Dental Hygienist Advancement Opportunities

Jan 02, 2019

Dental hygienists may find interest in several advancement opportunities that make use of their knowledge of dental equipment and practices. Explore an overview of four of these jobs detailing their salary rates, job growth expectancies, and job qualifications.

Career Growth Options for Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists provide preventive care to patients, including teeth cleaning, examinations, and oral treatments. Professionals in this field tend to have a 3-year associate's degree and may also be required to earn a license. For those who want to eventually advance in their career, there are other educational and training opportunities to consider. Several related positions are discussed below, including some that require extensive preparation, like dental school, and others that require completion of a bachelor's degree.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Qualifications
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary $99,360 26% Doctoral degree or master's degree
Dentists, General $153,900 19% Professional degree, state license
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products $78,980 5% Bachelor's degree
Medical and Health Services Managers $96,540 20% Bachelor's degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

Career Information

Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

Dental hygienists may want to transition into a career as a postsecondary health specialties teacher and share their expertise with students in dental hygiene programs. These instructors at 4-year colleges normally possess a doctoral degree, though community colleges may hire teachers who have a master's degree. Hygienists who are interested in this career path would want to pursue a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program, which are designed to prepare students to become postsecondary instructors. Overall, postsecondary health specialties teachers produce course materials, lead classes, arrange course assignments, grade students, monitor student involvement, and assist students in achieving their educational goals. Like all university professors, dental hygiene teachers are expected to stay informed with industry developments and help adjust the curriculum to meet these changes.

Dentists, General

Some dental hygienists may be interested in advancing their clinical work and becoming dentists, which requires extensive training in a dental school. Professionals in this area of work are responsible for maintaining the health of their client's teeth and gums. Most of their job duties require them to diagnose and treat any issues involving cavities, fractured teeth, oral injuries, and poor hygiene. They carry out these procedures by conducting x-rays, using specialized instruments, and administering dental care. Dentists typically learn exceptional finger dexterity and arm-hand steadiness abilities while enrolled in an accredited dental program. Besides having a professional degree, dentists must have firsthand clinical experience and a state license prior to running their own general practice.

Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products

Sales representatives dealing with technical and scientific products, such as dental sales reps, tend to work for wholesale and manufacturing vendors. Dental hygienists could translate their knowledge to this profession, especially when working with dental pharmaceuticals and medical apparatuses. Having a bachelor's degree in a science such as chemistry or engineering usually qualifies a person for the job, so dental hygienists may need to go back to school to complete their 4-year degree. Overall, these sales reps are in charge of negotiating prices and making sales with businesses and organizations. Their job usually involves establishing customer leads, pitching products, assisting customers in product selection, composing sales contracts, submitting orders, and providing help to buyers when needed.

Medical and Health Services Manager

This job is a relevant promotion for dental hygienists wanting to improve or maintain the services provided by a dental clinic. A medical and health service manager's main objective is managing the operation of a hospital, health department, or medical practice. Professionals in this field usually need skills in administration and human resources. Their normal work duties may focus on organizing service records, forming budget plans, monitoring staff members, hiring employees, and enforcing healthcare policies. Medical and health service managers typically have a bachelor's degree in areas such as health administration, so this job would also require dental hygienists to complete some additional schooling. When applicable, some employers may also require candidates to have a 2- or 3-year master's degree to fulfill this role.

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