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Dental Hygienist Certificates

If working as a dental hygienist is your goal, you'll probably pursue either an associate's or bachelor's degree in dental hygiene. Read on to learn what programs are available, the curriculum of these programs, licensure requirements, and job outlook and salary statistics.

What Dental Hygienist Programs Are Available?

Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degree programs are available in dental hygiene. Certificate programs can be found, but they're not as widely available. Several schools offer these programs both online and on-campus. Only some online programs require you to participate in clinical work. Other online programs don't require clinical work because they focus on providing a foundation for graduate studies and research work.

Degree Levels Associate of Science, Bachelor of Science, and certificate programs
Curriculum Classes will cover oral health, X-ray machine usage, and assistance with local anesthesia with some clinical work.
Licensure Required in every state; American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers written exam and states give clinical exams
Job Outlook 20%* (for dental hygienists in 2016-2026)

Source:* U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Can I Expect?

These programs will teach you how to maintain oral health, use hygienist tools, clean teeth, use X-ray machines, provide fluoride treatments, prevent tooth decay and assist with local anesthesia. You'll take courses in dental hygiene procedures, periodontology, oral health, pain management, radiography, oral pathology, oral diseases, pharmacology and dentistry methods. If you take these programs on-campus, you can expect to participate in clinical work.

If you decide to pursue a bachelor's degree, you would need to meet additional general requirements during your first year. Bachelor's degree programs also allow you to take more specialized courses focusing on dental implants, dental hygiene education, research and management.

What Should I Do After I Complete My Program?

Every state requires you to pass a written and clinical exam for licensure. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the written exam is provided by the American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations and that state agencies are in charge of the clinical exam (www.bls.gov). You might also have to demonstrate your understanding of the law related to dental hygiene.

What Is My Career Outlook?

The BLS expects a 20% increase in dental hygiene positions between 2016 and 2026. This increase is due to hygienists taking on more roles that were previously done by dentists, people prioritizing healthier teeth and people maintaining their teeth into later stages of life. As of May 2018, the BLS estimated that dental hygienists earned a median salary of $74,820.