Posted in Career Insights

Are you looking for a new and meaningful career in an industry that has stability in employment and is always in demand? Are you seeking employment that you can be proud of, in a field that people respect? Would you like to be a dental assistant?

Dental assistants, operating under the guidance of a board-certified and fully-licensed dentist, are key members of any dentist’s office staff. They do much of the work, from taking X-ray images to cleaning teeth and assisting in more delicate procedures.

Dental assistants will also provide administrative support, helping with everything from scheduling appointments to billing patients and insurance.

If you think you might enjoy such a career, there are a few things that you need to learn first to properly do the job. It’s also important to understand the dental assisting education you will need. However, if you are looking to start a new career sooner rather than later, fear not; the process of meeting the various dental assisting requirements is not a long one.

Here are six steps that stand between you and your new life as a dental assistant, so read on to answer the question, How long does it take to become a dental assistant?

Understanding the Salary, Job, and Minimum Education Requirements

As with all jobs, the first thing that you should understand is the pay, the job, and what you will need in order to obtain the job.

When it comes to dental assistant positions, the bare minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED.

The salary you can earn as a dental assistant depends, as always, on a number of factors, including the area you work in. However, the current pay scale is generally between $13 and $22 an hour, or between $27,040 and $45,760 a year before taxes.

The job can vary wildly based on where you live and plan to work. Some states restrict what a dental assistant can do, while others are much more permissive. You are better off checking local sources for more information.

Understanding Local Requirements

The next step in becoming a dental assistant is to understand what you need to do to be locally permitted to hold that position. Some states require only a high school diploma or equivalent, while others may require certification from an accredited program. Make sure you understand your state’s specific requirements!

Even if your state is permissive enough to require only a high school diploma, it won’t hurt to take a course, such as the Dental Assistant Distance Learning Course offered by Stratford Career Institute, to get a basic understanding of the jobs and the skills it will require.

Enrolling in an Appropriate Program

Your state may require your enrollment (and successful completion) of a course that bestows the title “Certified Dental Assistant” on those who complete it.  If this is the case, you will want to enroll in a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, also commonly called CODA.

Even if your state requires no accreditation, you may want to take a course on your own, like the one offered at Stratford Career Institute, which can give you information and basic job training, as well as provide a foundation of knowledge that will assist you if you ever plan to take steps to advance your career.

Obtaining Licensing and Certification

Now comes the part where you begin taking solid steps toward obtaining a job as a dental assistant.

If your state has licensing or certification demands, you will need to obtain said licenses or certificates. Requirements vary from state to state and can be as simple as having a high school diploma or equivalent or as complex as requiring two years’ worth of education in an accredited course. Your state may also require you to have other certifications, such as a CPR certification, before you can get a license to work as a dental assistant.

Getting an Externship

An externship is not necessarily a requirement, strictly speaking, but if you want to get a good job as a dental assistant, it never hurts to do whatever you can to get your foot in the proverbial door.

Some training programs will offer externships—real-world training opportunities that are strictly voluntary—and allow you to work as a dental assistant under the guidance of a teacher, board-certified expert, or other expert in the field.  Having this experience can help you find a job and make your resume stand out when you begin looking for employment as a dental assistant.

Getting the Job

There are likely multiple places near you that are looking to hire a dental assistant.  However, some of the more desirable positions will require a few years of experience before they take you on. Make sure that you look carefully, when you apply, at what the position requires and whether it is a good fit for you.

With these six steps in mind, patience, and a base of knowledge formed by time spent in a dental assistant training program like those Stratford Career Institute offers, you are sure to be on your way to a career as a dental assistant in no time!

Stratford Career Institute’s educational program is an introductory course designed to help students gain the knowledge necessary for the vocational application of this subject. Completion of this program does not fulfill the legal requirements of particular state licenses or certifications, which may require additional training or apprenticeships.


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Stratford Career Institute offers a convenient and affordable online course to teach you the ins and outs of a dental assistant career. Enroll today!