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Dental Assistant

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job prospects for dental assistants over the next few years should be excellent. This means that if you get the training you need now from an online or on-campus dental assistant degree program, your skills will be much in demand, giving you lots of job options. You can earn your associate's degree in around two years from vocational schools and community colleges. On the job, you will help dentists to treat patients, prepare tools and materials for dental procedures, and take x-ray images of patients' mouths. Because dental assistants work so much with the public, it is essential that they are good with people and responsible workers. If this description sounds like you, you should consider entering this fun and growing field.

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Pursuing a Career as a Dental Assistant

Open wide! Working as a dental assistant comes with a range of rewards, from financial and job security perks, to the basic satisfaction of helping soothe a patient's dental visit. Find out how you can complete the basic training required for this growing career.

Dental Assistant Daily Duties
A diploma or certificate is often considered the minimum requirement for dental assistants, who perform clinical tasks, disinfect equipment, and make patients feel comfortable throughout their visit. Unlike a dental hygienist, who typically performs more clinical tasks, dental assistants are relied upon to keep the office running smoothly by performing routine tasks.

Experiencing dentistry from the point of view of a dental assistant can be a great way to get your feet wet in the career. Once you determine your personal strengths and career goals, you may even choose to continue your education to become a dental hygienist, dentist, or dental specialist.

A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant
Ready for a job that has you feeling appreciated every day you come to work? Dental assistants are a necessary part of any busy dentist's office. With dental assistant training, you could find yourself working in any of the following locations:

  • Public or private dental offices
  • Dental laboratories
  • Dental clinics
  • Specialty dental offices

Rather than jumping into a career without any training, a dental assistant career training program can give you the opportunity to improve your technical skill, learn career basics, and prepare yourself to enter the field.

Typical Dental Assistant Coursework
Coursework for dental assistants varies by program, but generally includes a mix of practical and laboratory courses. Here are just a few coursework options for a dental assistant diploma program:

  • Preclinical dental assisting
  • Dental materials
  • Radiology

In addition to coursework performed in the classroom, a clinical externship may be required. The externship is a learning experience that has you practicing on real patients in a clinical setting, giving you work experience before you even apply for a job.

Dental Assistant Job Growth and Salary Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that dental assistants saw mean annual wages of $32,280 in 2007. Additionally, the BLS notes that job prospects for dental assistants are expected to be excellent, with 29 percent growth through 2016. An aging population and a greater focus on preventative dental care is part of the reason behind the expected growth. About 82,000 new jobs are predicted to be available by 2016.

Benefits Draw New Dental Assistants

Beyond all the statistics and salaries, the real benefit of becoming a dental assistant is in upgrading your career. Working in a dentist's office can mean building professional relationships with a close-knit group. If you're tired of hourly jobs with a rotating cast of coworkers, it may be time to upgrade to a career with a real future.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dental Assistants
Minneapolis Community & Technical College (pdf)