Is A Career In Dental Hygiene Right For You?

If you're tired of feeling as though you're on a debt treadmill, unable to get ahead even after cutting expenses to the bone, you may be investigating alternative careers that can set you on a higher earnings track without a major time or training commitment. The healthcare industry (including dental care) is booming, and with consumers continuing to demand lower costs for treatment, much routine care is now being provided by physician's assistants, nurse practitioners, and dental hygienists. Read on to learn more about the stability and income that can be provided by a career in dental hygiene. 

What type of formal education will you need to become a dental hygienist?

One of the primary advantages to this career path is the speed of training. While most white-collar jobs require at least a four-year college degree (with dentists themselves required to spend an additional four years in dental school), you'll need only an associate's degree to become a dental hygienist. You should be able to obtain this degree from a technical school or community college in about two years, spreading this coursework out a bit thinner if you already have a full-time job and family demands. You'll then have to pass licensing examinations administered by the state or states in which you want to practice. Many states will require you to periodically attend continuing education courses to ensure you're aware of changes in practice recommendations and dental technology.

How much can you expect to earn in this career?

As a dental hygienist, you'll work side-by-side with a dentist to clean patients' mouths, perform minor dental procedures, and educate patients on proper oral hygiene and cavity-prevention methods. Once you've obtained your hygienist's license, you'll be able to jump right into this career, earning an average salary of around $71,500 per year. This high starting salary can help you repay any student loans you may have taken out for your associate's degree and give you a good financial cushion, helping you finally move ahead of your bills. Over time and with experience, you may be able to surpass this salary and move into the top 25 percent of dental hygienists who earn an average of $85,000 or more per year. 

Another advantage to this career is its rapid growth. The job market for dental hygienists is expected to expand significantly faster than average over the next few years, ensuring you'll be able to find a job after obtaining your hygienist's license.