Dental Assistant

Dental assisting is an in-demand entry-level vocation in dentistry that enjoys a positive growth outlook. More dentists are hiring dental assistants (DAs) to carry out routine office and clinical duties. Delegating these tasks facilitates more productive and effective dental caregiving. Dental assistants can enter the profession with relatively little education.

Traditionally, most dental assistants have received on-the-job training, but today more employers are looking for candidates with formal education. As a result, students are filling spots in dental assistant training programs at technical institutes, community colleges, universities, and dental schools. These programs teach the work skills necessary to prepare graduates for employment in a growing profession.

Quality 1- and 2-year certificate and associate programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association (ADA). Accredited dental assistant schools prepare graduates for the National Examination administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Success on this test earns candidates the professional Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential.

Degrees in Dental Assisting

Vocational Certificates

The majority of dental assistants have some postsecondary training, but not a full degree. Many of these DAs graduated from dedicated certificate-granting dental assisting programs that taught them the basics of providing clinical aid in a professional dentist's office. Most of these programs take between 9 and 12 months to complete, although accelerated and part-time options are available at some institutions.

In a vocational program, trainees learn how to help dental professionals during clinical procedures, in the lab, and with administrative functions. Graduates will have mastered the appropriate 'chairside' manner and the ropes of patient management, from conducting interviews and taking dental histories to measuring vitals and assisting during clinical procedures.

The upward career potential of dental assistants without additional credentials is limited, however. Supplementary credentials could come in the form of a degree or professional CDA certification, but many employers are looking for specialty vocational training in CPR, X-Rays, or a dental specialty like orthodontics. A Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) credential can be obtained through DANB.

On the other hand, some employers are looking for specialty on-the-job experience more than a certificate of training. For these positions, specialty vocational programs are useful insofar as they provide students such clinical practice opportunities and assistance with finding a job after graduation.

Courses for a Dental Assisting certificate may include:

  • Preclinical Dental Hygiene
  • General & Oral Pathology
  • Dental Hygiene Theory

What can you do with a certificate or diploma in Dental Assisting?

  • Dental Assistant
  • Chairside Dental Assistant
  • Hygiene Assistant

Associate Degrees

Although most dental assistants have only vocational training, some earn a degree from associate programs offered by dental schools and community colleges. The curricular emphasis at this level may be on Dental Assisting or on general Health Science with a concentration in Dental Assisting.

Two-year associate programs are more intensive than vocational programs, integrating extensive material related to practice management, radiography, and the underlying science of dental care. They also include a general education component. The best programs offer students a clinical internship or externship opportunity to get hands-on experience directly related to real-world practice.

DAs who wish to advance in the profession may go back to school to earn an associate's degree to become, for example, a dental hygienist. Others look for state permission to take on more clinical responsibilities. This does not necessarily entail earning an associate's degree, but such programs help students master the skills that will be tested for. Certificates may also serve this function, but associate programs provide more in-depth instruction.

Apart from state recognition, students can work towards DANB's Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) credential to demonstrate competency in providing coronal polishing, sealants, topical fluoride, and topical anesthetics. While this certification is valuable to employers, states have their own credentials and qualifying tests, so check with your state board to learn about expanded duties.

Coursework for an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting might include:

  • Dental Chairside Assisting
  • Dental Radiology Lab
  • Principles of Communication

What careers are open to DAs with associate degrees?

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Expanded Duties Dental Assistant
  • Oral Surgery Assistant

Bachelor Degrees

Student interest in higher dental assisting education that affords greater on-the-job responsibility and career flexibility is growing. Some pursue their education to the baccalaureate level, where they learn advanced clinical and administrative skills. From there, they can use their assisting experience as a springboard for moving into higher-paying vocations reserved for bachelor degree-holders.

While upward mobility opportunities are generally flat for assistants without a degree, bachelor degree-holders can take on leadership positions and advocate for patient welfare in the community. Getting a bachelor's degree can pave the way to a greater diversity of potential work settings and patient populations.

Accelerated bachelors are available, cutting the time it takes to earn a baccalaureate credential to just 3 years at some schools. The best programs provide clinical internship opportunities that students can use to gain valued industry experience.

Undergraduate coursework in Dental Assisting may include:

  • Computer Applications in Modern Dentistry
  • Dental Psychology
  • Dental Pharmacological Pain Control

What can a dental assistant with a bachelor's degree work as?

  • Dental Assisting Instructor
  • Dental Supply Coordinator
  • Dental Office Manager

Featured Schools

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assisting
  • Medical Assisting
Locations:  Richmond

Programs offered:

  • Medical Assisting
  • Health Information Management

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assisting
  • Clinical Medical Assisting
  • Electronic Health Records
Locations:  Lorton

Programs offered:

  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management - Health Informatics

Programs offered:

We found 393 schools offering dental assistant degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 393 Dental Assistant Colleges in the U.S.

Dental Assistant Schools By Total Enrollment

1
Community College of the Air Force
Montgomery, AL  |  Total Enrollment: 378162

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's
2
Houston Community College System
Houston, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 40929

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
3
City College of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 39386

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
4
Community College of Southern Nevada
North Las Vegas, NV  |  Total Enrollment: 29905

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
5
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
6
Indiana University - Purdue University - Indianapolis
Indianapolis, IN  |  Total Enrollment: 27525

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
7
Broward Community College
Fort Lauderdale, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 27389

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
8
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 27020

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
9
Tarrant County College
Fort Worth, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 26868

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
10
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC  |  Total Enrollment: 24892

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree

Browse All 393 Colleges With Dental Assistant Programs


Title City State Enrollment
Academy of Careers and Technology Beckley WV 320
Academy of Health Care Professions Austin TX No Data
Academy of Medical Arts and Business Harrisburg PA 213
Act College Arlington VA 321
Aiken Technical College Graniteville SC 2268
Akron Institute - A Division of Herzing Ohio Inc Akron OH 172
Alamance Community College Graham NC 3414
Albany Technical College Albany GA 2444
Allan Hancock College Santa Maria CA 12110
Allied College - Maryland Heights Maryland Heights MO 406
Allied Health Careers Austin TX 200
Altoona Area Vocational Technical School Altoona PA 154
Amarillo College Amarillo TX 8422
American Career College Los Angeles CA 1383
American Institute of Medical - Dental Technology Provo UT 360
American Institute of Medical - Dental Technology Saint George UT 100
Ascension College Gonzales LA 158
Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville NC 4940
Atlanta Technical College Atlanta GA 2884
Atlantic County Vocational Technical School Mays Landing NJ 175
Augusta Technical College Augusta GA 3265
Autry Technology Center Enid OK 208
Bates Technical College Tacoma WA 14808
Bay De Noc Community College Escanaba MI 2073
Beaufort County Community College Washington NC 1366
Bellingham Technical College Bellingham WA 3682
Berks Technical Institute Wyomissing PA 693
Black Hawk College Moline IL 6118
Blackhawk Technical College Janesville WI 2472
Blinn College Brenham TX 11588
Blue Mountain Community College Pendleton OR 1934
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Briarwood College Southington CT 518
Bridgerland Applied Technology College Logan UT 304
Broward Community College Fort Lauderdale FL 27389
Cambridge College - Aurora Aurora CO 426
Camden County College Blackwood NJ 12131
Camden County Vocational and Technical Schools Sicklerville NJ 1120
Cape Fear Community College Wilmington NC 5470
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau MO 169
Career Centers of Texas - El Paso El Paso TX 883
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
Central California School San Luis Obispo CA 206
Central Carolina Community College Sanford NC 4113
Central Community College Grand Island NE 7126
Central Kentucky Technical College Lexington KY 1501
Central Lakes College - Brainerd Brainerd MN 3138
Central Oregon Community College Bend OR 4079
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte NC 14908
Century Community and Technical College White Bear Lake MN 6937
Cerritos College Norwalk CA 24536
Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga CA 15220
Charlotte Technical Center Port Charlotte FL 1276
Chemeketa Community College Salem OR 9650
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire WI 4503
Choffin Career and Technical Center Youngstown OH 453
Citrus College Glendora CA 11486
City College of San Francisco San Francisco CA 39386
Clarita Career College Canyon Country CA 177
Cleveland Community College Shelby NC 2225
Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants Cleveland OH 92
Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants Mentor OH 94
Clover Park Technical College Lakewood WA 7921
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville NC 3780
College of Alameda Alameda CA 5088
College of Marin Kentfield CA 8317
College of San Mateo San Mateo CA 10756
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls ID 5452
College of the Redwoods Eureka CA 6986
Columbia Basin College Pasco WA 5714
Columbia University in the City of New York New York NY 19639
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 15953
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick RI 15583
Community College of Southern Nevada North Las Vegas NV 29905
Community College of the Air Force Montgomery AL 378162
Compu - Med Vocational Careers Corp Hialeah FL 96
Concorde Career College San Bernardino CA 551
Concorde Career College North Hollywood CA 444
Concorde Career College Garden Grove CA 478
Concorde Career College Memphis TN 755
Concorde Career Institute San Diego CA 552
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
Concorde Career Institute Lauderdale Lakes FL 349
Concorde Career Institute Jacksonville FL 276
Concorde Career Institute Tampa FL 481
Concorde Career Institute Kansas City MO 320
Concorde Career Institute Portland OR 453
Contra Costa College San Pablo CA 7133
Cypress College Cypress CA 21361
D G Erwin Technical Center Tampa FL 853
Dakota County Technical College Rosemount MN 3086
Davis Applied Technology College Kaysville UT 324
Daytona Beach Community College Daytona Beach FL 10420
Del Mar College Corpus Christi TX 9936
Delaware Valley Academy of Medical and Dental Assistants Philadelphia PA 208
Delta College University Center MI 9358
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny IA 10998
Desert Career College Palm Springs CA 82
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill CA 21581
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