Degrees for Registered Dental Hygienist

There are plenty of degree program options available to those who are interested in becoming dental hygienists. Read on to learn about the undergraduate and graduate degree levels, what classes you'll take, and online study options. Schools offering Dental Hygiene degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Degrees Are Available for Dental Hygienists?

You can find degree programs available across the country at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. In addition, there are certificate programs, as well as degree completion programs for licensed dental hygienists with certificates or associate's degrees who are looking to further their educations. According to the American Dental Hygienist Association (ADHA), both associate's and bachelor's degree programs can prepare you for clinical roles in private or public practice ( However, a bachelor's degree could also qualify you for other types of positions, such as public health and research positions. A master's degree program could prepare you for non-clinical roles, such as management, administration, research and education positions.

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree, as well as certificate programs
Common Undergrad Courses Microbiology, clinical practice, pharmacology, patient assessment, anatomy
Common Graduate Courses Advanced dental hygiene theory, leadership, program development, management, research methods
Online Availability Master's and degree completion programs are sometimes available in an online format, but require you to have a dental hygiene license

What Classes Will I Take in an Entry-Level Program?

A pamphlet on dental hygiene statistics published by the ADHA in 2011 indicates that associate's degree programs require, on average, 86 credit hours for graduation, whereas bachelor's degree programs require an average of 122 credit hours. However, you may choose to take additional courses as electives throughout the course of your study. Typical courses you may encounter include:

  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Head and neck anatomy
  • Oral radiology
  • Research methodology
  • Pharmacology
  • Patient assessment
  • Clinical practice

What Will I Study in a Graduate Program?

After you have earned your dental hygienist license and a bachelor's degree, you have the option to enroll in a master's degree program. Doing so may allow you to branch out into areas of dental hygiene other than clinical practice, such as education, research or administration. However, advanced clinical practice is also an option. You may be required to choose an area of interest, such as education or community health. Your schedule could involve the following classes:

  • Advanced dental hygiene theory
  • Program development
  • Research methodology
  • Leadership
  • Dental hygiene instruction
  • Management

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

Master's degree and degree completion programs in dental hygiene are sometimes available in an online format. Both types of programs require that you hold your dental hygiene license and have earned some previous college credit. For degree completion programs, you must have graduated from a certificate or associate's degree program, while master's degree programs generally require the completion of a bachelor's degree.

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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