If you’ve always wanted to become a dentist, achieving that goal isn’t easy. Breaking into any area of the medical field is tough, and dentists need years of education and on-the-job experience to begin their own practice. But there is another option – a job that’s almost like being a dentist, that will let you see and assist patients.
Instead of becoming a dentist, you can become a dental assistant. Dental assistants do a lot of work in a dentist’s office; they’re responsible for helping during treatments and cleanings, working to keep patients comfortable, and so much more. And surprisingly, becoming a dental assistant is something you can accomplish in under a year.
Anyone can become a dental assistant in as little as 10 months. The key is choosing the right dental assistant program, understanding what steps you need to take, and getting started as soon as possible.
Here’s how you can start a brand-new career as a dental assistant in less than a year.
Find a Program with Affordable Tuition
The first step in becoming a dental assistant is your education. In order to start working in a dentist’s office, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of the dental assistant role.
Dental assistants perform a lot of tasks. As the American Dental Association (ADA) explains, they are a dentist’s right-hand person, assisting during routine cleanings, fillings, and more complex procedures¹. They take and develop x-rays, collect patients’ medical histories, prepare and sterilize equipment, and even teach patients good oral hygiene habits. On top of this, dental assistants also manage the dentist’s office, like scheduling appointments and billing.
So, it’s no surprise that you need to learn these responsibilities before you start your career. And to do that, you’ll need to find a program that can teach them to you.
Fortunately, there are many different ways you can study to become a dental assistant. According to the ADA, you can get formal education through a community college, vocational school, technical institute, dental school, or a four-year college or university².
And these programs don’t have to be expensive. There are a number of ways to earn your diploma, certificate, or degree for less. According to CostHelper, the average dental assistant certificate or diploma program costs anywhere from $850 to $7,560³. Some programs, like the dental assistant program at Santa Rosa Junior College in California, charge just $20 per unit⁴.
The ADA also suggests that students can complete their education faster and at a lower price with options like accelerated training, part-time degree or certificate programs, or long-distance online education⁵. If you’re looking to become a dental assistant without breaking the bank, you just need to search for and compare different programs.
Earn Your Qualifications in Approximately 10 Months
Once you’ve found dental assistant programs that fit your budget, it’s time for you to choose the one that will let you start working quickly.
The average dental assistant program takes just 11 months, the ADA reports⁶. And some programs will even let you earn your credentials in just 10 months.
For example, CBD College offers a Dental Assistant Program that takes only 10 months to complete⁷. UEI College offers a similar program for future dental assistants that also takes 10 months⁸. In both programs you’ll learn the basics of becoming a dental assistant, work with professional dentists and experienced instructors, and learn everything you need to begin working.
If you want to get more training or more education once you begin working as a dental assistant, you can choose to complete a two-year associate’s degree program. That way, you can progress your career, learn more, and potentially demand a higher salary. And, since you’ll be able to work in a dentist’s office, you’ll also get crucial on-the-job experience.
Take Advantage of the Potential Being a Dental Assistant Offers
Becoming a dental assistant gives anyone the opportunity to start a new career in a short amount of time. Forget spending years and years in school. In under a year, you could be working alongside a dentist, making a difference with patients.
And there are plenty of reasons to consider becoming a dental assistant. In addition to the affordable and fast education opportunities, you’ll enjoy other great benefits. As a dental assistant, you’ll get to take advantage of the following:
- Job Security: Dental assistant is a job that’s both in demand and highly stable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor⁹ predicts growth of 19 percent, which is expected to lead to over 64,600 new job openings. You’ll easily be able to find work.
- Steady Income: Dental assistants make a solid salary. According to the School of Dental Assisting, you can make anywhere from $37,000 to over $40,000 a year depending on your experience and location10.
- Opportunities to Advance: If you want to take your career to the next level, you easily can. With additional schooling or specialized training, you could take on new jobs like dental hygienist, office manager, and more.
Becoming a dental assistant can open you up to many opportunities. And it doesn’t take long – or much money – to get started. Your first step should be researching dental assistant programs in your area. From there, you can compare program length and tuition rates. Within months, you’ll be ready to begin work.