Become a Dentist Office Manager in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a dentist office manager. Learn about training and education requirements, career options and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dental Office Manager?

A dental office manager is an administrative support professional who oversees and coordinates all non-medical activities in a dental practice. Their duties include budgeting and billing; processing payrolls and insurance forms; scheduling appointments, meetings and evaluations; hiring and training clerical staff, responding to patient inquiries and complaints; ensuring compliance with regulations; and serving as a liaison between administrative staff and dental professionals.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education Required High school diploma or GED accepted; vocational certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree common
Training Required Must have work experience prior to employment
Key Responsibilities Manage budgeting and billing, hire and train clerical staff, serve as a liaison between administrative staff and dental professionals, respond to patient inquiries and complaints
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for all administrative office managers)*
Median Salary (October 2016) $47,768**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Step 1: Prepare in High School

High school courses can develop your oral and written communication skills and provide background knowledge in science that prepares you for further dental office related training. English, speech, biology, chemistry and algebra are potentially helpful topics. Your school may also offer classes that teach basic office skills. Regardless of your class choices, you will most likely need a diploma or GED (General Educational Development) diploma to enroll in a college program.

Step 2: Earn a Certificate

Many community colleges and vocational schools offer dental office administration certificate programs designed to prepare you for entry-level office positions. Programs may incorporate some technical content related to dentistry, but they primarily emphasize the development of office management skills. Possible course topics include scheduling, billing, insurance claims processing, records management, dental terminology and dental procedures. Associate's degree programs are available as well, but are more common at private-for-profit schools.

Step 3: Find a Job

Specific figures for dental office managers weren't available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that administrative services managers were expected to see employment increase 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). While 287,300 administrative services managers were employed in 2014, the BLS expects employment to jump to 310,800 by 2024. Also, approximately 151,500 dentists were employed as of 2014. Employment of dentists is projected to increase 18% to around 178,200 by 2024. This provides a rough indication of the size of your market opportunity.

The number of existing positions, however, is likely to be smaller since competition among administrative services mangers is expected to be strong. Job prospects will be best in lower-level management positions, as well as for managers who can handle a wide variety of responsibilities, the BLS noted. According to Payscale.com as of October 2016, most dental office mangers earned between $34,122 and $65,631 per year.

Step 4: Receive On-The-Job Training

You will need on-the-job training even if you complete a certificate program. Although common business productivity applications are widely used in all offices, you are also likely to encounter dedicated billing and practice management software such as Dentrix. In addition, you need time to gain familiarity with the practices and preferences of your employer.

Step 5: Consider Advancement Opportunities

Your advancement opportunities may be limited unless you're willing to pursue further education. One possibility would be to extend your skill set and versatility by earning a dental assistant certificate or a dental hygienist associate's degree, thereby qualifying you for two jobs. Another possibility would be a transition to medical information and health records management, which typically requires an associate's degree. In either instance, you might be able to transfer some of your certificate credits toward the new credential.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a high school diploma, a career in management of property, real estate, or a community association is possible. These careers involve the maintenance of appearance of a given property and the preservation of real estate value. A bachelor's degree opens up the possibility of a career as a buyer or purchasing agent, where services or products are acquired for a company to use or sell to other clients. If you prefer the field of dentistry, other options include dental laboratory technicians, dental hygienists, and practicing dentists, but be aware that each career has its own educational requirements.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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