While students participating in pre-dentistry programs may earn a bachelor's degree in any field, they often major in a science, such as biology or chemistry. Pre-dental programs typically include two years of pre-dental coursework, which is required for admittance to many dental schools. Regardless of a student's major, undergrads enrolled in pre-dental programs are usually required to take a significant number of dental school prerequisite courses in science and math.
Additionally, pre-dentistry students are often assigned to academic advisers who assist with the dental school application process. Some undergraduate programs are designed so that students can be admitted to dental school after three years of undergraduate coursework instead of the usual four. A student who is admitted on an early-entry basis may complete their bachelor's degree while enrolled in dental school.
Bachelor of Science Degree in Pre-Dentistry
College admission requirements typically include submission of high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Pre-dentistry programs generally do not have additional educational requirements; however, high school students interested in a career in dentistry are encouraged to take upper-level high school courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math in preparation for college coursework in those subjects. In addition, they must pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT) in order to attend a dental school.
Pre-dental students are encouraged to study biochemistry, physical chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. Before taking the DAT students must often complete the following courses:
- Introductory biology
- Introductory chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- English composition
- College physics
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Most dentists are general practitioners who are self-employed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) predicted 18% job growth for dentists in general practice for the 2014-2024 period. Job growth is expected to be fueled by the demand for increasingly complex dental services to an aging population. The BLS reported 2015 median annual wages of $152,700 for general dentists.
Continuing Education Information
As of 2015, the BLS reported that there were over 60 dental schools in the U.S. that were accredited by the American Dental Association (www.ada.org). Pre-dental students typically apply to dental school the year before they wish to enroll. Dental school generally takes four years to complete and students graduate with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.
Postdoctoral programs in dentistry are also available for dentists who want to specialize or pursue teaching or research careers. There are nine specialties recognized by the ADA, including pediatric dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery. All states require that dental school graduates pass the National Board Dental Examinations and become licensed before being allowed to practice. Some states also require licensing in specialty areas.
Bachelor's degrees with a major in pre-dentistry prepare students for their eventual enrollment into a dentistry graduate program. In addition to their graduate education, postdoctoral specialization is available from various organizations, as well as licensure requirements.