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Certified Orthodontic Assistant: Salary, Requirements and Career Info

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

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Job growth in the field of orthodontic assistance is expected to faster than the national average in the coming years, making this a potentially good career choice for someone with an interest in dentistry. Certified orthodontic assistants obtain certification after earning an associate's degree in dental assisting. Though not always required, certification may be necessary to practice in some states.

Essential Information

An orthodontic assistant is a dental aide who works with patients who need some type of dental appliance, such as braces, retainers or mouth guards, installed or maintained. While certified orthodontic assistants (COAs) have the same duties as their non-certified equivalents, certified orthodontic assistants typically earn higher wages and enjoy better job prospects.

Required Education Associate's degree in dental assisting
Certification Some states require certification through the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% for all dental assistants*
Median Annual Salary $35,980 for all dental assistants (May 2015)*; $35,972 for certified orthodontic assistants (January 2016)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Certified Orthodontic Assistant Career Information and Job Duties

A certified orthodontic assistant assists an orthodontist in the installation, care and removal of dental equipment that is used to correct oral issues, such as teeth alignment and overbite. Orthodontic assistants work in a variety of settings, including private dental clinics, specialty practices, hospitals and dental facilities owned by the armed forces.

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Salary Information for a COA

According to PayScale.com, as of January 2016, the average hourly wage for most certified orthodontic assistants (COAs) was between $13.59 and $22.88, with a median hourly income of $18.00. These figures work out to most annual salaries ranging between $24,161 and $53,638, with the median being $35,972.

Education Requirements

An associate's degree in dental assisting is required for a career as an orthodontic assistant. Found at many community colleges and technical training schools, these programs typically provide classroom and hands-on experience in radiography, x-ray development and sterilization procedures.

Certification Requirements

Since states have varying certification requirements for dental assistants, potential COAs should contact their State Board of Dentistry to find out if they need certification. Even if it isn't required, however, certification is preferred by most employers.

The main certification body for orthodontic assistants is granted through the Dental Assistant National Board, although other certification bodies exist. The certification process typically involves completing dental-related courses and passing the COA exam.

To recap, orthodontic assisting involves working with dentists or orthodontists to help with the installation of equipment used to treat oral issues. An associate's degree and certification are the typical requirements to practice, although not all states require certification.

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