Best Dental Assistant Programs

Become Team
Become Team
November 11, 2021

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Dental assistants play a vital role in dental offices. They provide patient care, take x-rays, keep records, and perform office management tasks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they make a median pay of $41,180 a year, and the profession will grow over the next decade by 11% — faster than average for U.S. occupations.

Dental assistants typically get their start in a dental assistant diploma, certificate, or associate degree program from a community college or vocational school. Here are some of the best dental assistant programs in the U.S.

25 Best Dental Assistant Programs

The best dental assistant programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). They're also reasonably priced and have high graduation rates. The following is an alphabetical list of dental assistant programs that meet these requirements:

How We Choose the Best Programs

We chose the best dental assistant programs based on the following criteria:

  • Under $35,000 net price
  • Over 50% graduation rate
  • Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accreditation
Atlantic Technical College Coconut Creek, FL

School type: Public
Net price: $11,239
Graduation rate: 63%

At Atlantic Technical College's Dental Assistant Technology & Management program, you'll graduate in approximately a year with an Applied Technology Diploma. You'll also complete a clinical externship.

Centura College-Norfolk Norfolk, VA

School type: Private for-profit
Net price: $22,669
Graduation rate: 82%

At Centura College's dental assisting diploma program, you have the option of attending day or night classes for a year. You can use this diploma to advance your education and become a dental hygienist.

McCann Technical School North Adams, MA

School type: Public
Net price: up to $4,889
Graduation rate: 82%

McCann Technical School's dental assistant program takes two semesters to complete. Once you graduate, you'll qualify to take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam.

Charlotte Technical College Port Charlotte, FL

School type: Public
Net price: $4,527
Graduation rate: 98%

At Charlotte Technical College's dental assisting technology diploma program, you'll get classroom hours alongside clinical work at local dental offices.

Choffin Career and Technical Center Youngstown, OH

School type: Public
Net price: $8,025
Graduation rate: 82%

Choffin Career and Technical Center's dental assisting program boasts a 100% national certification exam pass rate since 1990.

Erwin Technical College Tampa, FL

School type: Public
Net price: $12,301
Graduation rate: 68%

Erwin Technical College offers a year-long dental assisting technology & management diploma program. They have a dental research clinic on-site, which you'll train in for 375 hours before you graduate.

Flint Hills Technical College Emporia, KS

School type: Public
Net price: up to $16,186
Graduation rate: 67%

Flint Hills Technical College has two different dental assisting programs: an associate degree program and a technical certificate program.

Fortis Institute-Wayne Wayne, NJ

School type: Private for-profit
Net price: $18,055
Graduation rate: 74%

Fortis Institute's Wayne campus offers a dental assistant diploma program that prepares you to work as an entry-level dental assistant.

Hacienda La Puente Adult Education La Puente, CA

School type: Public
Net price: $3,896
Graduation rate: 87%

Hacienda La Puente Adult Education's Registered Dental Assistant certificate program takes 36 weeks to complete. Once you graduate, you'll be able to sit for the California licensure exam.

International Business College-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN

School type: Private for-profit
Net price: $14,672
Graduation rate: 69%

International Business College's 16-month Associate of Applied Science in dental assisting degree program allows you to learn in a simulated dental lab with the equipment necessary to work in a dental office.

Lake Area Technical College Watertown, SD

School type: Public
Net price: $12,075
Graduation rate: 68%

Lake Area Technical College offers an 11-month diploma program in dental assisting. You need a GED or high school diploma to attend this program.

Lorenzo Walker Technical College Naples, FL

School type: Public
Net price: $5,672
Graduation rate: 91%

Lorenzo Walker Technical College's 1230-hour dental assistant program includes an externship at a Collier County dental office.

Manatee Technical College Bradenton, FL

School type: Public
Net price: $6,600
Graduation rate: 91%

Manatee Technical College offers an 11-month Dental Assistant Technology & Management program that prepares students to become Certified Dental Assistants.

Mercer County Technical Education Center Princeton, WV

School type: Public
Net price: $5,023
Graduation rate: 95%

Mercer County Technical Education Center offers a fully accredited 1,080-hour dental assisting program.

Montgomery Community College Troy, NC

School type: Public
Net price: $12,447
Graduation rate: 58%

Montgomery Community College's dental assisting program takes one year to complete and results in a diploma. You'll also work at a local dental office for 384 hours.

Moore Norman Technology Center Norman, OK

School type: Public
Net price: $4,314
Graduation rate: 52%

Moore Norman Technology Center offers a dental assistant program with a total of 1080 class hours. The program has placed 100% of its students in dental assisting jobs.

Northwood Technical College Rice Lake, Wisconsin

School type: Public
Net price: $5,698
Graduation rate: 63%

Northwood Technical College offers a nine-month dental assistant technical diploma program. You can transfer the credits you earn in the program to a Wisconsin four-year college.

Pickens Technical College Aurora, Co

School type: Public
Net price: $8,447
Graduation rate: 65%

Pickens Technical College's dental assisting program takes two semesters to complete. Visit their website to read about their instructors' qualifications.

Salina Area Technical College Salina, KS

School type: Public
Net price: up to $13,839
Graduation rate: 61%

Salina Area Technical College offers dental assistant associate degree and technical certificate programs. They take two years and nine months to complete, respectively.

State Technical College of Missouri Linn, MO

School type: Public
Net price: $7,218
Graduation rate: 72%

State Technical College of Missouri's 11-month dental assisting technology program allows you to earn three credentials: Nationally Certified Dental Assistant, Missouri nitrous oxide analgesia certification, and Missouri Expanded Function Dental Assistant certification.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Knoxville Knoxville, TN

School type: Public
Net price: $6,034
Graduation rate: 67%

TCAT Knoxville offers a 12-month dental assisting program, after which you can add on an additional Dental Sterilization Technician certificate.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Memphis Memphis, TN

School type: Public
Net price: $5,777
Graduation rate: 96%

TCAT Memphis offers a dental assistant diploma program that takes a year to complete.

Traviss Technical College Lakeland, FL

School type: Public
Net price: $7,614
Graduation rate: 75%

Traviss Technical College's dental assisting program results in a certificate after passing the national board exams and completing the coursework.

Tulsa Technology Center Tulsa, OK

School type: Public
Net price: $330
Graduation rate: 75%

Tulsa Technology Center offers a dental assistant program that high school seniors can attend. All you'll need to do is pay for your tools — tuition and fees are covered.

Western Technology Center Weatherford, OK

School type: Public
Net price: $3,305
Graduation rate: 69%

Western Technology Center's Weatherford campus offers a nine-month dental assisting program involving 300 hours of clinical practice at a dental office.

How to Become a Dental Assistant

Becoming a dental assistant may take a year or more to gain the practice and knowledge necessary. Laws vary from state to state on the education needed to become a dental assistant.

According to the American Dental Association, most dental assistants are trained by programs at community colleges, dental schools, or vocational schools. If you live in a state where certification is required, you may have to pass the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) examination.

The DANB test, called the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam, tells potential employers that you are experienced in dental care basics. You may also have worked toward a specialty in your classes, such as pediatric dentistry or orthodontics.

FAQs on Dental Assistant Programs

Do you have to take a program to become a dental assistant?

It depends on what state you live in. For example, you aren't a "registered dental assistant" in New York unless you are licensed by the state and have completed a licensure-qualifying program registered with the state Education Department.

What will you learn in a dental assistant program?

You will learn about oral anatomy, the materials and tools used in a dental office, pharmacology, radiography, and office administration. You may also be required to learn CPR and first aid techniques.

How long do dental assistant programs take?

It depends on the scope of the program. Many post-secondary programs offered by vocational or dental schools take roughly a year or longer. A degree-granting program, however, could take between two and four years.

How much do dental assistant programs cost?

This will be determined partly by how long your program is. For a non-degree-granting program that lasts one year or more, you may end up paying anywhere from $3,000-$20,000 per year. If you attend an accredited dental assistant program at a college or university, tuition costs may be higher.

How to Choose the Right Dental Assistant Program

If you have your high school diploma or GED and are looking for the best dental assistant programs, there are a few factors to consider. Employers are more likely to value accredited dental assistant programs, but here are some other considerations:

Good balance of classroom and hands-on learning
You will need classroom sessions to understand oral health and care, but you will also gain from observing dental practices and, when you are ready, participating in them.
Externships
Many dental assistant programs partner with local dental offices so trainees can get hands-on experience in assisting and office management tasks.
High career placement
The best dental assistant programs place close to (or all of) their graduates in jobs. They will also aid you in finding jobs that are the best fit for your abilities and wishes.
Qualified instructors
Dental assistant instructors may be licensed or certified dental assistants who also earned a teaching degree. They usually have a bachelor's degree and possibly a master's in education or healthcare.

Other Ways to Become a Dental Assistant

Not all dental assistants earn certification or a degree — some are hired following high school and are trained on the job. These individuals, as well as those who graduated from non-accredited programs, are eligible to take the CDA exam after completing two years of full-time work experience as dental assistants.

Dental assistants may also pursue study in particular aspects of dental work, such as radiation technology or periodontics, and may earn certification or a degree with a focus on this area. Programs may offer certification or a diploma at the associate or bachelor's degree level.

Financial Aid for Your Dental Assistant Program

Scholarships for Dental Assistant Programs

American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) Merit Scholar Award

ADAA/DANB Scholarship

Federal Grants for Dental Assistant Programs

Job Corps

Pell Grant

Companies with Tuition Reimbursement Incentive Programs (TRIPs)

HCA Healthcare

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer

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LearnHowToBecome.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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