A career as a dental assistant is promising and can be very rewarding. As with many other jobs in the medical field, a dental assistant position is less exposed to economic conditions. Generally speaking, regardless of whether the economy is doing great or we are in a recession, people will still need to go to the dentist. Maintaining dental health is very important, not only for your teeth, but a healthy mouth has been shown to have positive effects on your overall health. As a dental assistant, you have a job helping people. This is one of the main reasons some students find the field attractive.
As you begin your search for the right training, you'll notice that there are a couple of different options. There are Dental Assistant Certificate programs that can be completed, often in less than a year. Then there are traditional degree programs that you take through a university or community college. The first decision you'll need to make is; which option is right for you? The answer to that question often depends on what exactly you'd like to do as a dental assistant, and whether or not you want to later gain new skills and advance your career.
Dental Assistant Certificate Programs:
This may be a good option for those who are looking to enter the workforce as a Dental Assistant as soon as possible. An associate degree takes at least two years, while a certification program can be completed in as little as nine months.
If you are looking at a certificate program, make sure you understand the rules in your state regarding dental assistants. In some states, you'll need to take a test approved by the Dental Assistant National Board and receive a state certification in order to become a dental assistant. It's important to make sure that the programs you are looking at address this requirement (if there is one) and prepares you to take this certification. Also, it's important to make sure that your program is accredited.
A certificate program will help you get an entry level position, and get your foot in the door as a dental assistant. While experience and time on the job will help you advance in your position, be prepared that you may be need to add to your education to reach certain other positions.
Dental Assistant Degrees:
Getting an actual associate degree as a dental assistant does look good on your resume when you apply for positions. It also is helpful if you are considering advancing your education later on. Many students with an associate degree go to work as dental assistants while continuing their education to become dental hygienists. Hygienists tend to have higher salaries than dental assistants. The job has more responsibility and requires more detailed knowledge of topics like periodontal disease, actual teeth cleaning, administering anesthetics, giving fluoride treatments, etc.
It is much easier to advance your education to a bachelor degree or higher if you have received an associate degree rather instead of going through a certification program.