical training and advanced degrees.
With the high demand for jobs and choice of environment, dental assisting is a great option for those who are looking for a career that allows for patient interaction and mental stimulation.