Becoming a Dental Assistant: What’s Required to Get A Job ?

Dental Assistant

The number of jobs in the medical industry is on the rise. Year after year the demand for medical professionals increases as well as the salaries. There are a number of positions available to medical professionals. Some positions require certification, some require an associate’s degree, and still others require a bachelor’s. A dental assistant is required to have either a certificate or an associates degree. With both credentials, you’ll have many options for employment.

Dental assistants work in various environments. You can work for a sole practitioner, a clinic, or a hospital. Let’s take a look at the various roles a dental assistant may be responsible for as well as the work environments you may work in.

Working Environment for a Dental Assistant

Whether you would be required to have a certificate or an associate’s degree will depend on the dentist you are supporting.

A dental assistant that works for a small office may have only front-office duties or back-office duties. You may be required to fill many roles and will not specialize in one specific area.  However, depending on the number of assistants in the office you may be required to work in both areas.

If you work in a larger clinic or hospital, you will, more than likely, be confined to either front-office or back-office responsibilities exclusively. Additionally, you may also have a more defined role such as equipment maintenance and inventory.  The larger the setting the more specialized your role will be.

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

A dental assistant’s responsibilities include:

  • Preparing patients for dental work
  • Sterilizing and disinfecting dental equipment
  • Taking an x-ray of a patient
  • Taking impressions of patient’s teeth
  • Assisting dentist with emergencies

If you work in the front office your responsibilities may include:

  • Charting patient’s treatment
  • Providing the patient with information pertaining to oral hygiene and maintenance
  • Collecting patient’s dental and medical history
  • Providing patient with postoperative instructions
  • Ordering supplies and doing inventory

As you can see the roles vary immensely; however, as mentioned you may be required to perform front-office and back-office duties.

How Do you Become a Dental Assistant?

Training to become a dental assistant will take from 9 months to two years depending on the institution you choose to attend and whether you decide to get a certificate or an associate’s degree.

Schooling will involve theory, such as anatomy of the oral cavity and dental business practices; and practical training, giving you the opportunity to get exposure in back-office skills. Finally, you’ll be required to do an internship in which you’ll get hands-on training in a real working environment and also to learn first aid.

What Does a Dental Assistant Earn?

Salaries for a dental assistant ranges from $35k to $50k. Larger cities pay more than smaller cities. Working for a dentist that’s a specialist usually means your salary will be higher. For instance, an assistant that works for an orthodontic surgeon will probably earn more than a person that works for a general dentist.


A Dental assistant provides assistance to one or more dentists. To become a dental assistant may require that you have a certificate, which may involve nine months of schooling or more at an accredited institution, or an associate’s degree.

As with all areas of the medical industry, the job outlook for a dental assistant is strong with jobs being created each year. A dental assistant will earn approximately $35k to $50k but the salary may be higher in larger cities.

You can learn more about allied health careers and programs at and you can find occupational statistics for dental assistants and other health professions at