PROS / This medical career has full-time work during regular business hours; you won't have to worry about working on the weekends or holidays.
CONS / Dental hygienists have limited options for where they can work.
VERDICT / Although there are limited workplace opportunities, dental hygienists have above-average job growth and high overall salary.
Dental hygienists work in dentists' offices performing a variety of procedures to care for patients' teeth. These practices involve cleaning, examining and education as well as assisting dentists with their work. This health care job offers a high salary range and usually only requires an associate degree. Although this career in medicine doesn’t have many workplace opportunities, as they're usually limited to dentist offices and schools, this field has a high job-growth rate and decent job openings. Dental hygienist is a well-rounded medical career and receives our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award for its above-average salary and excellent schedule flexibility.
The median salary for dental hygienists is on the higher end for medical careers requiring an undergraduate degree. Even the low salary wage is higher than some mid-range wage averages of other health care jobs. The low salary range is also much higher than the average salary for overall occupations in the United States. Dental hygienists with higher-level degrees, like a bachelor's or master's degree, typically make more than with an associate degree.
Education and Opportunities
The length and degree type for dental hygienist programs varies from school to school. Many programs require two years to get an associate degree, while others are bachelor's degree programs. Requirements for acceptance into the programs also vary, and you may need to complete several semesters or years of school before entering the program to take prerequisite courses. After successfully completing a dental hygiene program, you must gain state licensure in order to practice. Each state has its own requirements, but they generally require you to take an exam.
Dental hygienists have one of the highest estimated percentage of growth out of the undergraduate medical jobs we reviewed, but the total number of current and future job openings isn't as high as some other health care careers. There aren't many specialization opportunities for dental hygienists compared to some of the other undergraduate medical careers. However, higher undergraduate and postgraduate degrees provide more work opportunities.
Most dental hygienists work in private practice offices alongside dentists. Some hygienists with higher degrees can go on to work as educators in schools. Because dental hygienists take care of patients directly, it helps to know additional languages. The best secondary language for you varies depending on where you choose to work and on the majority and minority populations in your area.
Because of this work environment, dental hygienists mostly work during the day and mostly part-time as their dentist needs them. Hours vary according to the dentist you work for. States determine the overall scope of practice for dental hygienists, which means the procedures you're able to perform vary depending on where you live. This career in medicine has some of the best scheduling flexibility as you will not usually be expected to work on weekends and holidays.
Dental hygiene is an overall great consideration for an undergraduate medical career. This health care job is more limited in workplace opportunities, but it does offer a higher-than-average salary range and decent job-growth rates. If you prefer working with teeth but don't want to go to school to be a dentist, dental hygiene is a strong option.