Saturday, September 29, 2012

Assistants Combine Work and School With Online Education

Oft time they are called a dentist's second pair of hands. They stand by the chair, applying suction when needed, handing the doctor the implements and in general keep the patient from bolting out of the office like a wounded deer. They are also helping ensure Americans have good dental hygiene. So it's no wonder the dental assistant is one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. and no wonder so many new assistants are training through online education.
While most dental assistants can find jobs with only a high school degree, there are still things they should know. Before getting out of high school one should take classes in biology and chemistry, be experienced with computers and have, for lack of better term, a good chair-side manner.
Still, sooner or later, they will have to advance their education if they really want to make this a career. Every state requires professional certification, but each also has its own standards. So consulting with a career counselor is a good idea. From there, there are two ways towards becoming an assistant.
The first is getting hired straight out of high school. Just note that each dentist has his or her own way of doing things, and even the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an assistant will need a few months learning that. From there, the assistant must go to school for a degree and certification. This means enrolling in an online college so one keeps the job. It's not uncommon to get credits out of the deal, too.
The second way is to reverse the order; go to school first. Programs for assistants are offered by nearly 300 different institutions recognized by the Professional Dentistry Association, many of them from more reasonably priced online colleges and vocational schools. The program usually involves one to two years of classes, learning such things as the tools of the trade, techniques and terminology. These schools also help when it comes time to get state certified with test simulations. So there are some options out there.
As it stands, the demand for assistants is so high, many can easily find and hold down two jobs at the same time. There are that many openings. Also, and this is important for working parents, it's quite common to be able to get part time positions, so one can also raise a family.
The Bureau estimates the average dental assistant's salary at slightly over $32,000. They state the upper 10% bracket to go considerably higher, over $46,000. Over 90% of all assistants work in dentist's offices, but they can find work in hospitals and other similar institutions.
The biggest news is, again according the Bureau, that while there's over 300,000 dental assistants in the U.S. as of 2008, there is a need for an additional 36% - slightly over 100,000 - more by 2018. This makes the position one of the fastest growing in the country. When you consider that, that's quite incredible for a person who is only trying to improve their patient's teeth.

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