Dental Assisting & Degree Programs
- 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
- Dental Assistant, American Dental Association, Accessed August 2017, http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-assistant
- 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
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. The American Dental Association notes these assistants greatly improve the efficiency of dentists and are valuable assets.
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.
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 a two-year associate degree. While some schools many allow students to take courses via distance education, there typically aren't online degrees for dental assisting given the hands-on nature of the work.
Best Colleges for Dental Assisting Degree Programs
The Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved nearly 270 dental assisting programs. To determine the best of the best, we used a methodology that looked at tuition, graduation rates, program size and support services, among other things.
San Jose City College has a lot going for it. The school's tuition rate is relatively affordable and its open admissions policy means no student is turned away. Plus, there is academic counseling and career placement services for graduates. SJCC notes student success is its top priority.
The dental assisting program at San Jose City College is a full-time commitment requiring attendance in classes four days a week. It covers six required courses. In addition to the basic training program, students can also earn an associate degree in dental assisting.
Students learn in a state-of-the-art facility and are taught both traditional and digital x-ray techniques. Upon completion of the program, students can apply for licensure as a Registered Dental Assistant or a Certified Dental Assistant.
Another of the best schools for dental assisting is Lake Area Technical Institute. Based in Watertown, South Dakota, the institute focuses on vocational training and technical skills. It has the second best graduation rate among the institutions surveyed for these rankings.
Lake Area Technical Institute is also one of the few schools to offer online dental assisting degrees. Its dental assisting certified E-degree can't be earned fully online, but it does combine distance education with on-campus lab requirements. Students enrolled in the program should expect to spend approximately 12 days per semester completing lab work.
This hybrid program is intended for part-time students and results in a diploma after five semesters. Students who study for seven semesters can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.
With two campuses in California, College of Marin is a two-year school awarding certificates and associate degrees. It has an open admissions policy, academic advising for students and tuition plans to make its programs more affordable and accessible.
The dental assisting program at College of Marin falls under the Allied Health Sciences department. It prepares students to become either certified or registered dental assistants. Those studying full-time can expect to complete the program in 10 months while part-time students should plan on at least 19 months of coursework.
College of Marin was established in 1926. It enrolls approximately 13,000 students each year in its credit, non-credit and community education classes offered in Kentfield and Indian Valley.
Dental assisting degree programs figure prominently into West Virginia Junior College. The Charleston campus program is the second largest in size based on up the percentage of degrees and certificates awarded in the field. The school is also notable for its graduation rate, which was the ninth best among surveyed schools.
Within the field of dental assisting, students can choose either an undergraduate certificate or an associate degree program. The certificate can be earned in 48 weeks while the degree is typically earned in 72 weeks.
The dental assisting program at West Virginia Junior College includes an externship for students to gain real-world experience. After graduation, students should be qualified to apply for a national registered dental assistant designation.
Known to most simply as Chattanooga College, this institution offers free tutoring, specialized financing and one-on-one mentoring to help students succeed. It has the tenth best graduation rate among surveyed schools and the sixth largest dental assisting program based upon the percentage of degrees and certificates the school awards in the field.
The college has a state-of-the-art facility on its Chattanooga campus. There, dental assisting students learn how to sanitize instruments, utilize equipment and provide excellent service to patients.
Graduates should adequately prepared to register with the Tennessee Board of Dentistry. There is career counseling available, and the school provides placement services for program completers.
College of the Redwoods comes in sixth on this list of best colleges for dental assisting degree programs. Affordable tuition is one thing that makes this school notable. The college ranks third for its relatively low tuition rate.
Students at College of the Redwoods can choose from two dental assisting programs. One results in a certificate of achievement while the other leads to an associate degree in dental assisting. While the school has an open admissions policy, enrollment in the program is limited to 24 students each year. Upon completion, graduates should be ready to take the Registered Dental Assistant or Certified Dental Assistant examinations.
Located in Eureka, California, College of the Redwoods has been educating students since 1964.
Students in southeast Kansas have access to a quality dental assisting program at Labette Community College. The two-year school has its campus in Labette and can trace its beginnings back to 1923 when it called Parsons Junior College. Today, the school offers transfer degrees, professional/technical degrees and other educational opportunities.
Dental assisting students can earn either a certificate or an associate degree. Either way, they get access to training provided on state-of-the-art equipment through the Community Health Clinic of Southeast Kansas. The associate degree program includes classroom work as well as 300 hours of clinical experience.
While there aren't online degrees for dental assisting at Labette Community College, adult learners may find the school's night and weekend classes to be convenient.
In East Liverpool, Ohio Valley College of Technology has been providing educational classes since 1886. Like other technical colleges, it is focused on programs that help students be career-ready upon graduation.
Dental assisting students can earn either a diploma or an associate degree in dental assisting from the school. The diploma program can be completed in 48 weeks while the associate degree is designed to be done by most students in 64 weeks. The curriculum for both includes classroom and clinical instruction as well as the opportunity for an externship.
Ohio Valley College of Technology ranks fourth for the size of its program as compared to the overall number of degrees, certificates and diplomas it awards. It is also notable for the support services it provides, including career counseling and placement services.
Students looking for a personalized learning experience may find Salina Area Technical College is the school for them. Known as Salina Tech, this institution has a 10-1 student-to-faculty ratio. That's the smallest ratio among the best schools for dental assisting.
Dental assistant training at Salina Tech covers a curriculum that includes office management, patient education and clinical dental procedures. Students receive 300 hours of clinical experience to ensure they are ready to perform tasks properly and efficiently in the workforce. There is a two-semester technical certificate option, or students can elect to study four semesters and receive an associate degree.
Salina Area Technical College is located in Salina, Kansas. It has the fourth best graduation rate among surveyed schools.
College of Alameda rounds out this list of best colleges for dental assisting degree programs. The schools sits on a 62-acre campus in Alameda, California where it has been offering classes since 1970.
The college's dental assisting program results in a certificate of completion and eligibility to sit for the certifying exam from the Dental Assisting National Board. Students can also sit for the State of California Registered Dental Assistant examination. The dental assisting program at the school requires a full-time commitment.
Low tuition is one reason the College of Alameda makes this list. It ranks seventh for the affordability of its tuition rate. The school also offers career counseling and placement services for those who complete its programs.
Dental Assisting Programs and Common Career Paths
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.
Associate Degree Programs in Dental Assisting
Associate degrees in dental assisting prepare students for all aspects of the field from patient interactions to x-ray development to how to assist with dental procedures. Graduates may go on to work in one of the following two capacities.
- Dental Assistant: Dental assistants perform a wide range of administrative and clinical tasks. Depending on the office needs, they may schedule appointments, process x-rays, assist dentists directly or instruct patients on good oral hygiene.
- Dental Laboratory Technician: Dental laboratory technicians are employed by facilities that make dentures, bridges, crowns and other dental appliances. They can specialize in a specific area of work such as implants, ceramics or orthodontics.
Career Outlook for Dental Assisting
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.
Expected Job Growth
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||37,110||$40,760||10.8%|
Q&A with an expert
What would have been helpful to know about dental assisting when you were looking into your own education?
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.
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?
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.
American Dental Assistants Association - 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.
National Association of Dental Laboratories - The National Association of Dental Laboratories, also known as NADL, represents the interests of dental laboratory technicians and facilities.
Pediatric Dental Assistants Association - As a relatively new organization, the Pediatric Dental Assistants Association was created specifically for those working with children.
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.
Renewable after completion of service obligation.
Renewable for up to four years.
Reapplication required for renewal.