There has never been a better time to receive training and become certified as a dental assistant. Dentistry is one of the less hectic fields in the healthcare industry, which is an attractive quality to many seeking employment as a dental assistant. Dental assistants can look forward to working in a quiet office, talking with patients to keep them comfortable, and assisting the dentist during the patient’s visit. Full and part-time jobs are available for dental assistants, so there is flexibility in the scheduling, depending on the office for which you apply.
More importantly than a peaceful work environment, however, is the world of potential that dental assistants can look forward to as they transition into a role as a medical professional. This potential lies in the fact that the healthcare industry, including dentistry, is always growing. Population growth, healthcare reform, the hyper-awareness of health and fitness in the last decade, and advancements in hygiene and health technologies all contribute to a growing demand for healthcare services that can barely be contained by the industry.
As the population ages and the number of people qualifying for healthcare increases, so does the demand for medical and dental health practitioners. The supportive roles that work alongside these practitioners, such as dental assistants, are also coming into the limelight as the need to fill these positions becomes gradually more urgent for the market. From an economic standpoint, there will never be a lack of want for more medical facilities and staff, and trained entrants in the field will be needed to accommodate that desire.
Healthcare reform has been an especially popular topic in the political world as the growing need for affordable medical and dental insurance becomes more apparent. Aging baby boomers, millennials, and the growing population of health-conscious individuals are seeking better coverage and taking advantage of the new opportunities that healthcare reform has provided. The swell in demand for necessary and preventative health services can be seen in the growth of the industry and the higher demand for certified professionals to fulfill the needs of the market.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an expected increase of 18% in the employment of dentists between the years 2014 and 2024 – much faster than the average for all other industries, which is reported to be 7%. This projected growth is mirrored by the expected need for trained dental assistants, as dentists will need additional support to handle the influx of new and recurring patients. With more people keeping their original teeth due to hygienic awareness and more people being covered by expanded dental insurance, it comes to no surprise that job opportunities are on the rise.
Dental assistants, especially those with certification for expanded functions, will be in high demand to complete supportive tasks for dentists as they focus on the critical tasks involved in dental care. A technical knowledge of the instruments and procedures involved in dentistry will be imperative to the success of applicants and recently hired workers. The BLS website encourages qualification in the field, stating that, though no work-experience or on-the-job training is necessary for an entry-level position, “advanced certification or training will likely have the best job prospects.”
The 18% increase in the dental industry is accompanied by a projected increase of over fifty-five thousand jobs in the decade following 2014. Projections Central, an authoritative resource for state occupational projections, reported a short-term increase of more than eight-hundred jobs for dental assistants between 2014 and 2018 in Florida, with long-term averages predicting more than three-thousand by 2024. Furthermore, the Commission on Dental Accreditation authorized three-hundred dental assistant training programs in 2015. Needless to say, the prospects for future dental assistants as far as job security and pay are bright.
Dental assistants were reported to earn a median annual wage of $36,940, according to the BLS website, with the highest earners reaching around $50,000 a year after a year or two. These numbers represent a decent wage compared to many entry-level jobs. The BLS Occupational Employment Statistics also reported Florida as being fourth in the list of states with the highest employment level for dental assistants in 2016. Dental assistants in Florida earned an average annual salary of $37,420, which comes to about $18 per hour. The three top paying states were Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Alaska.
Dental assistance leads to a variety of job opportunities within the health and dental industry. Expanded functions dental assistants often progress to become dental hygienists, lab technicians, or dental office managers. Promotions to these occupations may require an associate’s degree or licensing, but can come with a significant wage increase; dental hygienists earned a median salary of $72,910 in May 2016 (BLS, Dental Hygienists). Dental hygienists also sometimes receive vacation time, sick leave, retirement benefits, and are reported to often work for only several days during the week. This leaves opportunity to spend more time at home with an increased wage, or to work for several offices to spread your reputation.
That is a lot of information about dental assistants and the dental health industry, but the forecast is clear for prospective dental assistants as far as job security is concerned. With so much information and so little guidance, you may be wondering how one becomes a dental assistant and what the requirements are to work in a dentist’s office. Though the process varies by state, it usually involves some form of training and certification, either by a community college, technical school, or through work experience.
An Expanded Functions Dental Assistant in Florida can be certified by any facility that has been approved by the Florida Board of Dentistry, such as the Academy for Dental Assistants. As mentioned above, on-the-job training and certification is not technically necessary for entry-level positions. However, a dental assistant who can perform the expanded functions will find it easier to get hired, can handle more tasks for the dentist, requires less time for induction training, earns a higher wage, and has the potential to progress faster in their career than an uncertified trainee. Brining experience and accreditation to the job will always improve a candidate’s chances of getting hired.
Entering the field of dentistry as an assistant may be the career choice for you. Compassion, personality, focus, and dexterity are key values to becoming a dental assistant. Training can take as little as 12 weeks, and the Academy for Dental Assistants provides a program that can be completed at home with classes held once a week for on-the-job training. Technical certifications are becoming the first choice for many professionals who wish to enter a new field or change careers without an expensive college tuition. The Academy for Dental Assistants provides certification, as well as the confidence and motivation to excel, at a quarter of the price of college tuition.
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