Dental technicians work for private medical manufacturers, laboratories, dental offices, and schools. While some dental technicians receive on-the-job training, many employers prefer technicians with an associate's degree. Students can focus on ceramics, orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, and partial or complete dentures. The programs combine lectures and hands-on training through an internship or training labs. There are some online courses and programs available at some schools though.
Associate's Degree in Dental Technology
A high school diploma is required for admission, and prospective students in dental technology benefit from a strong health science and chemistry background. Because dental lab technicians must pay attention to details like measurements and color matching, good hand-eye coordination is essential. A typical curriculum in a dental technician school program includes courses that introduce students to dental laboratory materials, dental anatomy, and orthodontic and pedodontic appliances. Many programs also have internship or laboratory assistant programs that provide hands-on experience. Courses usually include:
- Dental materials
- Ceramic techniques
- Dental laboratory practice
- Crown and bridge
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Dental technician school graduates can find employment in commercial laboratories and as private contractors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, (www.bls.gov), reports that many laboratory technicians work in small private medical manufacturing businesses; others work in dental offices and specialized health care stores. Dental laboratory technicians can expect to see 10% job growth from 2014-2024. According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for dental laboratory technicians was $40,520 in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
An associate's degree is the standard for most jobs in dental laboratory technology. The National Association of Dental Laboratories offers a voluntary certification exam that allows experienced dental technicians to become certified specialists, thus providing them with the necessary credentials required to operate their own laboratory. Many dental technicians advance to management or supervisory positions with experience; others may teach or work in medical sales or marketing.
Students who earn an associate's degree in dental laboratory technology have a promising future in this field. If interested, there is a voluntary certification that can be earned after schooling is complete.