Dental Assistant Review

Dental assisting is a great career choice for individuals who enjoy working closely with others to provide quality patient care. Their starting salary is relatively low, but there's huge potential for advancement for those willing to pursue further education.

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The Good

Easy to get your foot in the door

Most dental assistants only need to complete a one-year accredited program in order to qualify for entry-level jobs. Some states have no formal educational requirements for dental assistants, so certain dental offices may hire you without any sort of degree and train you on the job. This makes dental assisting a good profession if you’re interested in getting out in the workforce right away and don’t have the time or money to devote to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. It’s also a smart choice if you want to gain some experience in the dental field and earn some money while you go to school for a more advanced position, such as a dental hygienist.

Great choice for part-time work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-third of all dental assistants work part time. If you have other commitments in your life, such as school or taking care of the kids, the flexibility that a part-time dental assistant job offers is invaluable. Part-time positions are uncommon among most other vocational careers, so dental assisting is a field worth looking into if you don’t have the time in your schedule for a full-time job. However, there are plenty of full-time opportunities for dental assistants as well, and most dental assistants do work a traditional 40-hour week.

Involves a wide variety of tasks

Dental assistants do everything from scheduling appointments and processing X-rays to collaborating with the dentist. The mix of tasks an assistant fulfills on a daily basis makes for a good balance between working alone and working with others. Permitted tasks vary by state, as some areas only allow procedures like coronal polishing and fluoride application to be performed by dental hygienists and dentists. For those looking to advance in the dental field, the wide variety of experiences gleaned as a dental assistant gives you a significant advantage if you apply for a more advanced position.

The Bad

Comparatively low median salary

In relation to the other vocational careers we’ve reviewed, dental assistants earn a fairly low salary of about $34,500 per year. This is slightly below the median salary for all occupations, which is $34,750 per year. Depending on your lifestyle and how important a high salary is, this could be a deal breaker. Before you cross dental assisting off your list, though, it’s important to think about the advancement potential in this field. Dental assisting is a great way to gain the knowledge and experience you need to succeed in more advanced positions, such as a dental hygienist.

No advancement opportunities without further schooling

There’s little room for dental assistants to advance in the field unless they’re willing to go back to school to become a dental hygienist. There are many advantages to doing so, including a significant increase in salary and the opportunity to provide direct patient care. Unfortunately, going back to school isn’t feasible for everyone due to time or money constraints. In this case, you won’t have many opportunities to advance beyond your current position. And even if you do go on to become a hygienist, that’s pretty much the end of the line. There aren’t many opportunities for specializing or taking on a supervisory role in this field.

Physically straining job

As with any career in the dental field, dental assistants are required to spend much of their day sitting or standing hunched over, which can lead to back and neck discomfort. Should you choose to go into dental assisting, this is something you’re going to want to be mindful of. This isn’t necessarily a problem for everyone who works in this field, though, so you shouldn’t let it stop you from considering all the benefits of being a dental assistant.

The Details

Details

  • Career Growth (2012-2022): 25%
  • Median Pay: $34,500
  • Number of Jobs: 303,200
  • Number of New Jobs (2012-2022): 74,400

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