What Is The Best Degree To Become A Dental Hygienist?

Dental HygienistThe best degree to become a dental hygienist is typically an associate’s degree in a school that’s accredited by the American Dental Hygiene Association. While it is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in this field, you can become a licensed hygienist without pursuing a four-year degree. Read on to learn more about the education requirements for this well-paying and fast-growing field.

Finding an Associate’s Degree Program

Start at the American Dental Hygiene Association website to find an accredited program in your area. You must graduate from an accredited associate’s degree program in order to be eligible for licensure. If you’re still in high school, focus on excelling in science classes in order to be an attractive candidate to these programs, which can be competitive. If you’ve already graduated, find out what prerequisites you need for the program of your choice. Associate’s degree programs in dental hygiene typically last two years and offer a combination of classroom instruction, laboratory science classes, and hands-on instruction in the form of clinical rotations and/or an internship program.

Becoming Licensed as a Dental Hygienist

While licensing requirements for this profession vary by state, you typically need to have an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and a specific number of hours of supervised clinical experience. You’ll also need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, administered by the American Dental Association. Once you successfully become licensed, most states require you to complete continuing education courses to maintain your status as a dental hygienist. To view the requirements for licensing in your state, visit the American Association of Dental Boards.This site will inform you about what you need to do to become a dental hygienist in the state where you plan to practice.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for dental hygienists in the U.S. is $70,210. And because about half of hygienists work part time, this is an excellent career if you’re interested in flexibility as you pursue further education or raise a family. The Bureau projects that there will be 64,200 new jobs for dental hygienists by the year 2022, which is an unprecedented growth of 33 percent. This growth is much faster than that of other occupations and will largely be fueled by new research in the field and increased access to dental care as new health care laws come into effect. The excellent salary combined with job flexibility and stability make this a smart choice if you’re looking for a career in healthcare that you can obtain with just a two-year degree.

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If you’re interested in becoming a manager, working in public health, or advancing your career beyond working in a dentist’s office, then you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor’s or even master’s degree in the field. But in general, an associate’s degree from an accredited program is the best degree to become a dental hygienist.