There are plenty of reasons to become a dental hygienist, and the profession regularly makes the "best jobs" lists put out by publications such as U.S. News & World Report. That's due largely to good job growth and above average wages in the field. Plus, people can be trained to work as hygienists in as little as two years. This makes the occupation ideal for anyone hoping to quickly launch a new career.
Dental hygiene degree programs often result in associate degrees although bachelor's degrees are also available. The Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved more than 325 dental hygiene programs.
If you're interested in online degrees for dental hygiene, be aware these programs are typically intended only for those who already have experience as a dental hygienist. Online dental hygiene degrees are usually degree completion programs and allow someone with an associate degree in dental hygiene to earn their bachelor's degree.
Best Colleges for Dental Hygiene Degree Programs
With hundreds of options, finding the best school for dental hygiene can be a daunting task. Schools.com crunched the numbers and found these institutions were the top schools for dental hygiene based on a methodology that considered program prominence, graduation rates and other factors.
Established in West Virginia in 1837, West Liberty University ranks first among the best schools for dental hygiene degrees. The institution gets high marks for its solid graduation rate, small student-faculty ratio and number of support services. It also ranks seventh for the prominence of its dental hygiene program.
The Sarah Whittaker Glass School of Dental Hygiene houses the program at West Liberty University. Students can earn either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in the field. A degree completion option is also available.
Students who enroll in either program learn in a newly constructed hall. Both the clinic and classrooms have updated technology. The radiography suite is designed to train students for both conventional and digital x-ray imaging.
At the number two school on this list of best colleges for dental hygiene degree programs, students will find flexible learning options, multiple student support services and a strong graduation rate. Dixie State University also has an open admissions policy which can be a benefit for those who want to start their college education quickly.
DSU offers a two-year dental hygiene program. Upon completion, students have the option to continue their studies and earn a bachelor's degree as well. The curriculum for both is centered on equipping students with skills in five areas of competency. These include patient-centered care, communication and professional ethics among others.
Although originally founded as an institution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dixie State University is now a public institution. Its campus is in St. George, Utah.
Herzing University maintains ten campuses nationwide, primarily in the Midwest and South. Its Minneapolis location, based just outside the Twin Cities, has a particularly strong dental hygiene program and takes the third spot on this list.
The university ranks first for the prominence of its program. That may be, in part, because the region's well-known Lakeland Medical-Dental Academy was one of two institutions to merge and create Herzing University - Minneapolis.
Students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene in 36 months from Herzing University - Minneapolis. There is also a bridge program for those who already have an associate degree and are licensed dental hygienists. These individuals can earn their bachelor's degree with one additional year of study.
Vermont Technical College is a public institution with campuses in Randolph Center and Williston. VTC also maintains nine distance learning sites elsewhere in the state.
At 10-1, the student-faculty ratio at Vermont Technical College is the best among the top schools for dental hygiene. The college is also notable for having the second best graduation rate of the institutions on this list.
VTC offers a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene. The program is designed so the first three years are completed on-campus, providing students with the clinical skills to work as a hygienist. The final year of classes can be completed online. As for online degrees for dental hygiene, current hygienists with an associate degree can earn their bachelor's degree completely online through Vermont Technical College's degree completion program.
Also known as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, MCPHS University prides itself on being a teaching institution that offers high-quality education to future healthcare professionals. It earned a spot as one of the best colleges for dental hygiene programs because of its graduation rate, among other things. It has the best rate of any school on this list.
At the university's Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene, students have plenty of degree options. Its bachelor's degree is available in regular, pre-dental and accelerated tracks. There are also online dental hygiene degrees including a bachelor's degree completion program and an associate-to-master's degree bridge program.
MCPHS is a private institution with campuses in Boston, Worcester and Manchester.
With a proud history as a historically black university, Tennessee State University welcomes students of diverse backgrounds to its two campus locations in Nashville. The school was founded in 1912 and offers 77 majors at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Its dental hygiene degree programs include an associate degree and a bachelor's degree. While Tennessee State University has an open admissions policy, admissions to the dental hygiene program are competitive. However, those who gain access have a track record of success. TSU says it had a 100 percent completion rate in 2015, and 95 percent of its graduates who took the national board examination passed in that year.
Tennessee State University is a public institution.
Pennsylvania College of Technology is an affiliate of Penn State and has a reputation for being a premier technical college. That commitment to quality education applies to its dental hygiene program as well, according to our calculations.
Students in the school's associate and bachelor's degree programs for dental hygiene study in a state of the art clinic. Penn College not only teaches the basics of the profession but also provides real-world experience thanks to the fact its dental hygiene clinic is open to the public. Current hygienists can earn online dental hygiene degrees through the school's bachelor's degree completion program.
Penn College has one of the best graduation rates of the schools on this list of best colleges for dental hygiene degree programs. Its campus is in Williamsport.
With a campus in Gary, Indiana University Northwest is one of nine schools within the Indiana University System. The school enrolls nearly 6,000 students and provides flexible learning options. In addition to online courses, night and weekend classes are available. Plus, students have access to support services such as academic advising and career placement.
The school offers both an entry-level bachelor's degree in dental hygiene and a bachelor's degree completion program. The latter is appropriate for those who are already working as licensed hygienists. Students will learn about anatomy and dental practices as well as complete clinical work. The dental clinic at IU Northwest is open to the public.
Indiana University Northwest is a public institution and first started offering classes in 1921.
The University of New England says it's small enough to be comfortable and yet big enough to be interesting. That may be one reason dental hygiene students will want to study on its Biddeford and Portland campuses in Maine. Its graduation rate may be another. UNE has the best graduation rate among the top colleges for dental hygiene.
The school's dental hygiene bachelor's degree completion program is intended for those already working in the field who want to expand their knowledge. As part of the program, students will provide care to the public through the Coleman Clinic on the Portland campus.
As home to Maine's only dental school, the University of New England is the largest private university in the state.
Students looking for an affordable education should take a closer look at St. Petersburg College. The school has the best tuition ranking of these top colleges for dental hygiene. St. Petersburg College is known for providing valuable job skills as well as being a top choice for online degrees.
SPC is one of the few schools to offer online degrees for dental hygiene and has Florida's only bachelor's degree in the field. As a degree completion program, it can be earned entirely online by those who are already hygienists. Those who aren't eligible for the bachelor's degree program can earn an associate degree in dental hygiene from the school.
St. Petersburg College is part of the Florida College System and has ten locations in the state.
Dental Hygiene Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Unlike some degree fields which can lead to a variety of career paths, dental hygiene degree programs are intended for one purpose. They are meant to prepare students to be licensed as dental hygienists.
Career Outlook for Dental Hygienists Majors
People pursue dental care for many reasons ranging from cosmetic to health. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes many people today keep their original teeth longer than was the norm in the past, further increasing demand for dental services. That's good news for hygienists who are needed to support the work of dentists.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons||$242,370||4,830||7.4%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Dental Hygiene Degree Programs
Dental hygiene degree programs can be paid for using financial aid from several sources. The government may award loans or grants while most colleges and universities provide their own financial aid packages. Plus, private scholarship programs are offered through organizations such as the ADHA Institute for Oral Health.
Reapplication required for renewal.
Award is not automatically renewable. Recipient must go through a competitive process to be considered for each award, each cycle.