Best Dental Assistant Schools + Career Information – 2020

Dental assistants play a valuable role in the field of dentistry that has led to a rapid increase in the demand for qualified people to fill positions. When you embark upon a career as a dental assistant, you can enjoy knowing that the future is bright since there is a faster than average rate of growth for this field. Dental assistants are also well-compensated for their experience and dedication to staying up-to-date on the newest advances in dental technology. To get in on this exciting career opportunity, you can check out these 5 best dental assistant programs to find the one that fits your educational goals.

What is the Goal of a Dental Assistant Program?


A quality dental assistant program teaches you everything that you need to know to work in a dentistry practice such as how to ease a patient’s anxiety by maintaining a professional and compassionate chairside manner. You will also learn how to prepare a work area for specific procedures such as a dental filling as well as how to sterilize equipment. As you learn how to perform dental assistant duties, the primary focus of the educational program is to help you gain the skills and knowledge that you need to stand out as a qualified applicant to potential employers in the dental field.

Program Cost


The cost to attend dental assisting training depends upon the type of program that you choose to enter along with factors such as its location. For example, an associate degree costs more than a certificate program, but you may be able to balance out the cost if you choose a school in an area with lower rates for tuition.

Type Cost
Certificate / Diploma$2,180 - $30,510
Associate Degree$6,380 - $48,730


Program Length


You can begin working as a dental assistant in as few as six months if you choose a certificate program. An associate degree can take two years to complete, but it is an option to consider if you anticipate expanding your skill set in the future.

Type Length
Certificate / Diploma6 – 15 Months
Associate Degree2 Years


Can I Pursue This Program Online?


Most dental assisting schools require you to attend class on campus. This is important because you need hands-on training to perform duties such as processing dental x-rays and using suction hoses while a dentist performs a procedure. Some programs do allow you to do some types of coursework online. Typically, these are general education courses such as biology or computer science that you will need to perform your duties as a dental assistant.

Admission Requirements


Colleges and vocational schools that offer dental assisting programs establish standards that must be met for admission. The admission requirements can vary somewhat from one school to another, but you can generally expect to adhere to these standards.

• Have a high school diploma or the equivalent
• Some schools require you to obtain a passing score on placement tests

Curriculum


The first courses that you take in a dental assistant program teach the basic concepts that you need to succeed in the field such as the terminology for different parts of the mouth, common oral health conditions and the tools that dentist’s use. Your coursework will also cover the proper steps to follow to sanitize equipment and dental treatment areas. During your time in school, you will also learn how to perform dental office tasks such as how to schedule appointments and check in patients. Some programs also teach advanced skills such as how to apply topical anesthetic to patients before the dentist begins their treatment.

What are the 5 Best Dental Assistant Programs Accredited by CODA in the Nation for 2020?


1) Fox Valley Technical College - Appleton, WI


The 18-month, full-time dental assistant diploma program is offered by Fox Valley Technical College at its Appleton campus in Wisconsin. The day-time program consists of 33 credits, and the curriculum contains a range of dental assisting-specific courses in addition to having a course aimed at enhancing your oral communication. The clinical exercises, which are an essential part of the course curriculum, provide you an opportunity to learn from real-world working conditions. Upon graduation, you become eligible to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board certification exam.

Key Highlights

• FVTC provides the facility of seamless credit transfer (both in and out) to more than 65 colleges running two-year and four-year programs.
• Students enrolling into this program are eligible to apply for financial aid.
• FVTC’s higher education programs are the most affordable in the Fox Valley region.

2) Herzing University - Minneapolis, MN


Offered at its Minneapolis campus in Minnesota, the dental assisting education of Herzing University equips you with both technical and administrative skills required to deliver efficient services. The university currently offers two programs – a 16-month diploma program consisting of 47 credit hours and a 24-month A.A.S. Degree program of 68 credit hours. The associate includes the entire coursework of the diploma as well as some additional general education courses. The curriculum is delivered through a mix of teaching pedagogies, including theoretical instructions, lab practical, and clinical exercises.

Key Highlights

• The university offers several scholarships and financial aid schemes for deserving students.
• The college offers you an option of earning the dual qualification of a dental assistant and dental hygienist all within four years. The way this works is, in 24 months, you will earn your dental assisting credential and then go on to earn the dental hygienist credential. Students who graduate their dental assistant program with a GPA of 3.00 or more are also eligible to apply for a scholarship to continue with the dental hygiene program.
• Upon graduation, you become eligible to take professional examinations such as Dentistry Licensing Exam (Minnesota Board), Jurisprudence Exam, and the certified dental assistant exam to earn certification from the Dental Assisting National Board.

3) Carrington College - Glendale Learning Center, Mesa & Phoenix North - AZ ; Tucson - AZ ; Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro & Stockton - CA ; Boise - ID ; Albuquerque - NM ; Las Vegas - NV ; Portland - OR ; Spokane - WA


The curriculum of the dental assisting training offered by Carrington College at its several campuses spread across the nation comprehensively covers both theoretical and practical aspects of learning.

Currently, CC offers two dental assisting programs -

1) Certificate: The 36-credit certificate program trains you to join the industry in less than one year (36-weeks). The curriculum contains 330 class hours, 300 lab hours, and 180 practical hours in total. You can complete this program either entirely on-campus or in a blended format (mix of on-campus and online studies).

• The on-campus format is available at campuses in Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Portland, San Jose, San Leandro, and Stockton.
• The Glendale Learning Center and the campus in Sacramento offer the blended format.
• Whereas Citrus Heights, Mesa, Phoenix North, Pleasant Hill, Spokane, and Tucson campuses offer both on-campus and blended format.

2) Associate Degree: The associate degree program can be completed in either of the two tracks –

Science Track: The two-year (100-week) science track comprises 83 credits of coursework (including certificate credits). In addition to the coursework of the certificate program, you will devote an additional 705 lecture hours and 150 lab hours to study science general education courses with an emphasis on science. This track is offered only at two campuses - Sacramento and San Jose.

Non-Science Track: The 66-week non-science emphasis track comprises 60-credit of coursework (including certificate credits). Apart from the certificate coursework, there will be an additional 360 lecture hours of general education courses in the curriculum. This track is offered entirely online.

Key Highlights

• The curriculum includes an externship in a real-world setting, providing excellent hands-on experience.
• There are a host of student support services that you can avail while studying at CC. Prominent among these are student financing options, fixed tuition promise, and career assistance.

4) Ozarks Technical Community College - Springfield, MO


Ozarks Technical Community College offers a 40-credit certificate program and a 62-credit A.A.S. degree program in dental assisting at its Springfield campus located in the state of Missouri. Both these programs equip students with the skills and competencies required to fulfill their job responsibilities as a dental assistant in an effective and efficient manner. These programs start twice a year in the fall and the spring semester and are available in two tracks – traditional (entirely on-campus training) and hybrid format (a combination of online studies and on-campus training for lab and clinical sessions). As part of the curriculum, you will receive hands-on clinical experience at the college’s dental hygiene clinic as well as at a local dental center or a private dental practitioners’ office.

Key Highlights

• Upon graduation, you are eligible for extended permit functions that will be issued through the Missouri Dental Board. Besides, you can take Dental Assisting National Board Examination (DANB) to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).
• The college maintains high standards as specified by the commission of dental accreditation, ensuring students receive excellent dental assisting education as per the latest industry norms.

5) Hinds Community College - Raymond, MS


Hinds Community College, through its Nursing/Allied Health Center, offers a dental assisting technology program at its in Jackson Campus in the state of Mississippi. This program starts twice a year in the fall and the spring, and it will award you both the certificate and A.A.S. degree in 18 months. Firstly, you will complete all the requirements of the 47-semester-hour certificate program that runs for three consecutive semesters and contains an optimum mix of theory hours, lab practical, and clinical exercises. After that, you will continue your studies for another semester of 18-19 semester hours (containing general education courses) and earn your associate of applied science degree. In total, you will complete 65-66 semester hours.

Please note: You must complete all the courses with grade “C” or better to earn your certificate and associate degree. Also, you will be required to sit for the DANB exam during the 2nd and 3rd semester and earn the credential of a certified dental assistant.

Key Highlights

• HCC has a legacy of more than 100 years, having started operations way back in 1917. It is currently the largest community college and the fourth largest institute of higher education in the state of Mississippi.
• For the academic year 2017, almost 93% of the graduates found employment within six months of completing their program, while the remaining 7% choose to pursue higher studies in the dental field.

Why Attending a Program Accredited by CODA Makes a Difference?


The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is an agency that assesses the quality of dental assisting programs to make sure that they provide students with the tools that they need to uphold the standards required for safe practices in the field of dentistry. This is done through a collaborate process that involves peer reviews. Since this agency also provides accreditation for other types of dental programs, you will find that potential employers hold this designation in high esteem.

Certification and Licensure Requirements to Work as a Dental Assistant


The certification and licensure requirements to work as a dental assistant vary among the different states. However, most dental assistants decide to become certified through taking the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. This exam is administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To take the exam, you must first complete a dental assisting program that is accredited by CODA. The CDA exam also includes three main parts, and these are general chairside assisting (GCA), radiation health and safety (RHS) and infection control (IC). Obtaining this certificate makes it clear to the public as well as your employer that you have the ability to follow the best practices for patient care in a dental environment.

DANB also offers additional certifications that you may choose to obtain depending upon the requirements in your state or a desire to perform specific duties. For instance, becoming a certified preventive functions dental assistant (CPFDA) allows you to perform procedures such as coronal polishing and the application of dental sealants and fluoride. Seeking these types of additional credentials help to open up more job opportunities and establish a higher level of professionalism.

Where Do Dental Assistants Work?


Offices of Dentists:

You will provide chairside services to prep patients and assist dentists through common dental procedures.

Government:

You will work within government programs providing services to low-income patients, veterans and members of the armed services.

Offices of Physicians:

Physicians require dental assistants to help with routine dental procedures as well as office tasks such as greeting patients.

Industry Employment
Number Percent
Offices of Dentists306,81691%
Government6,7432%
Offices of Physicians6,7432%
(Source: BLS)


Work Environment & Conditions


Dental assistants typically work in clinics and offices that provide oral health care to patients. While the majority of dental assistants work full-time, many clinics also offer part-time hours as a way to fulfill their growing need for people in these positions. During the course of a day, you can expect to alternate between standing, sitting and bending to perform your responsibilities. Some of the tasks that you perform require strict attention to detail and the ability to focus your attention for a sustained period. There are some risks involved with possible exposure to bodily fluids such as blood and saliva, but these are mitigated through the use of personal protection equipment. Overall, dental assistants enjoy a high level of satisfaction with their work, and it is a great position for anyone who enjoys working with people on a daily basis.

What Starting Salary Can I Expect as a Dental Assistant?


The average dental assistant salary begins at around $13.78 an hour. This equals out to about $28,670 a year. These figures naturally vary according to the area in which you work as well as the amount of training that you complete before seeking employment. Highly qualified dental assistants who are certified through DANB can expect to make this much or more just starting out.

Type Salary
Hourly$13.78
Monthly$2,390
Annual$28,670
(Source: In-House Research)


How Much Will My Salary Grow with Experience?


The salary for dental assistants continues to increase as they gain experience in the field. After ten years, your salary increases by more than $10,000. Although each level of experience offers you the opportunity to enjoy a comfortable standard of living, you are rewarded for your time continuing to work within the field. After 20 years or more, you could be making around $53,130 annually along with other potential benefits that employers offer.

Level of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
1-4 years$14.98$2,600 $31,160
5-9 years$18.09 $3,140 $37,630
10-19 years$22.11 $3,830 $46,000
20 years or more$25.54 $4,430 $53,130
(Source: BLS)


How Many Job Openings are there for Dental Assistant Graduates?


New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
6,46039,44045,900
(Source: careeronestop)


10 Year Employment Outlook


There has never been a better time to pursue a career as a dental assistant. Right now, your chosen career field is growing at 19.46 percent. This figure represents a faster than average national rate of growth that means that you may have your pick when it comes to obtaining gainful employment. The current rate of growth is due to several different changes that are occurring in the dental industry. With new advancements in dental technology, more people are keeping their natural teeth for longer. This means that dentists need more assistants to keep up with their growing lists of patients.

Employment Employment Growth, 2016-26
2016 2026 Number Percent
332,000396,60064,60019.46%
(Source: careeronestop)


State Wise Employment, Job Openings & Salary Breakdown


State Employment Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement) Annual Average Salary
Alabama 3,270 480 $33,490
Alaska 1,300 170 $45,900
Arizona 7,030 1,110 $39,580
Arkansas 2,750 370 $33,860
California 50,100 6,570 $39,930
Colorado 7,080 960 $38,660
Connecticut 4,030 530 $43,800
Delaware 810 90 $41,090
District of Columbia 640 90 $49,210
Florida 19,040 2,630 $37,920
Georgia 9,900 1,430 $36,980
Hawaii 1,590 210 $37,290
Idaho 2,210 100 $34,620
Illinois 12,710 1,470 $39,030
Indiana 6,150 760 $39,070
Iowa 2,960 400 $39,900
Kansas 2,860 320 $35,610
Kentucky 4,320 570 $34,900
Louisiana 4,310 430 $29,660
Maine 1,190 140 $40,990
Maryland 5,870 900 $41,820
Massachusetts 8,380 980 $44,770
Michigan 9,550 1,320 $36,480
Minnesota 5,630 680 $48,770
Mississippi 2,240 240 $33,360
Missouri 5,530 720 $36,900
Montana 1,340 170 $37,050
Nebraska 2,130 290 $35,310
Nevada 2,650 290 $36,650
New Hampshire 1,310 170 $47,170
New Jersey 10,770 1,400 $42,440
New Mexico 2,740 330 $34,880
New York 20,370 3,120 $37,170
North Carolina 8,960 1,300 $41,130
North Dakota 730 90 $45,600
Ohio 10,670 1,330 $38,360
Oklahoma 3,930 510 $35,180
Oregon 5,480 720 $42,470
Pennsylvania 10,930 1,430 $37,870
Rhode Island 860 90 $41,490
South Carolina 4,400 560 $38,110
South Dakota 930 100 $38,410
Tennessee 5,800 820 $36,090
Texas 29,790 4,040 $35,920
Utah 5,220 810 $30,270
Vermont 390 60 $43,900
Virginia 8,020 1,210 $42,850
Washington 10,580 1,560 $42,540
West Virginia 1,230 160 $29,860
Wisconsin 5,860 700 $38,450
Wyoming 640 90 $34,280
Guam 160 N/A $32,070
Puerto Rico 2,390 300 $20,000
Virgin Islands 40 N/A $35,010
(Source: BLS & careeronestop)


Important Organizations & Associations


American Dental Association (ADA)

This organization helps dental assistants stay up-to-date on the latest research in their field. They also offer help with career planning such as refinancing student loans and planning for retirement.

American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA)

Dental assistants work together in this organization to promote better patient care, and you can enjoy membership perks such as free continuing education courses as well as insurance options.

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)

Your initial contact with this organization is typically when you seek to complete your certification exam. However, you can continue to enjoy benefits through them such as recertification opportunities as well as verification of your credentials.

National Association of Dental Assistants (NDAA)

Joining this organization puts you in touch with other professionals that help further your career, and you can take advantage of opportunities for discounts on insurance and office equipment that make it easier to focus on providing quality dental care to your patients.