Dental Hygiene Programs

With the vast number of career opportunities and the shape of the economy, many people wonder what sort of education to pursue after high schoolóor even at any point during their lives. Dental hygiene programs are always great options because they are exciting and rewarding, and new hygienists are always in demand.

Becoming a Hygienist Ė Prerequisites

In order to participate in dental hygiene programs, candidates must first graduate from high school and complete basic four-year college courses. There are no prerequisite high school or college courses that students must take, but some courses may help to prepare students than others, particularly in the biology, science and anatomy fields of study. After graduating from college, the candidate will typically begin by pursuing an Associateís degree in Dental Hygiene. Afterward, they may choose to pursue a Bachelorís degree for higher pay or more job opportunities. Finally, if the student is interested in teaching or research within the field, a Masterís degree can be very helpful.

Associateís Degree

The first step toward a fulfilling career as a dental hygienist is earning an Associateís degree at a qualifying school. This is typically a two-year program that prepares students for both a clinical examóan exam in which the student must perform the actual tasks of a dental hygienistóand a written exam known as the National Dental Hygiene Board Exam. With this degree, graduates are limited to working only in private practices, but if the degree is earned in an accredited school, the credits may later be transferred and used toward the completion of a Bachelorís or even Masterís degree.

Bachelorís Degree

Since an Associateís degree only grants dental hygienists with the ability to work in private practice settings for a limited salary, many students choose to earn a Bachelorís degree through one of several dental hygiene programs instead. The schooling and exam that is required to earn a Bachelorís degree is no different from that of an Associateís degree, but this licensure allows students to practice in public health settings as well as in private. Not all colleges and universities have the necessary accreditation to award Bachelorís degrees. Students with a Bachelorís degree may also choose to apply for college teaching positions or research positions with dental hygiene companies.

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Masterís Degree

While it is not necessary to have a Masterís degree in order to enjoy a fulfilling and well-paying job as a dental hygienist, students who are interested in high-level teaching positions or Federally-funded research jobs should make this a must. The time it will take to complete a dental hygiene program for a Masterís degree varies depending upon the school of choice, but it is safe to assume that an additional two years of schooling will be necessary. Students who successfully obtain a Masterís degree in dental hygiene usually earn a higher salary than their counterparts if they choose to work in a clinical profession.

When choosing a dental hygiene program, students should first determine the setting in which they want to work. It is also helpful to contact individual schools and ask about accreditation, the transferring of credits toward higher degrees, and help with job placement after graduation.