Orthodontists: Job Information & Career Requirements

Aug 20, 2019

Orthodontist Job Description

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 with science-related coursework, 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
Mean Salary (2018)* $225,760
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 19% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become an Orthodontist

Orthodontist requirements include many years of schooling as well as development of some field-specific skills. Pursuing this career path requires a big commitment of time and investment, but offers a good payoff in employment prospects and salary. Read the following sections to learn more about the education and skills required to become an orthodontist.

Required Education

College undergraduates who are interested in a career in orthodontics will most likely benefit from extensive 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.

Required Skills

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 mean annual salary of $225,760 as of May 2018. Orthodontist jobs should be plentiful in the near future, with the BLS forecasting a 19% growth in employment nationwide, much faster than average, between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

If you are interested a medical-related field but not sure if orthodontics is the right choice for you, here are two similar career paths:


In addition to conducting routine examinations, optometrists diagnose and treat conditions and diseases of the eyes, either by prescribing corrective lenses or performing surgery. Students with an undergraduate education 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 much faster-than-average rate, with the number of job openings expected to increase by 18% nationwide in the decade spanning 2016 to 2026. In May 2018, optometrists earned an average yearly salary of $119,980 (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 of 10% between 2016 and 2026. Licensed podiatrists who were employed in May 2018 earned an average yearly salary of $148,220 (www.bls.gov).

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