As colleges and universities navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we're continuing our efforts to provide you with useful student resources and the latest online program information. Check our coronavirus resources page to learn more.
Dental assistants perform tasks in a dental office, including cleaning and preparing work stations and equipment, educating patients on proper oral care, and assisting dentists with various procedures. Assistants may also handle administrative duties, such as billing, scheduling, and record-keeping. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% growth for dental assistants between 2019 and 2029.
For employment, dental assistants typically need a dental assistance certificate from an accredited program. They can then pursue national certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) — a credential that some employers and states require.
Read on for more information about online dental assistance certificates and related careers.
What Are the Best Online Certificate in Dental Assistance Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Five:
Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.
|1||Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis||Indianapolis, IN|
|2||Lake Area Technical Institute||Watertown, SD|
|3||Sinclair Community College||Dayton, OH|
|4||Eastern Iowa Community Colleges||Davenport, IA|
|5||Hudson Valley Community College||Troy, NY|
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2020 Best Accredited Online Certificate in Dental Assistance Programs
Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
|Indianapolis, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
IUPUI's certificate in dental assistance features a 14-course, 30-credit curriculum that requires labs, lectures, and clinical experience. Students hone knowledge and skills related to oral pathology, dental materials, and clinical science. All learners select one of two elective courses.
Almost 85% of dental assisting students find employment shortly after graduation. Students can start their job hunt through IUPUI's internship opportunities. IUPUI's School of Dentistry offers additional resources, including a private job board.
Admission requirements include a minimum 2.0 high school or undergraduate GPA. IUPUI online programs do not charge out-of-state tuition. The university only awards financial aid to students in the program after they complete the program's course prerequisites.
Lake Area Technical Institute
|Watertown, SD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
LATI's online certificate in dental assistance uses a hybrid curriculum in which students spend 12 days per semester completing labs on LATI's Watertown, South Dakota campus. The program's 44-credit curriculum includes coursework in applied psychology, dental radiography, and orthodontics. Learners have the option of earning an associate degree by taking additional online courses.
Program alumni report a 99% employment rate. LATI encourages positive academic and career outcomes by offering guides that cover online learning best practices and IT troubleshooting.
Admission requirements include high school transcripts or GED scores, and LATI accepts ACT scores for financial aid purposes. In addition to tuition, learners pay for uniforms and laboratory tools. Students can finance the certificate by applying for federal grants and loans.
Sinclair Community College
|Dayton, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 27%||
Students who enroll in Sinclair's certificate in dental assistance program spend 1-2 days per week completing labs on the college's Dayton, Ohio, campus. Required courses in the 17-credit curriculum include basic life support for healthcare providers, dental assisting office management, and lab dental assisting radiography.
Sinclair's dental assistance program prepares graduates to sit for the Ohio certification exam. As students prepare for the exam, they can access Career Connection and Focus2Career software to explore job openings throughout the state.
Applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA in all high school or undergraduate courses. Montgomery County residents pay the lowest per-credit tuition rate at Sinclair. Learners can apply for institutional financial aid by submitting the Sinclair Online Scholarship Application.
Eastern Iowa Community Colleges
|Davenport, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
EICC's online certificate in dental assistance features a hybrid curriculum in which learners intern at the Veterans Affairs Dental Clinic in Davenport. The 46-credit curriculum includes coursework in the principles of dental assisting, dental office procedures, and dental science.
EICC's online resources include resume critiques, an interview preparation guide, and a job board. The college's website also provides learners with links to resume-writing best practices and a manual that covers how to create an online brand that attracts employers' attention.
Admission requirements include active health insurance and the results of a recent physical examination. Hybrid learners pay a slightly higher tuition rate than other in-state students.
Hudson Valley Community College
|Troy, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
Hudson Valley Community College's certificate in dental assistance program prepares students for a fulfilling career in New York. Graduation requirements include 27 credits and a 225-hour clinical internship. The program features coursework in dental office procedures, dental assisting, and radiology.
The college connects learners with job databases, interviewing tips, and interest inventories. As such, 95% of alumni either find employment or transfer into a bachelor's program.
Admission requirements include GED scores or high school transcripts, FAFSA results, and a placement test. All incoming learners also complete a virtual orientation session. Hudson Valley Community College's Our Opportunities website allows students to apply for institutional scholarships.
What Can I Expect From an Online Certificate in Dental Assistance Program?
The accessibility of dental assisting makes it attractive for working professionals looking for a quick career change or students looking to enter an in-demand field.
While the exact format varies by program, most dental assistance certificates take less than a year to complete. Online learning may accelerate completion times, but students should be aware of any internship or in-person lab components that may require campus visits.
The accessibility of dental assisting makes the field attractive for working professionals looking for a quick career change or students looking to enter an in-demand field. Aspiring dental assistants typically possess strong communication and organizational skills.
Most dental assistance programs award a certificate or a diploma, although some lead to an associate degree. Two-year associate programs typically prepare students for the same careers, but they can also provide the foundation for further study. For example, some graduates may go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene.
In some certificate programs, learners can pursue concentrations like radiography, oral surgery, and infection control, which can improve job prospects in those fields and help with accompanying certification exams.
Not all states and employers require national certification or licensure, so students should be sure to understand their local requirements. Some states allow dental assistants to perform specialized tasks like taking X-rays, which typically requires a national credential. Students should ensure their program meets the eligibility requirements in their state.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Certificate in Dental Assistance Program?
The exact classes in a dental assistance certificate program may vary depending on the program and location. However, most programs familiarize students with the anatomy of the mouth and the instruments that assistants use on the job. In states that require national certification and licensure, programs may feature more specialized training.
- Dental Materials
Students in this course learn dental terminology and how to use the major materials, equipment, and tools in a dental office. They also learn about the concepts behind materials and instruments, as well as any related safety concerns. Covered topics often include waxes, gypsums, metals, and acrylics.
- Dental Anatomy
This course examines the dental structure and teaches students to identify primary dentitions, typical oral anatomy, and facial bones. Learners also delve into common diagnoses and treatments for diseases and study how preventative and restorative oral care can fix and prevent issues.
- Office Administration
In this course, students examine the typical role of a dental office administrator, learning how to manage scheduling, insurance claims, and inventory. Learners may also study administrative software.
Radiography courses teach students how to take intraoral and extraoral X-rays. Participants learn how to process images efficiently and safely.
- Infection Control
This course prepares learners to treat and prevent infection in a dental setting. Students learn about various microorganisms and infections and what causes them. They also learn to properly sterilize equipment.
Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree
What Can I Do With an Online Certificate in Dental Assistance?
The BLS projects 7% job growth for dental assistants between 2019 and 2029. During the same period, the BLS projects that related careers (e.g., dental hygienist and dental laboratory technician) will also grow faster than the average occupation in the U.S.
As the field expands, aspiring dental assistants with proper training and postsecondary credentials should enjoy ample career opportunities, even in states that do not require postsecondary education or national certification.
Learn more about dental careers and find out what you need to do to succeed in this growing field.
- Dental Assistant
Dental assistants support dentists in many ways, including cleaning, sterilizing, and handing them equipment. They also prepare patients for procedures and provide them with oral care instructions. In some states, dental assistants can also process X-rays.
- Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists look for signs of oral diseases in patients and teach them how to prevent and treat various conditions. They also clean teeth, perform X-rays, and apply various oral care materials. This position typically requires an associate degree.
- Dental Laboratory Technician
Dental laboratory technicians work with dental appliances and devices in various ways, such as by fitting or fixing dentures or other oral prosthetics. They often receive teeth impressions from patients to create crowns or bridges to fit the mouth.
- Dental Office Administrator
Dental office administrators oversee many tasks within a dentist office, including meeting with patients, scheduling appointments, and processing insurance claims. They also record and maintain patient records in a computer database.
- Administrative Services Manager
Administrative service managers manage the daily operations of a large dental office or clinic. They supervise and train staff, oversee finances, and ensure that equipment and materials stay up to date and well-stocked.
Dental Assistance Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Certificate in Dental Assistance Programs
- What certifications does a dental assistant need?
In some states, dental assistants do not need any certifications. However, many states and employers require dental assistants to become a certified dental assistant (CDA) through DANB. Candidates must earn an accredited dental assistance certificate and then pass the national exam for full certification.
- What is the difference between a certified and registered dental assistant (RDA)?
Both CDA and RDA certifications can lead to careers as dental assistants. The major difference involves prerequisites and maintenance. The RDA designation requires an accredited dental assistance certificate, diploma, or associate degree, while the CDA is more flexible. RDA-holders need to complete regular continuing education.
- Is a dental assistant certificate program hard?
Completing an online dental assistance certificate can be challenging, but students who prepare properly should be able to complete the program and find success in this growing field.
- How long does it take to become a dental assistant?
Some employers hire dental assistants with no postsecondary training, but becoming a CDA takes approximately one year. According to the American Dental Association, graduates from nonaccredited programs typically need two years of experience to pursue the CDA credential.
- Is dental assistance a good career choice?
According to BLS employment data, this field provides strong growth potential and higher than average salaries. Additionally, professionals can enter the field in a relatively short period of time by earning a dental assistance certificate. The field also offers advancement potential; assistants who gain experience and/or further their education can climb the ladder, becoming office managers or dental hygienists.