Dental assisting can be an immensely rewarding career that allows you to achieve your goals in a short amount of time. But what exactly is involved in becoming a dental assistant? Do you have to spend years in dental school before you can begin your professional endeavors? Do you have to complete live clinic training prior to becoming employed? And will the dental industry provide you with the opportunities you seek? Before you delve into the finer points of whether this job is the right one for you, you might want to find out a bit more about the process of becoming a dental assistant and what’s required of you. Below, you’ll find a few of the vital steps you’ll need to take before you can call yourself a dental assistant.
Pursue an Education
Interestingly, there aren’t formal education requirements pertaining to this particular career. While some dental assistants have only a high school diploma and receive hands-on dental training, others may have obtained higher education degrees with a combination of classroom training and clinic instruction. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program in order to enter this field. You can, however, enroll in dental assistant training courses or a degree program at a local college, technical institute, or vocational school. You can also receive hands-on dental training with a dental professional and their staff. Some programs can be completed in a year or two, but there may also be part-time educational programs available or even accelerated training.
Obtain a License and/or Certification
Although educational background can vary among dental assistants working in the same areas, there are certain licenses and certifications that must be obtained within a given state. Some states may allow dental assistants to perform responsibilities without licensure or certifications, but others will require them in order for a dental assistant to work. In many cases, a written or practical exam will be involved in obtaining these licenses or certifications. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes that the NANB CDA (Dental Assisting National Board Certified Dental Assistant) credential is widely recognized. And since 95% of individuals with this certification view dental assisting as their career, rather than just a job, achieving this milestone can show employers how serious you are about this professional endeavor. There are other options as well, including the National Entry Level Dental Assistant certification and licenses for more specialized areas of dental assisting.
Ensure Requirements Are Met
If you choose to take the CDA exam in an effort to attain this certification, you’ll need to ensure you:
- Currently hold a CPR certification
- Have enrolled in and graduated from an accredited dental assisting or dental hygiene program
- Have a high school diploma (or equivalent) and completed 3,500+ of approved work experience OR have held CDA status in the past OR have graduated from an accredited DDS, DMD, or dental degree program abroad
Ultimately, there are several different options you can pursue in terms of your education, your certification, and your employment. But by prioritizing both classroom learning and hands-on dental training as part of this process, you’ll feel more prepared to embark on this professional journey. For more information on how we can help you succeed, please contact us today.