Colleges and Schools for Aspiring Orthodontists: How to Choose

Individuals interested in pursuing a job as an orthodontist must first earn a bachelor's degree and complete four years of dental school. Orthodontia degree programs take 2-3 years to complete. Graduates earn a doctorate with common designations being Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM).

The majority of postgraduate orthodontist programs are designed as 2-year programs, with an optional year of study available to part-time students. However, there are a few 3-year programs; prospective students should ensure a program's timeline fits with their academic and career goals.

10 Schools with Orthodontic Programs

These schools offer programs for aspiring orthodontists:

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Offered Tuition (2016-17)*
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private Doctoral $74,974
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Doctoral $24,342 in-state, $41,493 out-of-state
Boston University Boston, MA 4-year, Private Doctoral $72,000 (first year)
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private Doctoral $71,520 (first year)
University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Public Doctoral $33,887 (2015-16)
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 4-year, Public Doctoral $28,073
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Public Doctoral $48,226
Tufts University Medford, MA 4-year, Private Doctoral $130,718 (total program tuition and fees)
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private Doctoral $58,050
Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ 4-year, Private Doctoral $45,000

Source: *School websites

School Selection Criteria

Consider these important aspects when selecting an orthodontic program:

  • Get more information about curriculum offerings, which can include classroom instruction, research and hands-on practice.
  • Find out whether the school works in conjunction with an orthodontic practice where students can complete on-site internships, or if the school has an on-site facility.
  • Learn whether students are required to teach undergraduate or graduate level classes.
  • Look at the faculty roster, noting the number of part-time and full-time professors and whether they are practicing orthodontists.

Orthodontic Program Overview

Postgraduate orthodontic programs prepare students for a specialized dentistry career. Besides their cosmetic work with braces and retainers, they also treat patients with jaw disorders, cleft palates and other dental irregularities. Programs train students in all areas of orthodontics, including the business aspects of establishing and running a private practice. Upon completion of an orthodontic degree program, graduates must pass the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE) exam in order to obtain licensure in the United States.

At a dental school where students can take coursework and get practical training in orthodontics, aspiring orthodontists can get the necessary education to prepare for licensure and practice in the field.

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