There are a lot of positives about being a dental assistant. Helping people improve their lives is a big reason to become a dentist. It is recession-proof so even a downturn in the economy won’t affect you too much.
There is a lot to know about being a dental assistant and there are going to be pros and cons just as there is in any career.
It can be challenging, but most will tell you that the rewards are much greater than the negatives.
It pays to be aware of what being a dental assistant and all that it entails means so let’s take a look at what you need to know.
You don’t need a specialized bachelor’s or associate’s degree to become a dental assistant. Though you will need to be certified in some states so going to an accredited dental assistant school is essential. Not all states require licensing but it is a good idea to go to school anyway.
For instance, the best dental assisting school in Vancouver, WA offers a short 32 hour internship to give practical experience so students know what is expected of them when assisting dentists professionally.
Some people may want to have a degree before they go to dental school in which case, we recommend a biology degree. If you ever want to become a full-fledged dentist after your experience as an assistant then that degree will help you become one.
The pros and cons
As with any profession there are going to be pluses and minuses.
On the plus side of becoming a dental assistant, there is always work. It is projected that the number of openings for dental assistants will grow by 18% through 2024.
Getting started is much easier than many other healthcare jobs. Since there is no degree required and only short programs for licensing, it has a low barrier to entry.
The workload is also a positive as it doesn’t require long days. You won’t likely work nights or weekends and the schedule can be flexible depending on the needs of your particular office.
For a career with no degree required, the salary is decent. Starting out many assistants make an average of $35,000 and up to $50,000 with a few years of experience.
The negatives are that there is little room to grow as a dental assistant. Many don’t do it long term. It is a great entry into the healthcare industry to later become a dentist, however.
If you do want to grow into a different position and stay a dental assistant then specializing is a good way to go. Other areas of dentistry that also need assistants are orthodontics, geriatric dentistry, pediatric dentistry so if you niche down you can certainly make a long term career out of it.
If you do decide you’ve outgrown the role, then you may want to branch out as a dental hygienist. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree, but luckily your schedule will likely allow you to study while you work. If you already have an associate’s degree, then many credits will transfer so you don’t have to do a full four year degree.
There is always the possibility of becoming an instructor at a school if you love the profession but feel you’ve outgrown it.