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How Long Does IT Take to Be a Dentist?

Degrees in dentistry typically cover oral anatomy, histology and pathology, and in the final years, dental students participate in clinical practicums. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for dentistry graduates. View article »

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  • 0:00 Essential Information
  • 0:46 Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:24 Dental Degree
  • 2:11 Accelerated Dental Programs
  • 2:42 Licensure Requirements
  • 3:10 Postdoctoral Training

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Program Levels Doctoral - bachelor's degree followed by dental school (D.D.S. or D.D.M)
Field(s) of Study Pre-dentistry or biological sciences and then dentistry
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent and satisfactory DAT score
Online Availability Not typical
Program Length 4 years for bachelor's degree then 4 years for dental school (some combination programs exist bringing the total closer to 6 or 7 years); specialties require an additional 2 year residency after doctoral training
Licensure/Certification State licensure required to practice
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 18% growth
Median Annual Salary (2015) $158,310

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The education requirements for becoming a dentist are completing a bachelor's degree, passing the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), and completing four years of study to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine. You must obtain licensure from your state board of dentistry to practice in the profession. These degrees are generally not available online and include extensive hands-on experience.

The projected job growth of dentists between 2014 and 2024 is 18%, which is faster than average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for dentists as of 2015 is $158,310 per year.

Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most students who enter dental schools complete four-year bachelor's degree programs beforehand. On the other hand, some applicants complete two to three years of college prior to applying to dental school and complete their bachelor's degree there. Undergraduate students may benefit from taking science courses, such as biology and health, which are often required for admission into dental school. Some colleges and universities offer pre-dental programs, which do not lead to the awarding of a degree but help students plan their bachelor's degree curricula to meet admission requirements to dental school.

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Dental Degree

Admission into dental school is highly competitive. Along with undergraduate performance, students are evaluated for their Dental Admissions Test (DAT) scores. Students have the opportunity to take this test before graduating college. After gaining admission into dental school, students can go on to complete four years of full-time study to earn the Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine. Students typically spend the first two years learning general and dental science in classroom and laboratory settings. They may take courses like oral anatomy, histology and pathology. In the final years, dental students participate in clinical practicums, gaining supervised, hands-on experience in dental clinics.

Accelerated Dental Programs

Some schools offer accelerated programs in which students may earn a bachelor's degree and complete dental school in seven years or less. In the first few years of study, students take on a heavy course load in pre-dental topics, such as the natural and physical sciences. To move on to the dental education component, students must meet program-specified grade point averages and DAT scores. In the final years, students take advanced courses in dentistry to earn dental degrees.

Licensure Requirements

Dental school graduates must obtain licensure from their state board of dentistry to practice in the profession. To attain licensure, candidates must pass both a written exam and a practical exam. The state or a regional agency typically administers the practical exam; however, the American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written component, the National Board Dental Examinations.

Postdoctoral Training

Dentists may choose to specialize in a particular field of dentistry, such as orthodontics or pediatric dentistry. To become a specialist, dentists must complete two to four years of postdoctoral education, and they might be required to complete a two-year residency program in their field of choice. These professionals also need to earn a specialty license, which could entail passing a state-administered specialty exam.

There are many different career paths you can take within dentistry including pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, and dental surgery; but first, you must obtain a bachelor's degree, pass the Dental Admissions Test, earn a dental degree, and obtain your dental license.

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