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Dental Assisting Degree Programs

With most Americans visiting the dentist at least once a year, there is a need for qualified support staff in the field. While people are often familiar with the work of hygienists, dental assistants also play a critical role in many clinics.

Dental assistants may sterilize instruments, help dentists during procedures and process x-rays. They are also often responsible for a variety of administrative tasks. Although they don't clean teeth or fill cavities, they are still a crucial part of providing quality care.

The American Dental Association notes these assistants greatly improve the efficiency of dentists and are valuable assets. What's more, 99 percent of surveyed dentists and dental office managers say an effective dental assistant contributes to practice productivity, according to a 2018 report from The DALE Foundation, which is affiliated with the Dental Assisting National Board.

For those looking to join the workforce quickly, dental assisting can be a good choice. Training for new workers typically involves earning either a short term certificate or diploma or a two-year associate degree. Nearly 250 dental assisting degree programs have been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

While dental assistants previously had to study entirely on-campus, there are now a handful of accredited online dental assisting programs. These typically combine online courses with some on-campus lab work. They may also require an in-person clinical experience.

Best Colleges for Dental Assisting Degree Programs 2019-20

With hundreds of accredited dental assisting programs available, you may wonder which to choose for your education. To find the best of the best, we used a methodology that looked at tuition, graduation rates, program size and support services, among other things.

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Methodology
1Altierus Career College-Norcross (Norcross, Georgia)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

Altierus Career College teaches practical skills that can lead to in-demand jobs. Unlike other schools that offer a wide variety of technical and academic programs, Altierus Career College focuses exclusively on healthcare, trades and technology. The Norcross campus, located near Atlanta, features newly renovated labs and technology that provide a modern learning environment.

Dental assisting programs at Altierus: Students can earn a dental assisting diploma from Altierus in just nine months. The school's all-inclusive tuition covers just about everything needed, including an iPad, textbooks, backpack, school scrubs and a typodont kit. Altierus offers a flexible learning schedule that combines online courses with hands-on instruction. Typically, students won't have to be on campus more than three days per week.

Additional Info
2Atlanta Technical College (Atlanta, Georgia)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
11

Established in 1967, Atlanta Technical College offers about 150 programs of study, including more than a dozen tuition-free career training options. A handful of programs are available fully online while others combine online and on-campus courses. Atlanta Technical College also has a strong track record of student success with the school noting it has a 98-percent job placement rating.

Dental assisting programs at ATC: There are two options for dental assisting students at ATC: a basic dental assisting certificate and a dental assisting diploma. The certificate can be earned in two semesters and covers topics such as dental anatomy and infection control. The diploma requires six months of study and includes a practicum. Graduates of the diploma program are eligible to sit for a national exam for dental assisting certification.

Additional Info
3Remington College-North Houston Campus (Greenspoint, Texas)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

Catering to nontraditional students, Remington College operates a system of non-profit career colleges. In addition to on-campus classes, the college has a handful of online degree programs. Financial aid is available, and Remington College promises not to raise tuition for students who are continuously enrolled and on-track to complete their program. The North Houston Campus has been part of the college since 2004.

Dental assisting programs at Remington College: The dental assisting diploma program at Remington College can be completed in nine months. Students may split their time between the classroom, x-ray lab, computer lab and operative dental lab. Within three months, classroom learning is supplemented with hands-on practice in simulated chairside dental assisting procedures. Graduates are eligible to sit for the exam to become a Registered Dental Assistant.

Additional Info
4Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, South Dakota)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
16

Lake Area Technical Institute isn't just a great school for dental assisting degrees. It's also one of the nation's best community colleges in general, according to The Aspen Institute. The nonprofit group awarded the institute a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Lake Area Technical Institute offers approximately 30 programs, including a dozen online degrees.

Dental assisting programs at LATI: Lake Area Tech has both a traditional and an online dental assisting program. The on-campus program can be completed by full-time students in 11 months for a diploma or 20 months for an associate degree. The dental assisting - certified e-degree is designed for part-time students. Its curriculum includes approximately 12 days of on-campus lab requirements and 300 hours of clinical experience.

Additional Info
5Charter College (Vancouver, Washington)+
ADMISSION RATE
N/A
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
19

Founded in 1985, Charter College is a private institution specializing in career training for growing fields such business, health care and technology. The school offers a blended learning experience that combines in-person instruction with online learning. Opened in 2010, the Vancouver, Washington campus features small class sizes and a convenient location. It also offers special resources to help military members continue or build a career.

Dental assisting programs at Charter College: It takes 10 months to earn a certificate in dental assisting from Charter College. The blended program offers year-round classes with multiple start dates. Students learn about infection control, chairside assisting procedures and front office procedures. The curriculum also includes a 180-hour externship. Graduates should be prepared to fill entry-level positions in various dental settings.

Additional Info
6Georgia Northwestern Technical College (Rome, Georgia)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
33

Georgia Northwestern Technical College is part of the Technical College System of Georgia. It works closely with community partners to develop training programs that meet the needs of local employers. Its more than 200 degrees, diplomas and certificates provide students with the option to study during the day, in the evening or online.

Dental assisting programs at GNTC: Students can begin the dental assisting diploma at GNTC in either the spring or fall. The 55-credit program covers topics such as dental anatomy, dental radiology and dental practice management. At least seven credits cover a dental practicum. Graduates leave GNTC with their diploma, a certificate in dental radiology, a certificate as an Expanded Duties Dental Assistant and the opportunity to become a Certified Dental Assistant.

Additional Info
7Fox Valley Technical College (Appleton, Wisconsin)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$30
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
15

Students can choose from more than 200 programs of study at Fox Valley Technical College. These include associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships. The school stands out, in part, for its strong job placement rate and high student satisfaction. Fox Valley Technical College says its graduate employment rate is 95 percent, and 98 percent of graduates approve of the education they received.

Dental assisting programs at FVTC: Dental assisting students at FVTC learn how to provide chairside assistance as well as perform laboratory procedures under the direction of a dentist. The program requires 33 credits and is intended for full-time students who can take classes during the day. Graduates earn a dental assisting technical diploma and are eligible for national certification.

Additional Info
8Fortis Institute-Pensacola (Pensacola, Florida)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

Fortis operates a network of more than 40 campus locations across the country. It specializes in career training and education in fields such as healthcare, dental and skilled trades. Fortis Online allows students to earn a fully online associate degree in select majors. The Fortis Institute in Pensacola offers hands-on training in nursing, dental assisting and cosmetology, among other areas of study. Depending on the program, students may earn an associate degree or diploma.

Dental assisting programs at Fortis: The Fortis Institute in Pensacola teaches students both the interpersonal and technical skills needed to work successfully as a dental assistant. The school's dental assisting diploma program provides hands-on experience in small classes. Upon graduation, students should be ready to fill entry-level positions in a variety of dental practices and settings.

Additional Info
9Remington College-Fort Worth Campus (Fort Worth, Texas)+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

The nonprofit Remington College strives to make education accessible to nontraditional students. Many of its program can be completed online while others have flexible scheduling options. The Fort Worth campus has been offering programs since 1990 and has more than a dozen associate degrees and diplomas as well as a bachelor's degree program. The campus has a focus on community service and encourages student volunteerism.

Dental assisting programs at Remington College: You can earn a dental assisting diploma from Remington College-Fort Worth in eight months. The program includes an externship that provides students with real-world experience inside a dental office. In addition to their diploma, graduates leave the school with a dental assisting certification in CPR. They are also eligible to become Registered Dental Assistants in Texas.

Additional Info
10Daymar College-Clarksville+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
11

Daymar College was founded in 1963 to prepare students for in-demand jobs. Today, it has campuses in three states as well as online. The Clarksville location has regularly been voted the best local college according to readers of the Clarksville Now news website. It offers a dozen career training programs in the fields of health care, business, technology and criminal justice.

Dental assisting programs at Daymar College: Daymar College says students will get a manageable schedule and small class sizes when they enroll in its dental assisting program. Approved by the Tennessee Board of Dentistry and sponsored by the Capital City Dental Society, the program teaches both chairside and laboratory procedures. Graduates should be ready to take the Registered Dental Assistant exam.

Additional Info

Dental Assisting Degrees and Careers

Unlike some degrees which can be used for a variety of occupations, dental assisting programs prepare students for a specific career path. Although dental assistants can work in the field after earning a certificate or diploma, some employers may prefer to hire those with an associate degree in dental assisting.

What to expect in a dental assisting program

All dental assisting programs cover the same basics, regardless of whether they result in a certificate, technical diploma or associate degree. Courses commonly teach the following topics:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Medical terminology
  • Dental practice management
  • Clinical skills
  • Dental radiography

Students usually receive practical training in both chairside and laboratory procedures. These prepare students for all aspects of the field from patient interactions to x-ray development to how to assist with dental procedures. A practicum or externship with a dental practice is also a part of the curriculum at many schools -- even in online dental assisting programs -- and ensure students have real-world experience prior to graduation. Graduates may go on to work as dental assistants or dental laboratory technicians.

Certificate/Diploma

A certificate or technical diploma is the standard education for many dental assistants. The curriculum of these programs generally prepares students for chairside, administrative and laboratory work. A dental assisting diploma or certificate can be completed in 6-15 months at many schools and is often sufficient to meet the requirements needed for professional certification.

Associate Degree
An associate degree in dental assisting covers advanced topics such orthodontics and pharmacology in addition to everything taught in certificate and diploma programs. The curriculum may also include general education classes in subjects such as math, science and English. An associate degree traditionally takes two years to complete although accelerated programs are available at some schools.

Dental Assisting Program Accreditation

Established in 1975, the Commission on Dental Accreditation is the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit dental-related programs at the postsecondary level. It creates accreditation standards and conducts site visits for predoctoral, allied dental and advanced dental education programs. The organization, known as CODA, has currently accredited 247 dental assisting programs in the United States.

Dental Assisting Licensure and Certification

Most states don't require dental assistants be licensed for entry-level jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, state licensure or registration may be needed to complete more advanced duties such as taking x-rays or working in certain specialties. Check with your state licensing board to determine what's required in your area.

States that do require licensure may be looking for those who have dental assisting certifications from the Dental Assisting National Board. Known as the DANB, this group offers five credentials to dental assistants:

  • National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)
  • Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA)
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA)

Applicants for these certifications must typically meet minimum education requirements and pass an examination.

The industry group American Medical Technologists also offers a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) credential. Dental assistants may qualify for this designation through one of three routes: education, military or work experience.

Career Outlook for Dental Assisting Majors

Dentists rely on dental assistants to help their practices run smoothly. That, plus the priority many place on good oral health, means job prospects should be bright for those graduating from dental assisting degree programs. Here's a closer look at expected job growth in the field.

JOB TITLE
AVERAGE SALARY($)
EMPLOYMENT
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
Dental Hygienists$75,500215,15019.6%
Dental Assistants$39,770341,06019.5%
Dental Laboratory Technicians$43,18034,48014.5%
Source: 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
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Financial Aid and Scholarships for Dental Assisting Degree Programs

Paying for higher education can be expensive, but help is available. The federal government provides loans and grants that may be used to pay for dental assisting degree programs, and colleges may offer their own financial aid packages. What's more, several scholarship programs are available for dental assistant students. These include the ADAA/DANB Scholarship and the Allied Dental Student Scholarship Program from the American Dental Association Foundation.

Jeffrey and Regina Taussig Ohio Honors Scholarship
Applicants must be freshmen with a high school cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and reside in Ohio. Students must have participated in considerable co-curricular activities. Applicants must major in one of the following areas: biochemistry, biology, biology education, chemistry, chemistry education, computer science, engineering, environmental science, forensic chemistry or science, marine biology, mathematics, math education, pre-dental, pre-medical or pre-veterinary. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$125,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

January 11

 

 

Loan Assistance Repayment Program in Maryland Dent-Care
Applicant must be a Maryland resident at time of service obligation, a U.S. citizen or national. Applicant must have received a dental degree from a Maryland college or university or an accredited U.S. dental school, be employed as a full-time dentist in Maryland, have a valid unrestricted Maryland dental license, not breached an obligation for service to federal, state or local goverment entity, and must not be in default of education loans or have incomplete service obligation. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$23,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

Not Available

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable after completion of service obligation.

John M. and Mary A. Shanley Memorial Scholarship
Applicant must be a graduating senior from a Charlotte, Hendry or Lee County, FL high school who will pursue a degree in accounting, agriculture, architecture, computer science, dentistry, education, engineering, law, medicine, or ministry. Minimum 3.0 GPA required. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$20,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

March 4

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable for up to four years.

Health Sciences Scholarship
Applicant must be a fourth-year medical student entering a primary care internship/residency in West Virginia, be enrolled in the final year of a nurse practitioner, or an undergraduate physician assistant educational program at a West Virginia school. More

AWARD AMOUNT

$20,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

October 15

 

 

Q&A with an expert

John W. Yang
John W. Yang, DMD
Clinical Director at Tru Family Dental in Crystal Lake, Illinois
Q:

What would have been helpful to know about dental assisting when you were looking into your own education?

A:

I was a dental assistant before applying to dental school, and it enabled me to get a taste of all of the various procedures, but more importantly, it showed me the daily challenges and rewards of taking care of patients and the amazing transformations possible in the world of dentistry.

Q:

Are there specific advantages to earning an associate degree in the field vs. a certificate or diploma? Do employers typically prefer one over the other?

A:

The associate degree will have an advantage over the diploma or certificate. The degree from an accredited school requires much longer training and a wider range of subjects that are applicable to the job such as administrative or record keeping skills as well as speaking, writing, and computer skills. Many dental assistants with degrees often get promoted to other job opportunities within the dental field and higher pay.

Professional Organizations

Known as the ADAA, the American Dental Assistants Association is the largest and oldest professional group for those working in the field of dental assisting.
The National Association of Dental Laboratories, also known as NADL, represents the interests of dental laboratory technicians and facilities.
As a relatively new organization, the Pediatric Dental Assistants Association was created specifically for those working with children.
Article Sources
Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.

  1. Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.

Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.

  1. In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  2. Median debt of completers, College Scorecard, 2017
  3. 3-year loan repayment rate, College Scorecard, 2017
  4. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  5. Full-time retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  6. Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
    • Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
    • Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
  7. Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
    • Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
    • Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
    • Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
  8. Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2016-17 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
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Article Sources
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
  • Dental Assistant Education and Training Requirements, American Dental Association, Accessed August 2017, http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-assistant/education-training-requirements-dental-assistant
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians, Accessed August 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/dental-and-ophthalmic-laboratory-technicians-and-medical-appliance-technicians.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dental Assistants, Accessed August 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm
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  • Oral and Dental Care, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed August 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm
  • Dental Assisting, San Jose City College, Accessed August 2017, http://www.sjcc.edu/academics/departments-divisions/dental-assisting
  • Dental Assisting Certified E-Degree, Lake Area Technical Institute, August 2017, https://www.lakeareatech.edu/academics/edegrees/dental-assisting-e-degree/
  • Dental Assisting: Registered, College of Marin, Accessed August 2017, https://netapps.marin.edu/Apps/Directory/ProgramProfile.aspx?AcadProgramID=90
  • Dental Assisting, West Virginia Junior College, Accessed August 2017, http://www.wvjc.edu/dental-assisting/
  • Dental Assistant Details, Chattanooga College, Accessed August 2017, http://www.chattanoogacollege.edu/landing/get-started-2017/?gclid=CjwKCAjwxJnNBRAMEiwA8X_-Qeip79Oh6aswXoGPTqO1o9Jwrqc53Atf_2hT3uYKc3XEic_J3eD9rRoCpHsQAvD_BwE
  • About Dental Assisting, College of the Redwoods, Accessed August 2017, https://www.redwoods.edu/dental
  • Dental Assistant Program, Labette Community College, Accessed August 2017, http://www.labette.edu/dental/index.html
  • Dental Assisting, Ohio Valley College of Technology, Accessed August 2017, http://ovct.edu/dental-assisting/
  • Dental Assistant, Salina Area Technical College, Accessed August 2017, http://www.salinatech.edu/dental-assistant.html
  • Dental Assisting, College of Alameda, Accessed August 2017, http://alameda.peralta.edu/dental-assisting/
  • ADAA/DANB Scholarship, American Dental Assistants Association, Accessed August 2017, https://www.adaausa.org/Membership/Awards-and-Scholarship-Information/ADAA/DANB-Scholarship
  • How to Apply, ADA Foundation, Accessed August 2017, http://www.adafoundation.org/en/how-to-apply
  • Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
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  • Atlanta Technical College, Accessed August 2019, https://atlantatech.edu/
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  • Lake Area Technical Institute, Accessed August 2019, https://www.lakeareatech.edu/
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  • About Charter College, Charter College, Accessed August 2019, https://www.chartercollege.edu/charter_college_about_us
  • About GNTC, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Accessed August 2019, http://www.gntc.edu/about/
  • Parents & Family, Fox Valley Technical College, Accessed August 2019, https://www.fvtc.edu/parents-family
  • Fortis, Accessed August 2019, https://www.fortis.edu/
  • Remington College Fort Worth, Remington College, Accessed August 2019, https://www.remingtoncollege.edu/locations/fort-worth/
  • Daymar College in Clarksville, Daymar College, Accessed August 2019, https://www.daymarcollege.edu/locations/tennessee/clarksville
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental Assistants, Accessed August 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm
  • Dental Assistant, American Medical Technologists, Accessed August 2019, https://www.americanmedtech.org/Get-Certified/RDA-Eligibility
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  • Become Certified, Dental Assisting National Board, Accessed August 2019, https://www.danb.org/Become-Certified.aspx
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