Career Information for a Degree in Dental Assisting

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a dental assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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A certificate, diploma or associate's degree in dental assisting can lead to a career as a dental assistant. Dental assistants work alongside dentists to prepare patients for treatment, provide information about dental hygiene, and assist dentists during dental procedures. They may also perform administrative tasks.

Essential Information

Dental assistants may prepare patients for treatment and inform them on proper dental hygiene. Dental assisting degree programs teach students to aid dentists during patient visits. Persons interested in the field should earn a certificate, diploma or 2-year degree in dental assisting through an accredited program. Licensing and certification requirements vary by state, but in some areas, these qualifications may not be mandatory.

Required Education Diploma, certificate or associate's degree in dental assisting accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation
Licensing and Certification Mandatory in some states; regulations vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18% for all dental assistants
Median Salary (2015)* $35,980 for all dental assistants

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Dental Assisting Degree Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that job openings for dental assistants will grow at a rate of 18% for the years 2014-2024. Dental assistants earned a median annual salary of $35,980 in May, 2015, per BLS. This growth is partially due to assistants taking on additional job duties so that dentists can focus on specialized patient needs. Another factor is the increased needs of an elderly population.


Most dental assistants worked in dental offices, with nearly half of them working 35-40 hours per week. Dental assistants may need to work evenings, and some work for multiple offices.

Salary and Benefits Information

Job Duties

Dental assistant duties may range from applying topical anesthetics to removing sutures for patients. These professionals may also have laboratory duties such as exposing x-rays and casting impressions of teeth. Some assistants provide administrative support with billing, recordkeeping and ordering supplies. Other common dental assistant job duties include:

  • Laying out dental instruments
  • Sterilizing tools
  • Keeping patients mouths dry with suction equipment

Education Information

While dental assistants may learn their skills on-the-job, the BLS mentions that job opportunities may best for those who have completed an approved dental program. Aspiring dental assistants may look to diploma, certificate or associate's degree programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The programs can be found at community colleges and technical institutes and typically take 1-2 years to complete. Curricula may cover oral hygiene, radiography and dental materials, as well as hands-on training in classroom, laboratory and clinical settings.

Licensing and Certification Information

Graduates of dental assisting degree programs are qualified to work as dental assistants in many areas. Still, some states may require dental assistants to obtain licensure and certification to perform advanced duties such as taking x-rays. Therefore, dental assistants may look to their respective state boards for more information.

Dental assistants assist dentists in treating patients and providing educational services. An associate's degree in dental assisting can prepare you for this career and may cover oral hygiene, radiography and dental materials. It may also provide practical training in classrooms, labs and clinical settings. From 2014-2024, the BLS expects 18% job growth rate for dental assistants, much faster than average, making it a good career option. Dental assistants earned a median annual salary of $35,980 in May 2015.

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