The field of dental assisting is unique within the health care industry in that there are a large number of employees within the field who are currently practicing and earning a dental assistant salary who have no formal education or certification. While an increasing number of dental assistants are choosing to enroll for certificate programs (which are generally one year in duration) or associate’s degree programs (generally two years), it is possible to begin work as a dental assistant through on the job training and education. As we discussed in a previous article, the dental assistant salary and available job opportunities will increase with the completion of a certification program, however it is not required in all states.
If you are interested in working as a dental assistant without enrolling for one of these educational tracks, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Again, the dental assistant salary is usually higher for those job candidates who hold professional certification. This may not always be the case, but if you elect to forgo formal training, keep in mind that your wages may eventually reach a plateau.
Additionally, you will need to find a dental practice which will be willing to invest the time required to train you on things such as instrument sterilization and usage, dental terminology, dental practices and procedures, and very often front office tasks as well.
Prior to recent years, this process of garnering the necessary skills required for dental assisting through on the job training was actually standard practice. Dentists who chose to utilize dental assistants within their practice simply hired an individual to do the job and then spent subsequent weeks training the new staff member. However, with the advent of dental assisting certificate programs, dentists are now able to hire employees who have a basic understanding of many of the skills required and therefore are spending less time in the training phase, although they may be required to offer a higher dental assistant salary to compensate individuals who have undergone formal training.
If you are interested in becoming a dental assistant and earning a dental assistant salary without enrolling for a formal certificate or degree program, be sure to research the state-specific regulations for your area and also spend some time determining if there are positions available which are willing to offer you on the job training. If this is the case for your location, you may just be able to enjoy this rewarding career with minimal or no time invested in completing formal training.