With on-the-job experience, it is possible to begin a career as an orthodontist tech; however, most employers prefer an associate's degree in dental laboratory technology. Certification is optional, although it may also increase job prospects for those entering this field.
Orthodontist techs, a sub-specialty of dental lab techs, typically work with licensed orthodontists. Some of these professionals learn the necessary skills through postsecondary dental technology programs, such as those leading to associate's degrees; others receive on-the-job training. Certification is not required by law, but technicians who hold such credentials may enjoy better job opportunities.
|Required Education||Associate's degree in dental laboratory technology; few jobs are available with only on-the-job training|
|Certification||Voluntary through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology; two years' experience are required to be certified as a Certified Dental Technician (CDA)|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||11% for dental laboratory technicians*|
|Median Salary||$37,190 for dental laboratory technicians (May 2015)*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Profile for an Orthodontist Tech
Orthodontists are concerned specifically with the alignment of teeth in relation to the jawbone. They use braces, retainers and other appliances to straighten patients' teeth. Orthodontist technicians are trained to assist orthodontists with these procedures. Duties for orthodontist techs may include:
- Supporting orthodontist work requests
- Creating dental impressions and molds
- Shaping orthodontic retainers
- Working with porcelains and acrylics
- Casting alloys for tooth models
- Using various orthodontic appliances
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that some orthodontist techs learn their trade on the job after completing high school, employers may favor job seekers who have some postsecondary schooling (www.bls.gov). Aspiring orthodontist techs can enroll in training programs approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). These programs are available through community colleges and vocational schools.
Training programs for orthodontist techs are usually two years in length and lead to an Associate of Science in Dental Laboratory Technology. Students may learn about medical terminology, dental and orthodontic techniques, crowns, ceramics and medical billing. Programs also include lab courses that allow students to practice in a simulated, professional environment.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to BLS, orthodontist techs earned a median hourly wage of $17.88 as of May 2015. In May 2015, the median salary for dental lab technicians, including orthodontist techs, was $37,190 per year, reported the BLS. The number of job openings for dental lab techs was expected to increase by 11% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS.
Earning the Certified Dental Technician (CDA) credential offered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology may lead to additional career opportunities. Orthodontics is one possible specialization during the CDA credentialing process. If you complete a 2-year dental technology program accredited by CODA, you'll need two additional years of practical experience before you can take required certification exams.
The 11% job growth rate projected for orthodontist techs is faster than average when compared to all occupations. Applicants who have an associate's degree should be able to compete for openings, and voluntary certification may improve job prospects.