The two most prevalent categories of distance learning dental hygiene programs are bachelor's degree completion programs and master's degree programs. This is primarily due to the hands-on clinical requirements for the vast majority of entry-level degree programs in dental hygiene. Such clinical experience can't be gained through an online program, making distance learning a better fit for students who already have substantial experience as dental hygienists.
Online dental hygiene programs are offered in both fully-online and hybrid formats. Coursework tends to emulate traditional classroom instruction, but it can be more difficult for some students because of the self-discipline required. Assignments, exams, lectures and other course materials are normally accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and delivered via distance-learning communication systems like e-mail, live discussion boards, streaming video and interactive television.
Bachelor's Degree in Dental Hygiene
Bachelor's degree completion programs in dental hygiene can be found online for students who already possess an associate's degree and have clinical rotation experience. These distance learning programs typically take two years or less to complete and provide working dental hygienists with a flexible way to increase their career opportunities without leaving their jobs.
The coursework needed for graduation from this type of dental hygiene degree program varies from student to student, depending on the previous credits they've completed. Generally, programs require students to complete a core of dental hygiene courses, related electives and general education courses. Distance learning students will likely be paired with an academic advisor to create a plan tailored to their study needs. Some of the common prerequisites for distance learning bachelor's degree completion programs in dental hygiene include the following:
- An associate's degree or certificate from an American Dental Association (ADA)-accredited institution
- Successful completion of the Dental Hygiene National Board Examination
- A dental hygiene license in at least one state
Master's Degree in Dental Hygiene
A number of colleges and universities offer 2-year Master of Science in Dental Hygiene distance learning programs. Students in these programs usually learn the fundamentals of research, clinical techniques and teaching within the realm of dental hygiene. Often, an online dental hygiene master's degree program requires similar, if not superior, time management skills to an on-campus program, with up to 15 hours a week spent online. Students are often required to arrange a local, on-site teaching and clinical experience prior to program completion.
Due to the hands-on nature of entry-level study in dental hygiene, distance education programs in this field are usually at either the bachelor's or master's degree level and are intended for practicing hygienists. Students may need to have board certification before entering these programs.