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Graduates, Consider a Career in the Dental Field or Another Health Care Profession

By Jeanne Sinkford D.D.S., Ph.D..


Congratulations! You have just graduated from high school. Whether you plan on enrolling in a two-year or four-year college in the fall or you are taking a break from school and looking for a job, it is never too late to start planning your career. Why not consider a career in the dental field or another health care profession?

5.7 million New Jobs in Health Care by 2020

a dental officeYou may have heard that there is an increased demand for jobs in health care. Twenty-eight percent of new jobs created in the U.S. economy will be in the health care industry according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is equivalent to 5.7 million new jobs by 2020. The creation of new health care jobs is the result of an aging population, advances in new technology, and the Affordable Care Act.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of dentists and specialists will grow 21% through 2020. After completing four years of dental school (after college), dentists are generally able to enter practice directly upon graduation. The lifestyle of a private practice dentist is typically predictable and self-determined.

According to U.S. News & World Report, dentist is ranked number 1 out of 100 of the best jobs. Twenty-four other health care jobs were also ranked and dental hygienist was listed as number 6, and dental assistant 18.

Go DentalGoDental.org is a career building and social networking site sponsored by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). It is the official web resource for up-to-date information for people on the pathway to dental education and exciting oral health careers. The site offers an interactive experience for networking, community development, and engagement. General guidelines are provided for high school and college students to help get started and plan a career in dentistry. Another ADEA website, ExploreHealthCareers.org, has thousands of visitors daily who are searching for information on a wide variety of health careers including nursing, physician assistant, allied health careers, and public health careers, to name just a few.

The More You Learn the More you Earn

There is good news for those who want to continue their education beyond high school. The more years of education you attain, the higher your salary. Someone with a bachelor’s degree can potentially earn over $1,000 per week. Someone with a doctoral degree can earn over $1,600 weekly according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American Dental Association’s 2010 Survey of Dental Practice indicates that the average net income for an independent private general practitioner who owned all or part of his or her practice was $192,680. It was $305,820 for dental specialists.

In addition to the dental field, there are a wide variety of other health careers to explore with varying requirements for the number of years in school.

Academic Requirements

You may be surprised to learn that many of these new jobs do not require seven or eight years of school after high school. You can pursue a career as a dental assistant, dental laboratory technician or dental hygienist by completing an accredited program at your local community college. Almost all accredited dental hygiene programs minimally offer an Associate in Science or an Associate in Applied Science degree. Graduates of a four-year college or university programs are granted a baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene.

Health care training programs at both community college and four-year institutions expect you to meet certain academic prerequisites.

For almost all health careers, experts recommend that high school students complete:

  • Two to four years of math, including geometry and Algebra II
  • Two to four years of science, including biology, chemistry, and physics
  • Four years of English
  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses (if available)
  • One to two years of computer science

If you haven’t taken all of these courses yet you can enroll in classes at a community college to meet application requirements to health career programs. For more information read Start Preparing for Your Health Career in High School on ExploreHealthCareers.org.

Explore Health Careers

Exposure to the Health Care Field

How do you know if you want to become a health care professional? Did you watch Grey’s Anatomy on television or do you know someone in your family who is a forensic pathologist or physical therapist? No matter how you came to this decision, you need to have some kind of exposure to the profession to make sure you know if a health career is right for you. Consider volunteering at your local hospital or clinic. You may not get to shadow a professional due to legal and privacy reasons. But you may be able to interact with patients and see health care providers in action. Keep a log of your experiences—both shadowing and volunteer—as you will want to provide this information in your applications to health professions programs. Take time to reflect on your experiences, be prepared to discuss what you learned from them, and share how they shaped your view of the profession and the health care system.

Enroll in an Enrichment Program

A summer or academic-year enrichment program can help strengthen necessary skills to do well in core science courses in health professions school. Many of these programs are targeted to high school and college students who are interested in pursuing a health career.

ADEAThe Summer Medical Dental Enrichment Program, administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges and ADEA, is a free six-week summer enrichment program that includes academic enrichment, career development, learning-skill seminars, limited clinical exposure, and financial planning workshops. The program is only open to freshman and sophomores in college and the application deadline is March 1.

Participating in a health care career enrichment program is another way to learn what it is like to work in the health care field. This exposure will provide you with invaluable experience and personal contacts with health care professionals and students. Be sure to include participation in these programs on your application when you apply to health profession schools. ExploreHealthCareers.org includes a national database of 500 academic enrichment programs its Health Care Career Enrichment Program database.

Financing a Health Science Degree

College and graduate school can be expensive. ExploreHealthCareers.org provides a national database of over 300 funding opportunities exclusively for health profession students. The database includes scholarships and other types of funding to help reduce the cost of school.

Strong demand and increased job growth make the dental profession and other health care careers excellent fields to pursue. You can start preparing for a career by making sure you fulfill prerequisite science and other courses, gain exposure and experience in the field by volunteering or shadowing, and participating in enrichment programs. You can also learn about scholarships to help pay for school.

Start planning for your career by exploring a health career today!

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