What Education is Necessary to Become a Dental Hygienist?

Becoming a dental hygienist has become a popular career choice for everyone from newly graduated high school students, and older professionals looking for a career change, to mothers looking for work after their kids have grown. It can be a very rewarding career, both financially and personally. Dental hygienists need to have very good interpersonal skills as well as being able to multi task and think on their feet. But to be a successful dental hygienist, the most important thing is to get a good education.

Dental hygienists must complete a two or four year degree in dental hygiene. A two year degree, called an associate’s degree, will be offered at a local community college or technical college. This type of degree, while much less expensive, provides a comprehensive course in dental hygiene without any additional coursework. It can be a good option for those looking to complete their degree quickly and get into the work place, and also for those who don’t have the money for a traditional four year degree.
A four year degree, called a bachelor’s degree, is offered at many universities around the country. These degrees are much more expensive, but they provide more courses with a well rounded education. This type of degree could make you more attractive to an employer, as you’ve had a more comprehensive education. However, some may argue that a four year degree with courses in chemistry and psychology are not beneficial to your ability to be a good dental hygienist.

Regardless of the length of time you choose to study, it is important to choose a school with an accredited program in dental hygiene. Check the job placement rates for new graduates, and if you are able, speak with current students about the program. It is important to do your homework before committing to a school. Of course, schools with more prestigious programs will be more difficult to get into. Most schools require a minimum grade point average of “C” and college entrance exams. Each school will have different prerequisites, so make sure you read and understand them before applying.
Once you’ve finished your degree, there is one final challenge before you can become a licensed dental hygienist; clinical exams. All states require you to take a set of clinical and written exams. Each state has different requirements, so be sure to find out what exams are necessary in the state you wish to work in. Though all states require both clinical and written exams, there are some states which also require you to take a legal exam as well. Many states will not allow the transfer of a passing score on your exams, so you must decide in advance which state you would like to work in.

The education for becoming a dental hygienist is difficult, but very rewarding. Dental hygienists describe their job as very rewarding and most receive excellent pay and benefits. There are many different paths to becoming a dental hygienist, and depending on your lifestyle and financial position, you can choose one that is right for you.

Evan Fischer is a contributor for Top Colleges Online where you can read about the 50 best online colleges and find a program that fits your needs.

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