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 - Associate's
  • Medical Assisting - Associate's
Locations:  Manassas

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

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

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's
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
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
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
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
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
Broward Community College
Fort Lauderdale, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 27389

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

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
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
Washington County Adult Skill Center Abingdon VA 231
Siena Heights University Adrian MI 1972
Akron Institute - A Division of Herzing Ohio Inc Akron OH 172
College of Alameda Alameda CA 5088
Albany Technical College Albany GA 2444
Linn - Benton Community College Albany OR 4443
Pima Medical Institute Albuquerque NM 385
Altoona Area Vocational Technical School Altoona PA 154
Amarillo College Amarillo TX 8422
Everest College - Anaheim Anaheim CA 964
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage AK 14794
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny IA 10998
Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor MI 11089
Fox Valley Technical College Appleton WI 6806
Act College Arlington VA 321
Randolph Community College Asheboro NC 1951
Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville NC 4940
Atlanta Technical College Atlanta GA 2884
Augusta Technical College Augusta GA 3265
University of Maine at Augusta Augusta ME 5617
Cambridge College - Aurora Aurora CO 426
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
T H Pickens Technical Center Aurora CO 765
Academy of Health Care Professions Austin TX No Data
Allied Health Careers Austin TX 200
San Joaquin Valley College - Bakersfield Bakersfield CA 742
Domestic Health Care Institute Baton Rouge LA 42
James H Faulkner State Community College Bay Minette AL 2775
Academy of Careers and Technology Beckley WV 320
Middlesex Community College Bedford MA 7451
Bellingham Technical College Bellingham WA 3682
Northwest Technical College Bemidji MN 4638
Central Oregon Community College Bend OR 4079
Lake Michigan College Benton Harbor MI 3411
Lawson State Community College - Bessemer Campus Bessemer AL 1314
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem PA 4797
Camden County College Blackwood NJ 12131
Oakland Community College - Bloomfield Hills Campus Bloomfield Hills MI 23188
Normandale Community College Bloomington MN 7347
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Manatee Technical Institute Bradenton FL 2721
Central Lakes College - Brainerd Brainerd MN 3138
Southern California International College - Brea Brea CA 111
Blinn College Brenham TX 11588
Somerset County Technology Institute Bridgewater NJ 532
Massasoit Community College Brockton MA 6706
Minnesota School of Business - Brooklyn Center Brooklyn Center MN 306
Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park MN 5843
North Hennepin Community College Brooklyn Park MN 5261
Harcum College Bryn Mawr PA 545
Western Technology Center Burns Flat OK 179
Northeast Iowa Community College - Calmar Calmar IA 3480
Clarita Career College Canyon Country CA 177
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau MO 169
John A Logan College Carterville IL 7675
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Kaskaskia College Centralia IL 2676
Parkland College Champaign IL 8026
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill NC 24892
Trident Technical College Charleston SC 10246
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte NC 14908
Kee Business College Chesapeake VA 568
Illinois School of Health Careers Chicago IL 73
Pima Medical Institute Chula Vista CA 159
Institute of Medical - Dental Technology Cincinnati OH 158
Everest College - City of Industry City Of Industry CA 352
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District - Adult Education City Of Industry CA 2030
Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants Cleveland OH 92
Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland WI 2742
Haywood Community College Clyde NC 1653
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Pikes Peak Community College Colorado Springs CO 9997
Mt Diablo Adult Education Concord CA 637
New Hampshire Technical Institute Concord NH 2809
Del Mar College Corpus Christi TX 9936
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa CA 23315
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs IA 4503
Union County College Cranford NJ 8655
Cypress College Cypress CA 21361
Eastern Iowa Community College District Davenport IA 6179
Daytona Beach Community College Daytona Beach FL 10420
Georgia Perimeter College Decatur GA 13708
Harrison Career Institute - Delran Delran NJ 127
Grayson County College Denison TX 3318
Emily Griffith Opportunity School Denver CO 7377
Heritage College Denver CO 271
Pima Medical Institute Denver CO 288
Highline Community College Des Moines WA 6327
Wayne County Community College District Detroit MI 9008
Surry Community College Dobson NC 2946
Duluth Business University Dultuh MN 267
Durham Technical Community College Durham NC 4915
Ohio Valley College of Technology East Liverpool OH 116
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire WI 4503
Career Centers of Texas - El Paso El Paso TX 883
El Paso Community College El Paso TX 18001
Elgin Community College Elgin IL 10174
Flint Hills Technical College Emporia KS 391
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