Careers

Ask This When Choosing a Dental Assistant School

Choosing to become a dental assistant is an exciting first step toward a rewarding career in the dental field. Once you've made the decision to attend a dental assistant school, your next step will be choosing the dental assistant program that works best with your schedule and budget. Many dental assistant classes are scheduled at night, so students who work during the day can earn their certificates without jeopardizing their current jobs. In addition, most dental assistant programs can be completed in less than one year. Some programs may even offer financial aid to help cover tuition and other educational expenses. There are currently many dental assistant programs available to choose from, but not all programs are created equally. In order to ensure you choose the program that most closely matches your needs and educational goals, make sure to ask the following questions. 

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Do you offer online dental assistant classes?
Most dental assistant programs are designed to accommodate the busy schedules of working adults, but if getting to a classroom might be problematic for you, online classes may be an option. More and more schools are now offering all or part of their classes online. If online classes will work best with your schedule, look into schools that offer an online curriculum.
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Is this an accredited program?
Accreditation is a sign that a program meets standard criteria for providing a quality education, and attending a school that is not accredited can be a costly mistake. Many potential employers will refuse to hire graduates from unaccredited programs, since there is no guarantee that students were taught the necessary skills needed to be a successful dental assistant. Before choosing a dental assistant program, always ask whether or not the program is accredited, and if not, your best bet is to look elsewhere. 
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Is clinical training included in the program?
Reputable dental assistant programs will include clinical training in the curriculum, so be wary of any programs that don't. Before signing up for a program, make sure to read the program curriculum carefully and ask any questions you have about the classes and training that's being offered. If clinical training is not included, you may want to consider a more comprehensive program elsewhere. 
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Will I be ready to pass the certification exam once I complete the program?
Becoming a certified dental assistant (CDA) gives you extra credibility in the field of dental assisting, and many employers refuse to hire anyone who is not certified. In order to become a certified dental assistant, you'll need to pass a national exam after graduation, usually provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). If you plan to become a CDA, make sure the program you select will properly prepare you to take the exam once you graduate. 
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Do you offer financial aid or scholarships?
Some dental assistant programs may offer financial aid to qualified students. Depending on the program, financial aid can be used to cover the cost of tuition, as well as books and other supplies. If you're worried about the cost of dental assistant classes, look for programs that offer financial aid or scholarships that may make attending the program more affordable. 
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How soon can I earn my dental assistant certificate?
While each dental assistant program varies, most allow you to earn your certificate in a little less than a year. Schools that promise you a certificate in a very short time (six months or less) are best avoided, as they are likely not accredited and you may later find that your certificate is worthless in the real world. 
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How much does the dental assistant program cost?
The cost of completing a dental assistant program varies by state and by individual program, so when you're looking for the right program, make sure to find out the total cost of the entire program. Keep in mind that some schools offer grants, loans and other financial assistance to qualified students, which will affect how much you'll ultimately pay out-of-pocket. While the cost of the program is an important factor to consider, remember that higher tuition doesn't necessarily mean a better education, and lower tuition doesn't necessarily mean an inferior program. Be sure to weigh the cost of the program with other important factors, as well, such as overall job placement ratings and quality of the classes. 
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Do you offer job placement assistance to graduates?
Many dental assistant programs offer job placement assistance upon completion of the program, but not all do. If job placement assistance is important to you, make sure to ask before enrolling in a program. For programs that do offer job placement, always ask what percentage of past graduates have been placed in positions as dental assistants, since many programs have been known to pad their job placement numbers by including students placed in any position after graduation, even positions that do not relate to the training at all. 

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