Dental Hygiene Degree Options and Career Opportunities

dental hygiene degree and careers

Less School, More Pay: Start a Fantastic Career with an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene

An education as a dental hygienist can open doors to an excellent career with fantastic pay. Dental hygienist jobs span a variety of opportunities including private sector jobs, government employment, and even opportunities with non-profits and outreach programs.

A dental hygienist program can most often be found as an associate or bachelor’s degree education. Dental hygienists work along-side dentists and in some states, they can operate independently as a stand-alone dental health practice. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates employment opportunities for dental hygienists will grow 11% over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is especially great career path for military spouses, as they are certain to secure excellent job opportunities across their many moves. Don’t forget about the MyCAA Program for military spouses; for more info click here.

Dental Hygienist Responsibilities and Duties

A dental hygienist’s primary objective is preventative oral healthcare of their patients.

Dental Hygienist Duties

  • Cleaning teeth
    • using tools such as scrapers, polishers, and ultrasonic scalers to remove tartar, plaque, and stains
  • Applying preventative treatments such as fluoride and sealants
  • Examining gums
  • Collecting medical history
  • Educating patients on oral healthcare
  • Taking and developing X-rays of the mouth
  • Delivery of anesthesia

Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene

All states require a minimum education and training at the associate degree level, through a program that has been approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). All accredited dental hygienist programs cover 4 key areas:

  • General education
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Dental sciences
  • Dental hygiene science

Keep in mind that an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene cannot be completed entirely online. Some programs may offer online coursework but hands-on, supervised clinical experience is required of all accredited programs.

All states require dental hygienists to be licensed. After graduation from an accredited program, a student must take and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam (NBDHE) to earn their license. Each state may also have its own exam. Passing all necessary exams allows one to earn their license as Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH).

Jobs Available With an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene

Community Health Worker

Collects data and discusses oral health concerns with members of specific populations or communities. Median annual salary: $47,000.

Dental Hygienist

Examines patients for signs of oral disease and provides preventive care, including oral hygiene. Median annual salary: $76,000.

Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene

A Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene is designed for students who are interested in a dental hygiene career while expanding their education and earning power. Typically, bachelor degree programs will offer a specialty focus such as research, leadership, or focus on a particular population such a pediatric or geriatric patients.

Also popular are degree completion programs. These bachelor degree programs are designed for students who already have their Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene and already have their dental hygiene license. Since a student already has their hands-on qualification through their associate degree training and licensure, a degree completion program could be completed entirely online.

Jobs Available with a Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene

Health Educator

Teaches people about behaviors that promote oral health and wellness. Median annual salary: $47,000.

Dental Hygienist, Federal

Examines patients for signs of oral disease and provides preventive care, including oral hygiene. Works for a federal organization such as Bureau of Prisons or the Department of Defense. GS8 job, bachelor’s degree required. Median annual salary: $76,000.

Master’s Degree in Dental Hygiene

A Master’s Degree in Dental Hygiene is a great option if one is interested in teaching, research, or working at an administrative level.

A Master’s Degree in Dental Hygiene typically takes 1-2 years of additional studies and can dramatically increase one’s earning power.

Jobs Available with a Master’s in Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene Instructor

Teaches postsecondary dental hygienist programs. Average annual salary: $83,000.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Plans and coordinates student instruction, administration, and services, as well as other research and educational activities. Average annual salary: $112,000.

Dental Hygienist Degree Programs

Ready to earn your degree in dental hygiene?

Check out these great programs available at our partner schools:

Farmingdale State College

Part of the esteemed SUNY system and offers an Associate of Applied Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. These programs prepare students for licensure in dental hygiene, as well as certification in the administration of local infiltration anesthesia and nitrous oxide analgesia. Farmingdale also offers a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene for online completion for students continuing their education from the AAS degree. Farmingdale does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon program but does have an excellent Office of Veterans Services which helps veterans navigate the admissions, registration, and financial aid process.

Lone Star College

Offers an Associate of Applied Sciences in Dental Hygiene. They also offer a unique dual enrollment program with Texas Woman’s University where a student can earn a Bachelor of Science degree by taking online courses consecutively with the Lone Star AAS program. Lone Star College does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

*All statistics and calculations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information click here.

 

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About the author

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Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.