Becoming a dentist is definitely not a job for everyone. It requires you to have your hands in people’s mouths all day, exposed to humanity’s worst habits — and the ensuing bad breath. You also have to have a sharp eye to spot potentially dangerous medical problems instead of simply fixing teeth. This isn’t always the case, and being a dentist also has the extremely rewarding aspect of making people feel immensely better. It’s a job that takes a lot of effort and determination, but sets you up with a very handsome paycheck at the end of the day.
Step 1: Applying to Dental School and Getting Your Education
There are many careers in the United States that don’t absolutely necessitate a degree, with backdoors open.
Dentistry is not one of them.
No matter what you studied for your undergrad, you’re going to have to get another four-year degree, with this one coming from an accredited dental school: either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). But before you can even apply, you’ll have to write and pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), which is the dentistry version of the MCAT.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Because you’ll be competing for a job at a really high level, you’ll need to make yourself stand out from your peers. One way of doing this is to completely immerse yourself in extracurriculars and volunteering, as it’ll show that you not only have a passion for it, but also experience.
Step 2: Become Licensed
Congratulations — you’ve written your DAT, been accepted to a dental school, and graduated with your degree. However, the work isn’t over yet. The American Dental Association requires all dentists to be licensed, and this means successfully writing the National Board Dentist Examinations.
Although each state varies in the totality of what you need to become a dentist, one standard is the exam being divided up in two parts to cover everything in dental sciences, ethics, and clinical procedures.
And after that, you’ll still need to pass a practical examination. But once that’s done, you’re ready to start practicing.
Job and Salary Prospects
It’s no secret that becoming a dentist is a sure route to a steady, well-paying career that affords you many open doors. It’s a job that lets you work anywhere in the world, setting up a comfortable retirement for the day when you decide to close the doors on your practice.
Using information from the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can see the following:
Median salary: $145,240 a year
Average salary: $163,000
Low end: $74,130 a year
Top end: $187,999 a year
And if you’re wondering where you should move to set up your practice so you can maximize your salary, here are your top five cities:
Tyler, Texas: Median salary of $250,000+ a year
Odessa, Texas: Median salary of $250,000+ a year
Nashua, New Hampshire: Median salary of $250,000+ a year
Holland, Michigan: Median salary of $250,000+ a year
Spokane, Washington: Median salary of $250,000+ a year