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Education Necessary for Pursuing a Dental Assistant Career

Do you enjoy helping people in a fun yet challenging work environment? With an average salary of $42,000, a dental assistant career is ideal for anyone who wants to work in health care but doesn’t have a college degree. Specialties within this field include oral anatomy, dental pharmacology, and office administration.

Read on to explore your dental assistant career path and learn some of the basics of how to become a dental assistant.


Your dental assistant career path will begin by completing a dental assistant program. This could be at a technical school or community college.

These programs usually take one or two years to finish. The program length depends on whether you are pursuing a diploma, associate degree, or certificate.

Beyond classroom learning, the programs provide hands-on opportunities. Teachers offer them in a clinical setting. The coursework may include info on dental materials, dental pharmacology, and CPR.

Next, you’ll need to complete something known as an externship. These programs provide real-world training.

Students learn in an actual work environment. They learn important skills like dental pathology, radiology, oral hygiene, and oral anatomy.

Choose Specialization

Students who aim to be placed in specialized areas like orthodontic care and pediatric care can choose their externship focus accordingly. Maybe your externship showed you that you didn’t like a certain specialization. By the time you finish your coursework, you should have an idea of whether you want to pursue pediatric, orthodontic, or another form of dental care.

Complete State Certification

Licensing requirements vary by state. You can start by contacting the state dental board or visiting the Dental Assistant National Board website. Most states require that candidates pass something known as the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam.

You can expect the test to be a few hundred questions long. Or longer. These may include sections that cover General Chairside and other topics.

Students who do not pass the exam can either retake the exam or complete more certification preparation before retaking the exam. Some states need students who do not pass their exams to take extra work before taking the exam again.

Once you pass your exam, you can get other certifications. These can help you become an orthodontic dental assistant or restorative functions assistant.

Work Experience

After you have your certification, you are all set and ready to start your new career as a dental assistant. Prepare a resume that showcases your skills and experience and start applying for that dream job!

Once you have accrued important work experience, you can consider getting your bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or another field.

Start Your Dental Assistant Career Today

Dental assistants enjoy a rewarding and challenging career with many opportunities for advancement. Whether you enjoy helping people stay healthy or just like dentistry, a career in this field may be right for you.

Are you looking for a proven program that can help you gain the credentials to start your dental assistant career? Healthcare Career College offers vocational training, financial aid, and more. To start the process, apply online today.