associate’s degree in dental hygiene

What Can You Do With an Associate in Dental Hygiene?

A career in dental health begins with the right training and education. A degree in Dental Hygiene provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a clinical position as a dental hygienist. Specifically, the minimum degree required for this career is an associate degree. While an associate degree in Dental Hygiene prepares graduates for a clinical career, there are a variety of jobs within dental hygiene that you can pursue. So, what can you do with an associate in Dental Hygiene? Read on to find out.

What is an Associate in Dental Hygiene?

There are a variety of degrees available to those who want to work in dental hygiene. An associate degree is the minimum requirement for those who want to become licensed dental hygienists.

Associate Degree Curriculum

The associate degree prepares students for a career in clinical practice, should they choose, as well as other jobs in the dental field. Students complete 78 credit hours. Courses include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Oral Anatomy and Embryology
  • Radiology
  • Dental Public Health
  • Periodontology
  • Dental Materials
  • Nutritional Biochemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Clinical Practice I-IV

Associate Degree Time Commitment

An associate in Dental Hygiene can typically be completed within two to three years. In addition to preparation in dental science theory, the program provides students with a basis in general education as well as prevention service and dental health education.

Potential Careers with an Associate in Dental Hygiene

As mentioned, there is more than one job available to those who graduate with an associate degree in Dental Hygiene. These include:

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists work as part of a larger dental care team to provide education and care to patients. Under the direction of a dentist, they examine their patients’ teeth and gums. They may remove stains from teeth and clean around the gum line using dental tools. They also inspect any potential cavities and look for dental diseases.

Dental hygienists can earn an average annual salary of $77,810 per year. Benefits such as vacation pay, sick leave, or retirement can vary from employer to employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this area is predicted to grow by 11% between 2020 and 2030, faster than average.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are responsible for completing administrative and clinical tasks in outpatient medical offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. They may record patient history and personal information, measure vital signs, assist in patient examinations, schedule appointments, and collect biological samples for laboratory analysis.

Medical assistants can expect to earn, on average, a salary of $37,190 per year. The highest paying employers of medical assistants in 2020 were outpatient care centers and hospitals. Between 2020 and 2030 there will be plenty of job opportunities for medical assistants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is expected to grow by 18%, much faster than average.

Dental Sales Supplies Representative

Graduates of a dental hygiene program may decide that they’d like to work in a career adjacent to oral health, rather than pursuing a clinical career. A career in dental sales may be a good fit. Dental sales supplies representatives who have earned an associate degree in Dental Hygiene are uniquely qualified to promote and sell supplies and equipment to dental health facilities. They may also evaluate the needs of dental offices and recommend supplies to dentists or dental office managers accordingly.

The average salary for a medical sales representative is $69,158 per year. Salary can be made higher with sales commission and may also depend on experience level.

Higher Education

After completing an associate in Dental Hygiene, many graduates choose to enter their career as soon as possible. It’s absolutely possible to have a successful career in dental hygiene as an associate degree holder. However, some dental hygienists decide they’d like to pursue managerial roles. In order to do this, they must earn a bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene.

Students who have already earned an associate degree in Dental Hygiene can transfer into a bachelor’s degree program at University of Bridgeport with 66 to 90 credits. In doing so, they can earn their bachelor’s degree in as few as two years’ time. A bachelor’s degree can also lay a strong foundation for future graduate study, something a dental hygiene professional may be interested in if they have a desire to teach or conduct research.

An associate degree in Dental Hygiene can prepare graduates for a successful career as a dental hygienist. However, the answer to the question, “What can you do with an associate in dental hygiene?” is not limited to one job. If you’re motivated to begin a career in the dental field, sooner rather than later, then earning your associate degree is a great start.

University of Bridgeport is home to the world’s first Dental Hygiene School. Considering dental schools in CT? Visit us online today to learn more.