What Is Life Like After Dental School?

Students coming out of high school and going on to higher education these days are understandably concerned about their job prospects upon receiving a bachelor's, master's, or other degree. Many are looking at taking out extensive student loans to finance their education, thanks to the poor economy that has left little in the way of scholarships (not to mention help from mom and dad). And the thought of defaulting on these loans and incurring the penalties that follow is not a pleasant one, although perhaps it's not quite as horrifying as having to move back in with one's parents and take a minimum-wage job while waiting for the economy to recover. In any case, students looking for a sure thing have probably discovered that many healthcare professions are currently suffering from shortages. So an education in medicine or dentistry is likely to come with a much better outlook where finding gainful employment after graduation is concerned. But what can students really expect when they get out of dental school?

Although job prospects will depend partially on the degree that one holds, let's focus on those students that are interested in becoming a dentist, rather than a hygienist or assistant of some sort. For these well-educated students there are many opportunities to begin work immediately following the completion of schooling. The route that many grads elect to take is joining a private practice that is already established. In some cases these practices are owned by professors at the college (some established dentists split their time between office work and teaching as a way to share their knowledge and experience with a new group of professionals). As a graduate just starting out, this route will provide the opportunity to develop a client base, continue learning, and potentially even take over a private practice when the founding doctor retires.
In addition, joining another doctor's practice can provide some mutually beneficial perks. For example, more clients may be added to the office. And both dentists will enjoy the ability to take time off for vacations or other reasons, knowing that their patients will be taken care of during their absence. Of course, some students will also form partnerships with classmates in order to get similar benefits without the possibility of playing second-fiddle to an established practitioner. And a few will even opt to strike out on their own, especially if they live in or are moving to an area that can support an additional dental practice.

But these are not the only options. Some students will go on to teach rather than practicing dentistry while others may choose to volunteer with organizations that provide charitable care to underprivileged masses locally or in foreign locales. Just like nurse administrators and practitioners can often travel for work, dental grads may have options that allow them to scratch their itch when it comes to seeing the world and having international adventures. So while you can certainly go the traditional route after dental school (and you may need to until you've paid off your student loans), there are definitely opportunities to branch out and try something different if you so choose.

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