Take the First Step Toward Your Dental Career Now!
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Did you know that dental assistant was ranked as one of the Best Health Career Support Jobs by USNews.com? Below, you can learn about the benefits of a career in dental assisting and find out if it's the right path for you.
A dental assistant’s job duties will vary by industry and state. You may be taking care of the patient prior to the dentist and hygienist taking over. Or, you may be put in charge of administrative tasks. Dental assistants play an important role in whichever type of office they are employed with. You help make the office run smoothly, and can increase the efficiency of the office and staff. Every state has different regulations on what they allow for dental assistants to do. However, dental assistant responsibilities typically include:
In some states, dental assistants are allowed to to perform procedures such as fluoride application, sealants, and topical anesthetics.
When choosing to become a dental assistant, you are choosing to head toward a stable, enjoyable job. It doesn’t take long to get the necessary education, so you’ll quickly join the workforce.
There are two different routes available: Trade or vocational school takes approximately 9 months to 1 year to complete. You will graduate with a diploma or certificate. Community college in the other option. It takes two years to get an associate degree. The benefit of getting an associate degree instead of a diploma or certificate is that, if in the future you choose to go back to school and become a dental hygienist, you already have those credits to transfer toward your bachelor’s degree.
Most states require dental assistants to be certified, so there is a certification exam you’ll be required to sit for once you’ve completed your schooling. To be eligible to sit for the certification exam, you must have graduated or received your diploma from an accredited program. CODA, or the Commission on Dental Accreditation, has accredited nearly 300 programs nationwide since 2015. It should not be too difficult to find an accredited program.
|Program is 12 months and under||2 years|
|Classes focus on dental assisting||Includes core classes|
|Community and career colleges||Community college|
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."Steve Jobs
If you’re considering a career as a dental assistant, then you may be wondering if you have what it takes. Are you making the right choice? It’s normal to second guess yourself, especially in the wake of a big decision like picking a career. There are certain qualities you should possess if you are thinking about becoming a dental assistant. Even if these characteristics don’t sound like you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider becoming a dental assistant. You aren’t going to be judged if you don’t embody every single bullet point listed. Even if you can relate to only one or two of the key qualities, don’t be discouraged!
To become a certified dental assistant, you’ll need to sit for, and pass, an Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam which is given by the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB). Passing this proves to your potential employer that you are proficient and knowledgeable in the ways of dental assisting. However, it is not a required step; you are able to work as a dental assistant without certifications. You would just make more money as a certified dental assistant.
To be eligible to sit for the CDA, you first must go through and pass an accredited dental assistant program. If the program you attended is not accredited, or you were trained on the job, you will be ineligible to take this exam until you completed two years of work as a dental assistant and are able to provide proof.
Each state has different regulations, and some offer other certificate and licenses in addition to the national one. Check with your state to find out their requirements.
When choosing a Dental Assistant program, first and foremost you should make sure the school is accredited with American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
If you have a list of schools you’re thinking about, then you may want to compare them by looking at:
During your time in dental assisting class, you’ll be exposed to subjects such as oral anatomy, radiography, and clinical dental assisting. You may also learn administrative skills, how to take x-rays, the process of recording medical histories, how to use all the tools of the dental trade, and chairside manners. Accredited programs will not only include coursework but also supervised practical, hands-on learning.
Every program has a variation on a common curriculum theme due to certain criteria that is expected from accredited schools. You can learn more about your potential program's requirements by calling the school admissions office. Not all states require you to have a diploma to be a dental assistant (some areas allow on-the-job training). However, it’s becoming a more competitive field, so prospective employers are now leaning toward hiring those who went through an accredited dental assistant program.
There are quite a few factors that go into the cost of dental assistant schools including private school versus public, diploma versus certificate, in-state school versus out of state. Some schools include books and supplies. At others, those are additional and potentially significant costs. Generically speaking, dental assistant programs cost between $1,000-$30,000. Chattanooga College has a dental assistant program that costs around $15,000 before any financial aid packages kick in. And Keystone Technical Institute's 10-month dental assistant program runs around $35,000.
Diploma and certificate programs, because they don’t take as long as an associate degree program, will cost significantly less. Enrolling in a public school within your home state will greatly reduce the cost, as well. Out-of-state tuition is much higher than in-state resident pricing. Be sure to check with the financial aid department of the school you plan on attending, they can help you find scholarships, loans, and grants. Make sure to read this article about financial aid or check our complete financial aid guide to learn more about the process.
"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dental assistants are critical to the functionality of dental practices. By becoming a dental assistant, you are opening up a broad career ladder for yourself. Also, as a dental assistant, you are an important part of a team. And it only takes a maximum of two years to get there.
Usually, dental assistant positions are full time. The median annual salary for dental assistants is $38K. The lowest 10 percent, generally entry-level dental assistants, earn $26K annually. Dental assistants who have more experience earn $53K. Certified dental assistants earn significantly more than those who haven’t obtained their certification. Most dental assistants work full time and may have to work some evenings and weekends.
Pay for dental assistants may look different in every state and within the employed industry. For example, dental assistants who work on a college campus earn slightly less than those employed with a dental office. And dental assistants who work in hospitals or with the government earn higher salaries than the national average for dental assisting. Geographic location will also have an influence over dental assistant salaries. Metropolitan areas pay higher salaries than non-Metropolitan areas.
|District of Columbia||$49K|
|Specialty Hospitals excluding psychiatric and substance abuse||$43K|
|State Government (OES Designation)||$43K|
|Home Health Care Services||$44K|
|Psychiatric and substance abuses hospitals||$42K|
|Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)||$41K|
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."Eleanor Roosevelt
Our aging population, combined with more access to insurance, is driving the job outlook for dental assistants up 19 percent between now and 2026. The average employment outlook for most other careers is around 5 percent, so dental assistant careers are growing much faster than the national average.
Through 2026, there should be close to 64,600 new jobs opening for dental assistants. This should make finding a position fairly easy for those who are qualified. Dentists will be looking to hire more employees, including dental assistants, as their offices become busier with people who, with better insurance, are taking care of their oral health.
|Office of Dentists||$39K|
|Office of Physicians||$38K|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$38K|
|Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)||$42K|
|Colleges, Universities, Professional Schools||$39K|
Find a dental assisting school near you.