In order to become a dentist, it requires many years of formal study. One of the more common pre-dental degrees students get is a bachelor's in biology. These programs focus on biology, chemistry and physics-related content. Some schools offer courses online.
From there, individuals must complete dental school, which lasts an additional four years. To be admitted to dental school, applicants must meet minimum requirements for admission, including passing of the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and completion of required courses in advanced sciences and mathematics.
Bachelor of Science in Biology
Students enrolled in a biology degree take classes in physics, biology, organic chemistry, general chemistry and calculus, all of which meet the dental school course requirements for admission. These 4-year undergraduate programs provide a strong foundation in the basic life sciences. Students in these programs have plenty of opportunities to work with high tech equipment and conduct research. Additional courses common to a biology program include:
- Biological research
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS states that dentists make a mean annual wage of $172,350 as of May 2015. The BLS also reports that the job outlook for dentists from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow 18%, which is faster than average compared to all occupations.
Every state in the U.S. requires dentists to be licensed. In order to obtain licensure, applying dentists must have graduated from an accredited dental program. They must pass a written exam, typically the National Board Dental Examination, as well as a practical exam. Additional licenses can be obtained for dentists who pursue specialty postdoctoral training.
Universities, pre-dental societies and industry organizations, such as the American Dental Association, sponsor workshops, seminars and recruiting events for pre-dental students. Events typically last a few hours. Topics include tips for taking the DAT, applying to dental school, financing dental school and completing a successful admissions interview.
Pre-dental students have a number of professional development resources available. Students can network and get answers to questions by participating in web discussion forums and online groups. There are also websites and blogs that provide videos of common dental procedures, links to volunteer opportunities and dental news stories. When preparing to take the DAT, dental students have many resources available, including virtual and printed practice tests, study guides and flashcards.
Those in a pre-dental program should develop a strong background in mathematics and life sciences, which can be gained by earning a bachelor's degree in biology. These programs help you prepare for certification, the requirements of which vary according to state.