Why This Matters

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 38,700 MORE OF YOU BY 2028

    The job outlook for dental assistants is bright, with employment expected to increase 11%. Dental assistants work in a variety of settings, including general dental practices, orthodontics, endodontists, and oral surgeons.

  • HEALTHCARE OCCUPATIONS TO INCREASE BY 14%

    Healthcare is the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., with an additional 1.9 million jobs expected by 2028. An aging population and more focus on oral health is expected to increase demand for dental care.

  • DENTAL ASSISTANTS EARN $4K MORE PER YEAR

    Among healthcare support occupations, dental assistants are among the highest paid. The average annual wage for dental assistants is $38,660, compared to $34,830 for other healthcare assistant jobs.

Our Research

A dental assistant certificate or diploma is the minimum level of education needed to become a dental assistant, although some schools offer associate’s degrees. Your personal career goals will help you determine which type of program to pursue.

The schools on our list are either nationally or regionally accredited. Both types of accreditation signify quality, but credits and degrees from regionally accredited institutions are more widely recognized and transferable. If you are planning on transferring credits or getting an advanced degree, it’s wise to select a regionally accredited school. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) also confers programmatic accreditation.

We included both online and on-campus programs on this list. We evaluated the programs based on their reputation, faculty, cost, course strength, and flexibility, then gave each program an Intelligent Score on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best dental assistant programs are a good value and highly regarded in the field.(For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 83 hours to write this article
  • 72 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 447 education programs we compared

The Top 25 Dental Assistant Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Dental assistants fulfill many duties in dental offices, including administrative tasks like answering phones, scheduling appointments, billing, and ordering supplies, as well as clinical responsibilities like taking and developing x-rays, taking impressions of patients’ teeth, and monitoring patients’ pulse and blood pressure.

However, dental assistants differ from dental hygienists, who also provide support services in dental practices. Dental hygienists have a more robust role in providing direct patient care, and typically need more training. Consider your career trajectory and what role most interests you when deciding which type of program is right for you.

Whether a program is offered online or in-person, accredited programs do have a supervised practicum component that requires in-person attendance. Review the experiential components of the program that interests you to confirm that it will fit into your schedule. You may also want to check with a program advisor about whether the practicum is arranged by you or the program.

Depending on the state and the duties performed, dental assistants may need a license and/or certification from the Dental Assisting National Board. Contact your state’s Board of Dental Examiners for specific license and certification requirements in your state.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Dental Assistant programs:

  • Is the program eligible for financial aid? Generally, federal financial aid funding is only available to students who are enrolled in degree-granting programs, not certificate or diploma programs. If you need federal financial aid to subsidize your tuition, talk to the school’s financial aid office to confirm your eligibility. You can also look into other funding resources like scholarships or tuition assistance from your employer.
  • How much time do you have to complete the program? Certificate and diploma programs can be completed faster than a full degree program; many are designed to be completed in a few months. However, if you need more time to complete your certificate or diploma program, you may be required to pay additional tuition or fees. Confirm with the program what the allotted time frame is to complete the course of study without incurring additional costs.

Check to see what the enrollment process is for your program of interest. For some programs you can simply register and pay a fee. Other programs, particularly those for an associate’s degree, require a more formal application process.