An associate in dental assisting is a relatively quick pathway to start working in the healthcare field right away—all while earning a great starting salary.
If you are precise, detail-oriented, enjoy people, and are interested in teeth and oral health, have you thought about the field of dental assisting? Rated as a “Best Job” on U.S. News & World Report, dental assisting is a field of flexibility and fulfillment. While the stress level is moderate (I mean, what career is virtually stress-free? We haven’t seen one), the education requirements are minimal compared to the salary potential earned. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dental assistant careers are projected to grow 7% from 2019-2019, which is faster than average.
What are you waiting for? Check out our 5 Best Associates in Dental Assisting to decide if this is the career for you.
What Is an Associate in Dental Assisting?
An associate in dental assisting is often confused with an associate in dental hygienist, so it is worth noting that these two careers, while similar, require different pathways.
An associate in dental assisting is typically a two-year program, offered at community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. A dental assisting program includes general education requirements, coursework in dental topics such as radiography, chairside assisting, patient care, and clinical hours. Because of the hands-on element of dental assisting, most programs are on-campus, although some of the schools in this ranking offer hybrid options.
Upon graduation with an associate in dental assisting, graduates are eligible to take the Dental Assisting National Board exam, although certification varies by state, and some states do not require this certification to start working as a dental assistant. Applicants typically need a high school diploma or GED, which makes an associate in dental assisting a perfect entry-level career. Dental assisting is also a pathway to becoming a dental hygienist or dentist.
Careers for Dental Assisting Majors
The main career for a dental assisting major is a dental assistant. Dental assistants perform many tasks such as preparing patients for treatments and procedures, performing oral X-rays, helping dentists with procedures, performing administrative office tasks like record keeping and scheduling appointments, and more. Dental assistants also interact with patients, prepare examination areas, and clean up after procedures.
A dental assisting major can also serve as a pathway to a dental hygienist career. The big differences between dental assistants and dental hygienists are the amount of education and responsibilities. Dental hygiene programs teach students how to clean patients’ teeth and examine mouths for gingivitis and oral diseases. Dental hygienists are qualified for additional duties, such as removing stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth, and administering local anesthetics, which entails using various dental tools.
Both dental assistants and hygienists work in a myriad of healthcare environments like private dental offices, public health facilities, group practices, hospitals, and educational institutions.
Dental Assisting Salary Potential
The good news about dental assisting is you can go to school for just two years (or less) and start working in the field with a decent income. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dental assistants earn a median salary of $40,080 per year, which averages to be $19.27 per hour. Those who work for the government earn an average of $42,960 annually, while dental assistants who work in dentist offices earn $37,570-$40,120, respectively. The highest 10% of dental assistants earn more than $56,930, while the lowest 10% earned less than $27,980.
Some people use dental assisting as a pathway to a career as a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists earn more than dental assistants, with a median of $76,200 per year (BLS). The highest-paid dental hygienists make more than $103,340 per year, while the lowest earners bring in less than $53,130 annually. The dental industry is worth getting into, especially if you want to start earning money right away.
What Are the Best Associates in Dental Assisting?
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Hinds Community College
Average Net Price
A public comprehensive community college in Raymond, Mississippi, Hinds CC is devoted to providing top-notch, diverse, and relevant academic and technical programs for students of all walks of life. Hinds CC’s Associate of Applied Science degree in dental assisting technology prepares students to become CDAs after passing the Dental Assisting National Board Certification Exam.
As a student, you will complete four semesters, totaling 65-66 credit hours, while taking courses such as Dental Radiology, Dental Science I and II, and of course, completing clinical experiences. You must maintain a C or higher in each course and take the Dental Assisting National Board exams during your second and third semesters. Hinds CC states this the dental assisting technology program is ideal for students who “enjoy patient contact, flexible hours, and the security of employable skills” (Hinds CC program page). If you are a high school graduate, a parent looking for a career, or an adult searching for a second career, dental assisting technology may be for you. You can apply online with no application fee!
Ozarks Technical Community College
Average Net Price
Missouri’s third-largest community college, Ozarks Technical Community College, offers 40 degree programs for students who aim to transfer to a university or complete an associate program and jump into the workforce. OTC’s AAS in dental assisting is accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA) and leads to fulfilling careers in the dental assisting field.
The associate in dental assisting offers two tracks: traditional or hybrid. The traditional track offers all courses on campus, and while the hybrid track also includes on-campus courses, a significant portion is online to ensure extra flexibility. You will complete 24 general education credits and 38 dental assisting credits, totaling 62 credit hours. Notable courses include Chairside Assisting I and II, Operative Dentistry, and Dental Science and Health. You will complete the program with dental practicum experiences to satisfy clinical hours. You can apply online or contact the Allied Health office for an application packet. To apply for the traditional track, submit your application by June 15, and for the hybrid track, October 31.
Average Net Price
Founded in 1965 as a computer training school, Herzing University is a private academic institution that offers “career-focused programs with flexible learning options” through master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees, as well as diploma and certificate options. Herzing is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and includes ten on-campus locations and an online campus!
Herzing University features an associate degree in dental assisting with loads of opportunities. As a graduate, you are prepared for the Minnesota Board of Dentistry Licensing exam, Jurisprudence exam, and the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. This program also serves as a pathway to earn a BSN in dental hygiene. This program includes 68 credit hours in courses such as Dental Communications, Advanced Expanded Functions, and Dental Management. You will complete a seven-credit hour dental assisting internship during your last semester. While this program takes 20 months, you can transfer up to 51 credits into your program if you have previous post-secondary experience. You can apply online here.
Average Net Price
Carrington College offers associate and certificate programs in the healthcare field, and they make it super convenient to do so! Carrington College’s dental assisting program gives students a “broad base of knowledge on subjects ranging from anatomy of the head and mouth to sterilization techniques to front-office operations” (Carrington College’s program page).
Along with general education courses in English, math, computers, and science, you become proficient in dental assisting skills such as fillings, crowns, extractions, administrative tasks, and more. During your last semester, you will complete an externship (a hands-on clinical experience, similar to an internship, but shorter). Becoming a student at Carrington College comes with many perks, including tutoring and study groups, externships, career services, and a fixed tuition promise. Those in the military receive additional tuition assistance and benefits. You can also complete this program in as few as nine months through one of Carrington College’s 15 locations around the U.S., along with online courses.
Average Net Price
Since 1963, Daymar College has been providing top-notch career training through associate and certificate programs. With more than 30 career tracks and campus locations in Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky, as well as 100% online programs. Daymar offers day, evening, and online classes to enhance flexibility, including an associate in dental assisting.
This program requires 96 credit hours, which are broken down into general education and dental assisting courses. Notable courses include Dental Sciences, Dental Emergencies, Advanced Dental Assisting, and a professional seminar and externship. As a student, you will gain valuable hands-on experience through Daymar College’s “modern dental laboratory using equipment, materials, and other instruments comparable to those used in an actual dental facility” (Daymar’s program page).Graduates are eligible to apply for the registered dental assisting license through the state of Tennessee and qualify for entry-level positions as a dental assistant. If you are interested in furthering your education at Daymar, you can contact the school and request information on the AAS dental assisting program here.