Dental technicians should have at least a high school education or GED. College courses or a post-secondary degree is not required as most training occurs on the job, although there are associate's degree and certification programs available to prepare prospective dental technicians for the job.
Dental technicians work in dental laboratories where they create dentures, crowns, bridges and other dental devices to improve a patient's oral health. To enter this field, aspiring dental technicians need at least a high school diploma or GED; however, those interested in more advanced education can pursue formal training through certificate and associate's degree programs. Good hand-eye dexterity, and even artistic talent, are helpful in this career, as dental technicians create prosthetics that have the potential to greatly enhance a person's appearance and sense of self-esteem.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; post-secondary programs are available|
|Certification||Voluntary through National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||11% for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians|
|Average Annual Salary (2018)*||$43,180 for dental laboratory technicians|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational Requirements for a Dental Technician
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that there are no set requirements for education and training of dental laboratory technicians, and that most dental laboratory technicians are trained on-the-job (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS also reports that interested individuals can pursue formal training through certificate and associate's degree programs offered by community colleges and technical schools.
Aside from a high school diploma or its equivalent, dental laboratory technician training programs may require candidates to complete hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination tests for admission. Some programs may mandate students to demonstrate that they can carve wax molds.
Once accepted, students may begin their academic careers with courses in dental anatomy that provide them with a basic background on teeth, gums and tissues. Students may then take more hands-on courses in dental instruments and devices, in which they learn how to use various materials, like porcelain, plaster or acrylic paste, to create and repair dental devices. For example, some courses may focus on orthodontic appliances allowing students to gain experience pouring casts and bending wires, while others may give students an opportunity to restore ceramic devices.
Additional required courses may include first aid and dental laboratory management. Advanced courses may cover topics in fusing metal alloys. Some programs may also require students to complete an off-campus clinical experience.
The BLS reports that in most cases certification in dental technology is voluntary; however, becoming certified may help individuals to find employment. The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC) certifies qualified dental technicians (www.nbccert.org). According to NBC, the certification process includes successful completion of three tests within a four year period; these tests include a comprehensive written exam, a specialty practical exam and a specialty written exam. The NBC offers several study guides to prepare for the examinations.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 11 percent job growth for dental laboratory technicians from 2018-2028. The average annual salary for these professionals in 2018 was $43,180, according to the BLS.
Dental technicians are not required to have any formal education beyond high school but they often choose to complete a training or associate's degree program and/or earn certification, as it may increase job prospects. A dental technician should have good hand-eye dexterity as they are creating dental prosthetics that will contribute to an individual's appearance in a very important way.