Orthodontists: Job Information & Career Requirements

Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the treatment and prevention of dental irregularities, usually through the application of dental braces. Read about the professional responsibilities and education requirements for orthodontists here, as well as what you can look forward to in terms of career opportunities and salary.

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Career Definition for an Orthodontist

Orthodontists generally work with the help of an orthodontic assistant to analyze and solve the dental problems of their patients. Daily activities may include evaluating the needs of new patients, creating teeth molds, fitting orthodontic appliances and checking on the progress of individual patients. After receiving the proper education and certification, an orthodontist may choose to open his or her own practice or join an established practice.

Education Bachelor's degree in a science related field, four years of dental school, three years of specialized training; state licensure required
Job Skills In-depth knowledge of dentistry, attention to detail, mechanical skills, physical dexterity, good communication
Median Salary (2015)* $187,200
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 18% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

College undergraduates who are interested in a career in orthodontia will most likely benefit from coursework or a major in science. Dental schools are selective, and admission requirements include an acceptable score on the Dental Admission Test (DAT); high grade point averages and recommendations may also be required. Once admitted, students usually complete the program in four years, after which, they receive an additional three years of specialized orthodontic training. A state license is required to practice; additional certifications may be available from the American Dental Association and the American Board of Orthodontists.

Skills Required

According to O*Net, the most important aspect of practicing orthodontics is an in-depth knowledge of dentistry, which is acquired primarily through academic study and hands-on practice in dental and orthodontic schools (www.onetcenter.org). Orthodontists also need to be able to pay close attention to detail, operate advanced technological tools, work well with their hands and communicate clearly with assistants and patients, including children and adolescents.

Employment and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that while income depends on experience and location, orthodontists earned a median annual salary of $187,200 or more as of May 2015. Employment prospects for orthodontists should remain favorable in the near future, with the BLS forecasting an 18% growth in employment nationwide, or faster than average, between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Below are similar career paths related to orthodontists:


In addition to conducting routine examinations, optometrists diagnose and treat conditions and diseases of the eyes, either by prescribing corrective lens or performing surgery. Students who have graduated from a 4-year school can apply to a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) program; additional requirements include a state-issued license. According to the BLS, the field of optometry is growing at a faster-than-average rate, with the number of job openings expected to increase by 27% nationwide in the decade 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, optometrists earned a median yearly salary of $103,900 (www.bls.gov).


Podiatrists identify and treat diseases and injuries of the ankle, foot or lower leg. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) and 3-year residency must be completed before an aspiring podiatrist can obtain the required state license. The BLS reports that podiatrists can also look forward to a faster-than-average growth in employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024 (14%). Licensed podiatrists who were employed in May 2015 earned a median yearly salary of $119,340 (www.bls.gov).

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