The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates demand for dental hygienists to increase significantly in the decade ahead, with a projected 11% growth rate from 2018-2028. The BLS also notes that an associate degree typically functions as the profession's entry-level educational requirement, giving bachelor's degree-holders a competitive edge.
This page highlights online dental hygiene programs by discussing degree and admission requirements, potential career paths, and program rankings.
What Are the Best Dental Hygiene Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Ten:
|1||Eastern Washington University||Cheney, WA|
|2||Minnesota State University, Mankato||Mankato, MN|
|3||Clayton State University||Morrow, GA|
|4||University of Louisiana at Monroe||Monroe, LA|
|5||Wichita State University||Wichita, KS|
|6||Northern Arizona University||Flagstaff, AZ|
|7||Old Dominion University||Norfolk, VA|
|8||University of New Mexico||Albuquerque, NM|
|9||St. Petersburg College||Clearwater, FL|
|10||Augusta University||Augusta, GA|
All U.S. states require dental hygienists to hold a license. While exact licensing requirements vary among jurisdictions, they all require workers to pass a certification examination. Candidates can qualify for licensure with an associate degree, although bachelor's degree-holders tend to be better prepared since they have covered essential topics in greater depth and detail.
As of May 2019, the BLS reports that dental hygienists make a median salary of more than $76,000. This marks a high level of pay for a profession requiring only an undergraduate degree for entry; dental hygiene can be a lucrative career option.
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2020 Best Accredited Bachelor's in Online Dental Hygiene Programs
Eastern Washington University
|Cheney, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
EWU's bachelor's in dental hygiene program allows licensed dental hygienists with an associate degree to earn a bachelor's in two years. Required coursework emphasizes oral health promotion, career strategies, and the principles of dental public health. Students can complete the practicum requirement at job sites in their communities.
EWU's career center offers excellent virtual resources that include webinars and advising sessions over Zoom. The center also provides all students with Handshake -- an interactive software platform that features a job board and information on upcoming online events.
Prospective students must hold an associate degree from a college with accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Distance learners pay an online delivery fee for each course.
Minnesota State University, Mankato
|Mankato, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Minnesota State University, Mankato's online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene helps professionals increase their salary and career potential. The curriculum of this degree completion program features courses in technology in oral health, decision-making in periodontology, and oral medicine. Depending on their transfer credits, students can graduate in 1-2 years.
The university's career center provides virtual workshops, career exploration guides, and an internship board. Online learners can download the university's job handbook, which covers resume best practices.
Admission requirements include an associate degree and a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Both employed and unemployed licensed dental hygienists may apply. Degree-seekers with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA may qualify for institutional scholarships.
Clayton State University
|Morrow, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
Practicing dental hygienists can apply to CSU's online RDH-to-BSDH bridge program. Degree-seekers can satisfy the program's clinical experience requirement at the dentist's office where they currently work.
CSU's online career guide covers all of the university's resources and offers students valuable job search tips. The university's career advisors also run a mentoring program that pairs students with an alum. CSU's commitment to learners' success results in a 90% job placement rate among recent graduates.
Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, an unrestricted dental hygiene license, and at least 60 college-level credits. Out-of-state online learners do not pay a higher tuition rate. Additionally, CSU operates a scholarship website that highlights institutional and private financial aid opportunities.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
|Monroe, LA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
ULM's online bachelor's in dental hygiene program serves as a degree completion pathway. The 63-credit curriculum covers topics such as clinical dental hygiene, head and neck anatomy, and periodontology. The clinical component combines applying skills in a professional setting with a complementary course where students discuss professional challenges. ULM also offers dozens of general education courses entirely online.
ULM's career advisors help students attain career success by offering advising sessions and mock interviews. Additional resources available to online learners include self-assessment tools.
Admission requirements include an active dental hygiene license, an associate degree, and a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA.
Wichita State University
|Wichita, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Dental hygienists looking to increase their professional options may be interested in WSU's online bachelor's in dental hygiene program. Required coursework covers topics like special care populations, issues in dental health, and population health management. Students on the program's accelerated track can earn their degree in 15 months.
WSU helps distance learners find work by providing them with self-assessments, career advice guides, and internship opportunities throughout the United States. Additional resources include advice on how to create a positive social media presence that attracts employers' attention.
Admission requirements include an associate degree, a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, and a dental hygiene license. Strong applicants may qualify for an automatic merit-based scholarship.
Northern Arizona University
|Flagstaff, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
NAU's online bachelor's completion track in dental hygiene prepares degree-seekers to pursue advanced careers or enroll in a master's program. The 30-credit major curriculum emphasizes professional practice, cultural diversity in healthcare, and healthcare policy and management. Students can also take many electives online.
Over 90% of NAU undergraduate alumni begin a career soon after graduation day. Students can explore job opportunities on the university's career development website. The website also allows degree-seekers to sign up for virtual advising appointments.
NAU awards 64 transfer credits to degree-seekers with an associate degree. The university also charges a set tuition rate for each six-month term; this tuition structure allows accelerated students to save money compared to full-time and part-time learners.
Old Dominion University
|Norfolk, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
ODU's online bachelor's in dental hygiene degree completion program includes courses in research methods in health sciences, administrative leadership, and telehealthcare technology. The degree does not require a clinical component. The program also offers full-time and part-time tracks.
ODU's career advisors help students make the most of available resources, including self-assessments, resume critiques, and salary negotiation tips. The university's career website also links students to useful information regarding the graduate school admissions process.
ODU grants guaranteed admission to applicants who graduated from a Virginia community college. Students who live outside Virginia pay slightly more on tuition than in-state degree-seekers. ODU considers all incoming learners for academic and endowed scholarships.
University of New Mexico
|Albuquerque, NM||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Students interested in an accelerated program can earn UNM's online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene. This RDH-to-BSDH bridge program includes eight-week courses in subjects such as current issues in dental hygiene, dental hygiene research methodology, and dental public health. Students also complete a two-part clinical experience.
UNM's dental hygiene alumni find work in hospitals, medical clinics, and educational settings. Students can research potential career tracks on the university's career website, which also provides virtual workshops and resume critiques.
UNM admits new degree-seekers in the fall and spring semesters. The university also accepts all transfer credit automatically if an applicant earned an associate degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Although out-of-state students pay significantly more on tuition than New Mexico residents, they may qualify for institutional aid.
St. Petersburg College
|Clearwater, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
SPC offers the only online bachelor's in dental hygiene program in Florida. Required courses in the 34-credit major include advanced periodontics, leadership in dental hygiene, and community health and epidemiology. Degree-seekers customize their curriculum by selecting two elective classes from 12 options.
Over 90% of SPC alumni find a job that relates to the degree they earned. The college helps achieve this statistic by providing mock interviews, a private job board, and a blog that covers job search preparation.
Prospective students can apply for the spring or fall semester. Admission requirements include an associate degree, a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA, and a valid dental hygiene license. Florida residents receive a significant tuition discount.
|Augusta, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
Augusta University's online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene is a viable option for experienced and aspiring dental hygienists. Learners develop a commitment to lifelong learning and enhanced communication skills. During their clinical rotation, students hone skills related to performing oral examinations and educating patients on dental cleaning best practices.
Nearly two-thirds of Augusta University's graduates start a job soon after graduation. The university provides learners with resources like career question and answer sessions.
The program accepts applications for the fall semester. Applicants should have an associate degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Georgia and South Carolina residents may qualify for a full scholarship if they fill out a separate application.
Online Bachelor's in Dental Hygiene Program Overview
Online bachelor's programs in dental hygiene can function as standalone pathways or as degree completion programs that build off an associate degree or other postsecondary schooling. In the latter case, schools usually pair incoming learners with enrollment coordinators who guide students through the transfer process.
Programs prepare students to succeed on dental hygiene certification examinations by delivering a comprehensive curriculum that covers all aspects of professional practice. They focus on core subjects like oral anatomy and pathology, periodontology, standard and emergency dental procedures, and dental materials and instruments. Most programs also offer instruction related to the human side of dental care, providing courses in community health, ethics, and other selected topics.
Earning an online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene can help aspiring hygienists and established professionals find success in this field. Although less common, some individuals go on to pursue graduate-level study. Learners with advanced degrees qualify for nontraditional career paths, which may lead to higher salaries.
Common Bachelor's in Dental Hygiene Degree Courses
- Dental Anatomy
Students typically take this course early in their program, as it introduces the fundamentals of facial, intraoral, and periodontium anatomy. Learners also examine normal and abnormal primary and permanent dentition, developing their ability to detect potential oral health problems early.
- Oral Disease Epidemiology and Prevention
This class builds student understanding of the major techniques and strategies dental health professionals use to prevent oral diseases. Epidemiology components supplement the course's core prevention focus by enhancing student familiarity with incidence and distribution rates, as well as the treatment of common oral conditions.
- Oral Pathology
In this course, degree-seekers learn about the causes, detection, development, and effects of oral diseases, including tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancers, and other commonly occurring dental health problems. Course material may also cover approved methods of obtaining tissue samples for diagnostic purposes.
Periodontology covers the study of the periodontium -- a supportive facial structure that includes the gums, periodontal ligaments, cementum, and jaw and alveolar bones. Dental hygiene programs typically include multiple courses that cover introductory, intermediate, and advanced periodontology modules.
- Clinical Practice Seminar
Students pursuing an online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene also complete in-person field training. These experiences usually take the form of clinical practice seminars, which afford students the opportunity to observe credentialed professionals and further develop their abilities in clinical settings.
Online Bachelor's in Dental Hygiene Admission Requirements
Academic Achievement Standards
To earn entry into an online bachelor's program in dental hygiene, applicants usually need to meet elevated standards of academic achievement in their previous studies. Schools typically impose GPA minimums in the 2.5-3.0 range.
Academic Background in Health Sciences
Dental hygiene programs require applicants to have a demonstrated academic background in relevant science fields -- particularly biology and chemistry. In some cases, academic prerequisites may include more specialized topics, like microbiology and speech pathology. Otherwise qualified applicants who lack these components may have the opportunity to take a set of prerequisite courses prior to entering the core degree path.
Postsecondary Dental Hygiene Training
Degree completion programs tend to only accept applicants who hold an associate degree in dental hygiene. However, candidates at some schools may qualify for admission with certificate-level training from an accredited technical or vocational college. In other cases, schools may also consider applicants with at least one year of science-oriented college coursework.
Successful Completion of a Standardized Licensure Examination
Another common requirement specific to degree completion programs is related to licensure. Many of these programs require students to hold or qualify for a dental hygienist license or pass the Dental Hygiene National Board Examination.
As healthcare professionals, dental hygienists must have the capability to respond to emergency situations. Undergraduate degree programs in dental hygiene look favorably on applicants with advanced first aid and CPR training.
Online Bachelor's in Dental Hygiene Career Paths
Most individuals who earn online bachelor's degrees in dental hygiene go on to obtain licensure and launch careers in clinical settings, such as a dentist's office. An associate degree serves as the minimum educational requirement for entry into this commonly pursued path.
Dental hygienists with many years of clinical experience and/or an advanced degree can also branch out into other areas, including dental supply sales, dental insurance administration, public health, and teaching. Accredited dental hygiene schools typically favor candidates with at least a master's degree when filling teaching positions, making graduate studies an appealing option for aspiring dental hygiene educators.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long do you have to go to school to become a dental hygienist?
Licensed dental hygienists typically undertake the equivalent of 2-4 years of full-time study prior to sitting for their licensure examination.
- Do you have to have a bachelor's degree to be a dental hygienist?
An associate degree is the minimum level of education required to sit for standardized dental hygienist licensure exams. However, candidates with bachelor's degrees tend to perform particularly well on these exams, and they may also qualify for better-paid positions.
- How much do dental hygienists make with a bachelor's degree?
According to BLS data, dental hygienists posted median earnings of $76,220 per year in 2019. Although the BLS does not differentiate the earnings of dental hygienists with associate and bachelor's degrees, other authoritative agencies note that four-year credentials qualify dental hygienists for a salary bump and a wider range of potential career options.
- Are nutritionists in high demand?
Skilled nutrition professionals are in high demand across the country. As social interest in food and wellness continues to increase, this demand is expected to continue. The BLS projects an 11% growth in employment of dieticians and nutritionists from 2018-2028. This is much faster than the average of all other occupations.
- Is it difficult to become a dental hygienist?
Dental hygiene is a regulated profession in the healthcare field, and it has a straightforward entry path. Individuals must earn a degree and successfully complete a licensure examination. The profession also demands commitment and high levels of academic capability.
- What is the starting salary for a dental hygienist?
According to PayScale data from June 2020, licensed dental hygienists with less than one year of professional experience earn average salaries in the range of $55,000-$60,000.
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