Dental hygiene is one of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment is predicted to grow by 36 percent through 2018 based on population growth and a greater emphasis on preventive dental care. The occupation is considered stable because people always need dental care.
Median salaries for experienced hygienists range from $55,220 to $78,990.
Getting into a program can be competitive. Before applying, students must complete core courses and science prerequisites, which can take 18 months to two years. Students are accepted based on grade point average in prerequisite courses, dental office experience (a requirement) and an interview. You have to be personable in this job and have good communication skills because you’re dealing directly with patients,
Courses include pharmacology, anatomy of the mouth and teeth, nutrition, dental materials, radiology, periodontology and oral pathology. Most of the academic course work is completed in the first year. The second-year students are practicing their clinical skills by working on patients in the community
Graduates are prepared to sit for the national board exam to become registered dental hygienists. About half of dental students are traditional-age college students and the other half are older students who have decided to come back to school. Those working in the field usually have a passion for it. They like the relationships they establish with patients and knowing that they are making a difference.