Best Dental Assistant Programs in Pennsylvania – 2024

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

In Pennsylvania, entry-level dental assistants don’t have to have any special training. However, if you’re interested in expanding your scope of practice to include responsibilities like coronal polishing, performing fluoride treatments, or working with amalgam and other dental restorative materials, you’ll have to graduate with an associate degree from a State Board-approved dental assisting program. Dental assisting is a career track that can provide you with job flexibility, a comfortable income and the chance to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. We’ve put together a list of the best dental assistant schools in Pennsylvania to make it easier for you to decide which one is right for you.

What Will I Learn During my Dental Assisting Training in the state of PA?

Dental assisting education is an intensive course of study, which has classroom, laboratory, and experiential components. In addition to fundamental science classes like biology, physiology and oral anatomy, you’ll also study technical subjects like dental pharmacology and dentistry materials that are relevant to your chosen career. During clinical labs, you’ll learn specific procedures that require a high degree of manual dexterity such as how to remove cement from crowns. You’ll also learn how to interact with dentists and patients by participating in clinical rotations.

5 Habits of Highly Successful Dental Assisting Students

In order to succeed in dental assisting school you’re going to have to:

• Pay Attention: Dental assisting schooling is fast-paced, and you’ll need to stay on top of what’s being taught.

• Stay Organized: One of your responsibilities as a dental assistant will be to organize the instruments and materials used in dentistry procedures. Start by staying organized while you’re training.

• Follow Instructions: Many of the procedures you’ll be learning in your classes and labs, and performing subsequently when you start your professional career, follow specific protocols. It’s very important to learn how to follow instructions to the letter.

• Become Efficient: Remember, you’ll be the gatekeeper in the dental office where you’ll be working, and time is money. Practice efficiency while you’re still a student.

• Stay Calm: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in dental assisting school because the body of knowledge you’re responsible for acquiring is so large. Remember to stay calm; you’ll learn more easily that way. Calmness will also help you when you’re dealing with anxious or stressed patients once you’re on the job.

Dental Assistant Program Length & Cost in Pennsylvania

While dental assistant programs in PA consist of both certificate/diploma training courses and associate degrees, if you want to perform expanded functions under state law, you’ll need an associate degree. Certificate courses take anywhere from 6 to 15 months to complete and cost between $2,150 and $25,080. Two-year associate programs cost between $6,280 and $38,400. The tuition at community colleges is typically less than the tuition at technical colleges.

Type of Program Length Cost
Certificate / Diploma6 – 15 Months$2,150 - $25,080
Associate Degree2 Years$6,280 - $38,400


(Based on our Ranking Methodology, below are the 10 best dental assistant programs in Pennsylvania. The list includes both campus-based and online programs.)

1) Bradford School, Pittsburgh

Bradford School stands out with its employment ready dental assistant education. Both the curriculum and teaching pedagogy are is designed by an experienced faculty. The small-sized classes further enhance learning by providing for one-on-one mentorship.

This dental assistant program offered by Bradford is an associate in specialized technology degree that teaches you chairside assisting skills, management of the dental office, dental radiation, and knowledge of dental procedures. The program also includes a course in expanded functions of a dental assistant. With this, you will be able to earn an EFDA certificate and explore wider employment opportunities. All through the coursework, you will practice skills at the college’s simulated dental lab, after which you will go on to complete two externships at local dental offices. Program graduates are eligible to take the national certification exam.

2) Harcum College, Bryn Mawr

Harcum College prepares students for a flourishing career in dental assisting by incorporating a curriculum that is broad and meets the technological changes in the dental field.

The college offers two options, a certificate in dental assisting and an associate in dental assisting with an EFDA credential.

Certificate in Dental Assisting: This is a one-year program that prepares you with entry-level dental assisting skills. The 43 credit coursework spans across two semesters plus a summer session. To earn your certificate, you must complete all the dental assistant courses with a minimum grade “C.” After completing this coursework, you will earn your Certificate in Dental Assisting and be eligible to take the national certification exam. Also, you can opt to continue one more year of studies and earn an associate degree in EFDA.

Associate degree in EFDA: This program takes two years, precisely four semesters and requires completion of 67 credits. The coursework includes the expanded functions of a dental assistant, enabling you to take the EFDA certification exam and earn the EFDA credential. You must score a minimum grade ‘B” in the EFDA courses to earn your associate degree. For graduates of the dental assistant certificate, 21 credits can be transferred towards this associate degree.

3) Fortis Institute, Erie

Fortis Institute trains dental assistant students to be proficient in the skills that are required in providing effective patient care. You will hone interpersonal skills and critical thinking skills that are vital for a successful career in this field.

The 12 months certificate in dental assisting educates you with the knowledge in dental office management, taking dental x-rays, dental pharmacology, preventive dentistry, dental anatomy, dental specialties, and restorative dentistry. You will master these skills and knowledge by going through didactic teaching, lab sessions, and clinical training at a dental office. Upon completion of the program, you will be prepared to take the national certification exam and work as an entry-level dental assistant at a variety of settings.

4) YTI Career Institute, Altoona, Lancaster & York

YIT Career Institute provides students with real equipment and clinical settings to learn job-ready techniques and skills; they require to excel in a dental assisting career.

This dental assisting program in PA is a nine-month diploma that trains you in the administrative, laboratory, and clinical duties of a dental assistant. By completing the 46-credit coursework, you will learn to manage a dental clinic, prepare the equipment and tools for a dental procedure, process dental x-rays, interact with patients, mix dental materials and perform infection control. Upon completion of the program, you will be able to work in varied clinical settings such as dental clinics, dental laboratory, federal and private hospitals, and dental schools.

5) Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood

Westmoreland County Community College graduates are successfully providing dental assisting services at regional general and specialty dental clinics. With the extensive clinical rotations at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and local dental offices, students graduate with job-ready skills.

To become a dental assistant in PA, you can consider this 45-week diploma that educates you in chairside assisting and dental radiology. Graduates of the program are prepared to take the infection control, dental radiology, and general chairside assisting exams to earn the certified dental assistant status. Upon completing this 43-credit curriculum, you will be able to perform functions, ranging from greeting patients to managing a dental office, to using dental materials and setting up the equipment for a dental procedure. You will also develop enhanced communication and critical thinking skills.

Also, for broader career avenues, there is an associate degree in expanded functions, which you can progress to. This advanced credential offers a wider knowledge base and also prepares you for the EFDA certification exam.

6) Manor College, Jenkintown

Manor College has been synonymous with quality dental assisting education since 1976. With a dental health center located right on its campus, students get a firsthand experience of this career.

The dental assisting program at Manor is a short 36 credit certificate course that takes two semesters and two summer sessions to complete. To be eligible for this program, you require a high school GPA of at least 2.3 and must complete courses in math, biology, and chemistry in high school. The curriculum is comprehensive and covers a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from chairside assisting functions to infection management, from nutrition to dental anatomy and oral health issues to dental radiography. After you complete all the courses, you will be provided with an internship opportunity, where you will hone professional skills. For those interested in pursuing an associate degree in dental assisting with expanded functions, can do so by taking different coursework after the second semester. This option is open to students who have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, by the end of the second semester.

7) Great Lakes Institute of Technology, Erie

Great Lakes Institute of Technology designs a dental assistant curriculum that focuses on professional readiness and career growth. Graduates are usually sought after by local employers for the patient care skills they demonstrate.

The college’s dental assistant program is a diploma that takes 10 months to complete. The curriculum spans across four terms and includes courses in dental terminology, the anatomy of the head, neck, and mouth, infection control, dental materials, dental radiology, and management of the dental office. From term three onwards, the program progresses towards advance courses in dental specialties and restorative dental care. Also, courses in professional development and certification exam review, prepare graduates to step into dental assisting with much aplomb.

8) All-State Career School, Essington

All-State is a dental assistant school in Pennsylvania that strives to support the career goals of students even after graduation. From helping students find the right placement to interview preparation, the faculty is committed to the success of its students.

The college offers a certificate in Expanded Functions Dental Assisting that takes 12 months to complete. With the expanded functions component included in the curriculum, you will be eligible to take the EFDA certification exam along with the national certification exam. With this additional credential, you will be able to perform advanced functions such a restorative and specialty dentistry. This leads to better job opportunities and higher pay scales. An externship, where you are required to complete 160 hours of experiential learning is provided by the college.

9) Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center, Altoona

Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center offers job-oriented technical and clinical training to the dental assistant aspirants, who are either high school students or adult learners.

The dental assistant program offered by the college is a three-year program that trains you for the radiation, infection control, and chairside assisting certifications. During the senior (third) year, you will be offered an opportunity to work at the college’s pediatric dental clinic that serves community children. You will learn vital hands-on clinical skills while improving the oral health of children. High schoolers keen on applying to this program are recommended to strengthen math and science in high school to prepare the base for the dental assistant coursework.

10) Harrisburg Area Community College, Harrisburg

Harrisburg Area Community College prepares students to excel as dental assistants by training them in professional as well as personal skills. Students are mentored by a faculty that understands what it takes to provide effective patient care.

You can enter the dental field with this certificate program offered by the college. It entails completing 36 credits in general education and dental science courses. Before entering the clinical phase of the program, you are required to complete pre-requisite courses in communication and biology, with a minimum grade “C.” These also can be taken online. The dental assistant coursework includes courses in dental materials, dental radiology, dental anatomy, preventive dentistry, and dental office management. Upon completion of this program, you will be eligible to take the national certification exam and earn the status of a certified dental assistant. If you keen on advancing your education, you can complete an additional six credits in expanded functions of a dental assistant and earn the EFDA certification. You can also earn an associate degree by completing 30 extra credits. Certified dental assistants who are currently working are also eligible for this associate degree.


Dental Assistant Career Information For Pennsylvania

How Many Dental Assistants are Currently Employed in PA?


Where are Dental Assistants Currently Working in Pennsylvania?

In the Keystone State, dental assistants can only work under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist, so it’s not surprising that 9,950 of them are affiliated with dental practices. Your responsibilities will vary according to the type of practice that employs you. In an endodontic practice, for instance, your duties may include sterilizing instruments and other infection control-related tasks while in a pediatric practice, you may be charged with helping young patients overcome their anxiety with guided visualization exercises.

An additional 190 dental assistants are employed by the federal, state and local governments to help dentists who work in clinics run by community agencies. Another 190 dental assistants work out of physicians’ offices.

IndustryNumber of Dental Assistants
Offices of Dentists9,950
Outpatient Care Centers190
Offices of Physicians190

What is the Average Salary of a Dental Assistant in Pennsylvania?

The average dental assistant salary in Pennsylvania is $44,740. Wages only tell part of that story, of course: Dental assistants who work 36 hours a week or more may also qualify for benefit packages that can include medical insurance, paid time off and many other perks.

Type Salary
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Salary Based on Years of Experience

Years of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
Less than 1 year (Starting) $15.80 $2,740 $32,860
1-4 years $17.74 $3,080 $36,900
5-9 years $21.71 $3,760 $45,160
10-19 years $23.61 $4,090 $49,100
20 years or more $28.08 $4,870 $58,410
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Dental Assistant Average Salary Comparison: Pennsylvania vs. National

The average dental assistant salary in the state of Pennsylvania tracks pretty closely to the average dental assistant salary in the U.S. overall.

Pennsylvania National Difference
Number %
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook

Analysts don’t see a huge surge of demand for dental assistants in the Keystone State between the 2020 and 2030. Employment growth in this field is projected to increase by just eight percent. This indicates that Pennsylvania’s dental assistant market is close to saturation. Expansion is likely to take place in counties that are presently underserved in terms of dentistry such as Pike, Fulton, Perry and Susquehanna counties.

Employment Employment Growth (2020-2030)
2020 2030 Number Percent
(Source: careeronestop)

Annual Job Openings

New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
(Source: careeronestop)

Metro Wise Employment & Salary Data

As the largest municipal area in the state, the Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington has the largest number of dental assistants (5,830) and one of the highest rates of salary. While it’s true that 25 percent of Philly’s population lives beneath the federal poverty line, Philadelphia’s job growth rate is well above the national norm. The city is one of the largest information technology, and health research centers in the U.S. People in those kinds of professions know the importance of a healthy smile and visit a dentist regularly even when they have to pay out of pocket to do so.

Metro Employment Average Salary
Hourly Monthly Annual
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington 5,830 $23.10 $4,000 $48,040
Pittsburgh 1,800 $21.23 $3,680 $44,160
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton 890 $21.58 $3,740 $44,890
Lancaster, PA 640 $21.51 $3,730 $44,750
Harrisburg-Carlisle 620 $21.29 $3,690 $44,290
Reading 390 $20.56 $3,560 $42,770
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton 330 $19.83 $3,440 $41,250
York-Hanover 320 $20.25 $3,510 $42,110
Erie 230 $19.13 $3,320 $39,790
State College 160 $20.32 $3,520 $42,270
Chambersburg-Waynesboro 110 $20.43 $3,540 $42,490
Altoona 90 $19.08 $3,310 $39,690
Johnstown 90 $18.14 $3,140 $37,730
Lebanon 90 $20.16 $3,500 $41,940
Bloomsburg-Berwick 60 $19.77 $3,430 $41,120
Gettysburg 60 $19.68 $3,410 $40,940
Williamsport 60 $19.86 $3,440 $41,310
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Useful Dental Assistant Organizations & Associations in Pennsylvania

PA Dental Assistants Association

The PA Dental Assistants Association offers members the chance to take low-cost continuing education classes as well as networking opportunities.

Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

Dental Assisting Schools in other States

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Washington