Working as a dental assistant can be a rewarding career option. In addition to helping people who are in pain, a competent dental assistant can find work just about anywhere. If the idea of becoming this type of dental professional appeals to you, there are two ways you can go about getting dental assistant training and begin to enjoy a fulfilling career.
The exact nature of your dental assistant training and certification will depend on laws that are in effect in the area where you live. In some cases, it is not possible to work as a dental assistant without going through a formal education process at an accredited institution. When this is the case, it is necessary to identify and enroll in a program that will provide all courses of study required to reach your goal. You may find that a local vocational or technical school will offer an accredited dental assistant course. Some community colleges also offer courses of this type.
In most cases, this type of formal dental assistant training will take anywhere from nine to twelve months to complete. There are also two-year programs that offer the student an Associate’s Degree instead of the certificate or diploma offered with programs of shorter duration. Many institutions offer the coursework in the evenings and on weekends, making it possible to continue working during the day.
Upon completion of a dental assistant training course, many jurisdictions require that students complete a government-sponsored exam in order to obtain formal certification and be allowed to apply for any dental assistant jobs currently open in the community. This is where the accreditation of the dental assistant schools becomes very important, since many certification agencies require that the applicant have a valid diploma or degree for an accredited institution. Without it, you are not likely to be approved and scheduled to take the exam.
However, some jurisdictions will make allowances for on-the-job experience and training. When this is the case, you must be accepted into an apprenticeship under the direction of a licensed dentist in your community. While working in the office, you have the chance to become acquainted with many of the dental assistant jobs and tasks that are part of the daily routine.
Keep in mind that while apprenticing in the dentist office, it is important to pursue independent study as well. This will make it easier to assimilate the information you are learning at the office and also help to keep you abreast of new innovations in dental procedures that may show up on your certification exam in some form. While not as structured as taking courses at a local educational institution, this approach to dental assistant training can be very thorough and effective.
Once your apprenticeship is completed, you can seek permission to take any exams required as part of the certification process. If you pass the exam, the jurisdiction will issue a certificate that will recognize you as a licensed dental assistant. With credentials in hand, you can begin the process of identifying dental assistant jobs in your area and applying with different offices.