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Dental Assistant

Odds of Getting In

Quick, solve this riddle: Name a career that offers you a never-ending supply of potential customers. If you said "dental assistant," you're right. Think about it: We all produce a set of teeth during our lifetime. Some of us take better care of our teeth than others; however, the dentist makes a living either way. If you value your teeth, you pay the dentist to clean them, perform filling and crown work, and even spruce them up with cosmetic procedures. On the other hand, perhaps the words "good dental hygiene" are like a foreign language to you. As long as you have teeth to chew your food, life is good. The dentist will make lots of money on your teeth, too—he'll pull all of them. And guess who he hires to help him? Dental assistants.

Three more factors combine to create an increasing need for dentists (and dental assistants). Consider a larger nationwide population, middle-aged and elderly adults' desire to keep their natural teeth, and more focus on preventive care among the younger set. In fact, the Labor beancounters predict that dental assistants' employment is expected to grow 31 percent until 2020, a rate much faster than all occupations' growth rates averaged together.

You might be wondering: How can I get a piece of this profitable pie? You'll increase your odds if you complete an accredited dental assisting program. Many community colleges offer these programs, which typically take about two years to complete. You may also find a technical school's shorter-duration dental assisting program (but make sure the program is accredited before you commit to it).

If you combine your education with part-time dental office work, you'll be more valuable to the dentist when you receive your certificate. If the dentist is expanding his practice, he may hire experienced dental assistants to perform routine patient care tasks. This allows him to concentrate on more difficult (and more profitable) procedures.

Finally, consider another possible path to dental assistant employment. If you have receptionist or medical office experience, you may find a dental receptionist position that gives you a good general grasp of the dental world. This knowledge may open the door to a dental assistant position.