Are you looking for a high-demand career helping others? If you have a sunny disposition, enjoy working with people and love to solve challenges during your day, dental assisting could be a good degree for you. From answering phones to helping with dental procedures, the responsibilities of dental assistants vary.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects increased demand for dental services: The population is growing, older people often retain their own teeth, and there is a greater focus on preventative dental care for the young.
Associate degrees in dental assisting
A strong background in biology, chemistry, business, English, health science and math can help prepare you for associate degrees in dental assisting. Typical courses include dental radiology, dental records, oral anatomy, dental office practice and management, clinical practice, and dental assisting techniques.
Online courses coupled with hands-on training let you put your education to the test immediately. You will also study for the certification exam, assuming your state requires one. Many states require that a dental assistant be licensed to perform certain duties, such as radiology procedures.
Career options, outlook and salary
Job growth for dental assistants is expected to be excellent in the coming years. The BLS projects an increase in employment of 36 percent from 2008 to 2018, making the profession one of the fastest growing during that time period. The vast majority of these jobs will be in dental offices, though some positions will be available in government agencies or offices of physicians. The BLS reports median annual wages for dental assistants of $33,470 in 2010.
Since the work of a dental assistant can be so varied, numerous career opportunities could open up. Some dental assistants work as office managers, instructors, sales representatives for dental products or insurance claims processors.
Going beyond the associate degree
Dental assistants can handle a wide variety of duties in their office, and that range of experience can offer some forms of advancement, such as moving up to office manager. Many use associate degrees in dental assisting as a way to gain experience and a good foundation of study before going back to school to become a dental hygienist. Some other careers that can benefit from this foundation include medical assistant, occupational therapy assistant or pharmacy technician.