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

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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
Academy of Health Care Professions Austin TX No Data
Minnesota State Community Technical College - Moorhead Moorhead MN No Data
The Institute for Health Education Fairfield NJ 22
Galen College of Medical and Dental Assistants Visalia CA 34
Domestic Health Care Institute Baton Rouge LA 42
Oswego County Boces Mexico NY 42
Forbes Road Career and Technology Center Monroeville PA 42
Polaris Career Center Middleburg Heights OH 47
Mercer County Technical Education Center Princeton WV 68
North - West College - Pasadena Pasadena CA 73
Illinois School of Health Careers Chicago IL 73
Ulster County Boces School of Practical Nursing Port Ewen NY 74
Midwest Institute Kirkwood MO 78
Desert Career College Palm Springs CA 82
Platt College Lawton OK 86
Nichols Career Center Jefferson City MO 88
Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants Cleveland OH 92
Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants Mentor OH 94
Huntington Institute Incorporated Norwich CT 95
Compu - Med Vocational Careers Corp Hialeah FL 96
American Institute of Medical - Dental Technology Saint George UT 100
Eton Technical Institute Federal Way WA 101
Porter and Chester Institute Enfield CT 104
Southern California International College - Brea Brea CA 111
Ohio Valley College of Technology East Liverpool OH 116
Schuylkill Technology Centers Frackville PA 123
Harrison Career Institute - Delran Delran NJ 127
Olympia Career Training Institute - Kalamazoo Kalamazoo MI 132
Galen College of Medical and Dental Assistants Modesto CA 137
Galen College of Medical and Dental Assistants Fresno CA 141
Southeastern Technical Institute South Easton MA 147
Lancaster County Career and Technology Center Willow Street PA 147
North - West College - Pomona Pomona CA 149
Uei College - Huntington Park Huntington Park CA 152
Uei College - Ontario Ontario CA 152
Uei College - San Diego San Diego CA 152
Uei College - Van Nuys Van Nuys CA 152
Tennessee Technology Center at Murfreesboro Murfreesboro TN 152
Altoona Area Vocational Technical School Altoona PA 154
Ascension College Gonzales LA 158
Institute of Medical - Dental Technology Cincinnati OH 158
Pima Medical Institute Chula Vista CA 159
Eastland - Fairfield Career and Technical Schools Groveport OH 164
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau MO 169
Akron Institute - A Division of Herzing Ohio Inc Akron OH 172
Atlantic County Vocational Technical School Mays Landing NJ 175
Clarita Career College Canyon Country CA 177
Ocean County Vocational - Technical School Toms River NJ 177
Western Technology Center Burns Flat OK 179
Pinnacle Career Centers Houston TX 181
North - West College - West Covina West Covina CA 187
Eastern School of Technology Virginia Beach VA 197
Western Career College Pleasant Hill CA 200
Allied Health Careers Austin TX 200
Central California School San Luis Obispo CA 206
Delaware Valley Academy of Medical and Dental Assistants Philadelphia PA 208
Autry Technology Center Enid OK 208
Moore Norman Technology Center Norman OK 209
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
Academy of Medical Arts and Business Harrisburg PA 213
Washington County Adult Skill Center Abingdon VA 231
Tulsa Technology Center - Lemley Campus Tulsa OK 243
Duluth Business University Dultuh MN 267
Omaha College of Health Careers Omaha NE 269
Heritage College Denver CO 271
Vet Tech Institute Pittsburgh PA 272
Platt College Oklahoma City OK 273
Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center Miami FL 275
Concorde Career Institute Jacksonville FL 276
Great Lakes Institute of Technology Erie PA 277
Olympia Career Training Institute - Grand Rapids Grand Rapids MI 279
Lakeland Medical Dental Academy Inc - Division of Herzing College Minneapolis MN 286
Pima Medical Institute Denver CO 288
Eastern College of Health Vocations Little Rock AR 292
The Academy of Health Care Professions Houston TX 293
Everest College - Ontario Ontario CA 294
Pima Medical Institute Seattle WA 297
New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants Long Island City NY 298
Bridgerland Applied Technology College Logan UT 304
Tidewater Tech Newport News VA 306
Minnesota School of Business - Brooklyn Center Brooklyn Center MN 306
Salina Area Technical School Salina KS 310
Everest College - West Los Angeles Los Angeles CA 318
Southern College Orlando FL 318
Concorde Career Institute Kansas City MO 320
Academy of Careers and Technology Beckley WV 320
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
Act College Arlington VA 321
Everest College - Renton Renton WA 321
Tennessee Technology Center at Shelbyville Shelbyville TN 323
Midstate College Peoria IL 324
Davis Applied Technology College Kaysville UT 324
High - Tech Institute - Sacramento Sacramento CA 338
Western Career College San Leandro CA 345
National Institute of Technology Houston TX 345
Everest College - Everett Everett WA 345
Concorde Career Institute Lauderdale Lakes FL 349
Everest College - City of Industry City Of Industry CA 352
American Institute of Medical - Dental Technology Provo UT 360
Pima Medical Institute Tucson AZ 364
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