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Average Salary: $34,500

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $1,440,000

Your dental assistant position won't make you rich, but will probably provide you with a nice stable income. Around $33k on average. At the lower end of the spectrum, dental assistants earn less than $22k; the highest 10 percent earn more than $47k.

What could cause this wide range of salary figures? First, consider that economic conditions (and pay rates) vary across the country. City-based dental assistants may see a different pay scale than workers in a small town or rural practice. You may even find that wages vary within the same city or town. For example, dental assistants at a large, high-volume practice may net a different wage than assistants at a small one-dentist practice.

Your salary will also vary with your education and work experience. For example, you'll probably make more if you graduate from an accredited dental assisting program. A dental assistant with five years experience will earn more than an entry-level worker with no formal training. Finally, stating the obvious: If you work 35-40 hours per week, you'll make more than a 20-hour-per-week part-timer.

Of course, the bennies are really the icing on the cake. Benefits are frequently offered to full-time employees, although some practices may provide scaled-down perks to part-timers. A 2008 Dental Assisting National Board survey found that 86 percent of Certified Dental Assistants received paid vacation; more than half of the CDAs also got health benefits.

Finally, note that no formal dental assistants' union exists within the United States. Membership in an existing employee union likely requires a minimum number of enrollees. And unlike a lot of "sexy" careers where the entire industry vanishes 5 years later, like…what are the odds that teeth need care in 5 years?

Once the teeth are fixed, we can start on the rest of the face.