Majors for Aspiring Orthodontists: Information and Requirements

Oct 12, 2019

Essential Information

Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts programs in biology, chemistry and biomedical science combine classroom learning with lab experiences. Majoring in one of these fields allows students to fulfill the prerequisites of dental school. Following the completion of a four-year bachelor's degree, students can move on to programs in dentistry and orthodontics before becoming certified orthodontists.

Generally, the only prerequisite for admission to a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts program is a high school diploma or equivalent and standardized test scores. However, some schools format their programs as degree completion programs, intended for students who have already earned an associate's degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Biology

Students of a bachelor's degree program in biology examine the physical structures, functions, processes and developments of plants, animals, molecules, environments and populations. They analyze contemporary scientific concepts and modern experimental methods for their application to the many various biological areas and fields. Majoring in biology provides essential training in the life sciences, which is necessary to move on to professional schools in dentistry, pharmacy, medicine or veterinary science.

The curriculum mainly comprises of courses in biology, chemistry and physics. Additional general education classes are also required in such areas as English, math, humanities and social sciences. Programs often reserve a large amount of space for electives so that students may customize their course of study based on their future career or continuing education goals. Possible courses and labs learners can expect to take include:

  • Animal, physical and cell physiology
  • Genetics
  • Ecology
  • Molecular and cellular biology
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Plant biology

Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry

A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science program in chemistry provides an examination of the properties, composition and uses of natural and man-made materials that occur in the modern world. Certain schools offer concentrations within the major, such as forensic science and biochemistry. Students aspiring to move on to dentistry, medicine, pharmacy or optometry school might consider selecting the biochemistry specialization. Similarly, select schools offer a chemistry pre-professional major, which is formatted to fulfill the prerequisites for these professional schools.

The course content covers the main chemistry subfields, such as organic and physical, as well as additional courses in biology, calculus and physics. Extensive laboratory work is a key component of a chemistry degree program. Students may encounter such courses as:

  • Introduction to chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Biological chemistry
  • Instrumental analysis

Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences

Majors of biomedical sciences train in the broad fields of health and natural sciences. Students learn how to monitor and improve all aspects of well-being and health for individuals and populations. Biomedical science may be viewed as a springboard to more advanced degrees in dentistry, medicine, chiropractics, physical therapy and public health.

Biology, chemistry and physics courses make up a majority of the curriculum of a bachelor's degree program in biomedical sciences. General education courses in English, math, history and the humanities are also required. Some common courses for biomedical sciences majors include:

  • Gross anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Science-based calculus

Continuing Education Information

After earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring orthodontists must enroll in dental school and receive their Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree. These degree programs usually last four years and consist of extensive lectures, patient simulations and clinical experiences. Some schools also offer a pre-doctoral program in orthodontics, which students pursue while earning the doctorate.

Once the D.D.S. or D.M.D. is received, an additional 2- to 3-year orthodontic program is required. This training results in a master's degree or certificate in orthodontics. The programs cover craniofacial growth and development, head and neck anatomy, temperomandibular disorders and dentofacial anomalies, preparing students for residencies in private practices.

Once a student graduates from an orthodontics program, they seek certification from the American Board of Orthodontics . This process involves a series of written and oral examinations, plus submission of six case reports undertaken while supervised in the learning program. Once certification is earned, recertification is mandatory every ten years. All 50 states require this certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 6,500 people employed as orthodontists in 2018. The BLS also reported that orthodontists earned mean yearly salaries of $225,760 as of May 2018, and an occupational growth of 7% was expected for orthodontists between the years 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average in comparison to other occupations.

Before prospective dental school students can enroll in the D.D.S. or D.M.D degree programs needed to become orthodontists, they must first earn a bachelor's degree that will help them meet a series of undergraduate science prerequisites. Such degrees may include a bachelor's in biology, chemistry or biomedical sciences.

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