Dental Assistants
Sign In
Overview
Customize information shown
Perform limited clinical duties under the direction of a dentist. Clinical duties may include equipment preparation and sterilization, preparing patients for treatment, assisting the dentist during treatment, and providing patients with instructions for oral healthcare procedures. May perform administrative duties such as scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, billing, and coding information for insurance purposes.
Titles for this career often contain these words
AssistantDentalCertifiedRegisteredExpandedOrthodonticCDAAideDANurseOfficeManagerDentistAttendantDutyEDDAFunctionOralSurgeryOrthoTechnicianOrthodontistRDASurgical
Education
Only 11% of dental assistants have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by dental assistants
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer dental assistants have bachelor's degrees than 71% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Dental assistants, with 346,000 workers, form a larger workforce than 85% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for dental assistants are expected to grow by 11%, and should have about 44,800 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
The likelihood of automation for dental assistants is near the middle of all careers' likelihoods.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for dental assistants compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most dental assistants earn.
$40K$0$20K$40K$60K
Gender
Women account for 92% of dental assistants -- that's a larger percentage than 98% of other jobs.
Gender of dental assistants
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For dental assistants, the median men's salary was 1% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 20% of dental assistants are minority, and 17% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of dental assistants
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (17%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Dental Assistants per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
AKMEWIVTNHWAIDMTNDMNILMINYMAORUTWYSDIAINOHPANJCTRICANVCONEMOKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of dental assistants who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (98%)
  • Exposed to Radiation (81%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (75%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (62%)
  • Time Pressure (58%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (50%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (39%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do dental assistants earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries. This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for dental assistants (BLS Salary Data)
$40K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$40K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for dental assistants (ACS Salary Data)
$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Dental Assistants: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $33KAll jobs' median $45K$34K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$20K$40K$60K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire dental assistants.
Employers of Dental Assistants (ACS)
Private for-profit (89.3%)
Private not-for-profit (3.4%)
Local government (1.3%)
State government (1.4%)
Federal government (2.9%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.7%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of dental assistants by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$32K$31K$37K$35K$33K$41K$33K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Self-employed not incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of dental assistants by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$40K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for dental assistants

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$37K$35K$29K$23K$32K$36K$38K$38K$37K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
010K20K30K40K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Dental assistants and gender

With 92% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 98% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
92%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Dental assistants
Men (8%)
Women (92%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is better for dental assistants, with the median salary for men only 1.1% higher than the median salary for women.

$32K$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Dental assistants have one of the smaller inequity calculations, with the increase for men's median salary over women's median salary in this job lower than that for 90% of other jobs.

1%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of dental assistants

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. The percentage of minority dental assistants falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of dental assistants
White (73% )
Black (8% )
Other (8% )
Asian (6% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
20%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
17%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for dental assistants by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$29K$30K$31K$31K$32K$32K$36K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KHispanicAmerican IndianMultiracialOtherWhiteBlackAsian
Distribution: Salaries for dental assistants by nativity
$32K$32K$0$20K$40K$60KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Dental assistants and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 35% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 88% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
35%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time dental assistants is shown following.

$22K$32K$0$20K$40K$60KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by dental assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants typically hold a postsecondary nondegree award.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as dental assistants as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for dental assistants

Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Most programs are offered by community colleges, although they also may be offered by vocational or technical schools.

Many dental assisting programs take about 1 year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Programs that last 2 years are less common and lead to an associate’s degree. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), part of the American Dental Association, accredits about 250 dental assisting training programs.

Accredited programs include classroom and laboratory work. Students learn about teeth, gums, jaws, and other areas that dentists work on and the instruments that dentists use. These programs also include supervised practical experience.

High school students interested in a career as a dental assistant should take courses in anatomy, biology, and chemistry.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for dental assistants

States typically do not require licenses for entry-level dental assistants. Some states require dental assistants to be licensed, registered, or certified for entry or advancement. For example, states may require assistants to meet specific licensing requirements in order to work in radiography (x ray), infection control, or other specialties. For specific requirements, contact your state’s Board of Dental Examiners.

States that allow assistants to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing, require that they be licensed, registered, or hold certifications from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To earn certification from DANB, applicants must pass an exam. The educational requirements for DANB certification are that dental assistants must either have graduated from an accredited program or have a high school diploma and complete the required amount of work experience. Applicants also must have current certification in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

Education attained by dental assistants
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for dental assistants? Below we see the distribution of dental assistants salaries based on the education attained.

$32K$31K$31K$33K$36K$37K$35K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KNone (3%)High School (25%)Some College (41%)Associate's/Cert. (20%)Bachelor's Degree (9%)Master's Degree (1%)Professional Degree (1%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click the program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Education
Education level of awarded degrees
Associate's degree or certificate
Bachelor's
Graduate
Gender
Gender of graduates
Men
Women
Race/Origin
Race/origin of graduates
White
Minority
International
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for dental assistants

What jobs will most dental assistants hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of dental assistants reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Dental AssistantsDental HygienistsReceptionists and Information ClerksDental and ophthalmic laboratory and medical appliance techniciansGeneral Office ClerksSecretaries and administrative assistantsMedical assistants and other healthcare support occupations
Lateral job transitions for dental assistants

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 5 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as dental assistants as well as 1% of respondents after working as dental assistants. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for dental assistants: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as dental assistants? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of dental assistants surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most dental assistants? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as dental assistants. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Dental Assistants per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEWIVTNHWAIDMTNDMNILMINYMAORUTWYSDIAINOHPANJCTRICANVCONEMOKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.04.0
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where dental assistants earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for dental assistants compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for dental assistants.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Location-adjusted median salary for Dental Assistants (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which dental assistants earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEWIVTNHWAIDMTNDMNILMINYMAORUTWYSDIAINOHPANJCTRICANVCONEMOKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
$0$20K$40K$60K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
Choose the similarity measure to compare careers
Interests
Environment
Knowledge
Physical Abilities
Jobs that are similar by Interests with
All education levels
Show most similar careers
More SimilarLess Similar$0$50K$100K$150K$200K$250K
Major Occupation
Computer & Mathematical
Life, Physical, & Social Science
Farming, Fishing, & Forestry
Healthcare Practitioners & Technical
Healthcare Support
Community and Social Service
Protective Service
Education, Training, & Library
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, & Media
Sales & Related
Office & Administrative Support
Business & Financial
Management
Food Preparation and Serving Related
Personal Care & Service
Production
Transportation & Material Moving
Military-Specific
Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance
Construction & Extraction
Installation, Maintenance, & Repair