Enjoy a personally and professionally rewarding career by enrolling in one of the 20 best dental assistant accredited schools.
Are you detail-oriented? Organized? A good communicator and a team player? If so—and if you find yourself fascinated by teeth!—then a career as a dental assistant might be in the cards for you.
There are lots of benefits to becoming a dental assistant. This career path requires far less schooling than becoming a dentist. It is also the type of program that you can complete entirely online. Plus, you’ll enjoy excellent job prospects and the potential for good earnings when you earn a degree in dental assistance.
What Kind of Classes Do You Take in Accredited Online Dental Assisting Programs?
In a dental assistance program, you’ll take classes that cover topics like dental language, chairside assisting, and dental radiology. You’ll also learn about infection control, pediatric dentistry, and ethics for dental assistants.
You might also explore topics related to biodental science, dental anatomy and physiology, and dental pharmacology. Dental assistant programs often have coursework in patient assessment, dental nutrition and prevention, and cosmetic dentistry.
Typically, you’ll take a few courses that build skills for managing a dental practice. For example, you might take classes in interpersonal and professional communication, computer programs for dentistry, and health records management.
In some cases, you might need to complete prerequisite courses before being fully admitted to a dental assistant program. Usually, prerequisites cover general education requirements, like basic math or science classes. However, the specific prerequisites you have to complete (if any) will likely vary from one program to the next.
What Job Opportunities are There for Dental Assistants?
With a dental assistant degree, you’ll be able to pursue various occupations in the medical assisting field.
Of course, becoming a dental assistant is the most popular avenue to follow. You’ll be responsible for taking patient X-rays, maintaining and completing patient records, and scheduling appointments. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a dental assistant is around $38,660 per year. The pay range varies quite a bit, though.
For example, new dental assistants with little or no experience might expect to earn just under $30,000 per year. More experienced dental assistants make as much as $59,540 per year or more.
The pay range for dental assistants also depends on your level of education. If you have a basic diploma in dental assisting, you are likely to earn less than someone with a degree and a professional certification.
If you want to increase your income potential even further, consider becoming a dental hygienist. Doing so often requires just a few additional courses. The salary potential for a dental hygienist is much higher than a dental assistant. This career requires roughly the same level of education. Yet, the median salary for dental hygienists is about $77,810 per year.
As a dental hygienist, you have greater responsibilities, especially regarding patient care. For example, dental hygienists clean teeth and gums and educate patients on preventative oral health care. These are not tasks that you can perform as a dental assistant.
Lastly, you might also choose to become a medical assistant. Medical assistants provide clerical support in clinics, private practices, and hospitals. They also perform basic patient-related tasks, like taking vital signs, assisting with patient examinations, and preparing blood samples for laboratory tests. If you decide to pursue a career as a medical assistant, you’ll earn around $37,190 per year.
What are the Best Dental Assistance Degrees?
Finding the best degrees for dental assistance requires that you do more than simply search for “online dental assistant programs accredited” or “online colleges dental assistant.” Instead, you can rely on our research-based rankings to find the right program for you.
Accredited Online College uses the most recent data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to determine the best accredited dental assistant programs online.
Each program on our list has an individual score. That score is compared to all other universities offering that degree to determine the final score you see by each ranking. Accredited Online College considers the affordability, student-to-faculty ratio, and the number of programs offered on-campus and online as scoring factors. To learn more, visit our methodology page.
The best accredited online dental assistant programs are at Sinclair Community College. Sinclair is a public community college in Dayton, OH, that educates thousands of students at its five regional campuses. It’s known as one of the best community colleges in the region and has received nods from publications like The New York Times.
The health sciences division offers the dental assisting program at Sinclair, which includes 17 credit hours of study. You’ll learn the fundamentals of working in a dental office, covering basic concepts and techniques like:
- Oral evacuation
- Four-handed dentistry
- Instrument identification and proper use
- Basic dental equipment
- Dental radiography
You’ll even learn how to conduct an oral exam and complete charts and dental histories.
As a student in this program, you’ll take classes primarily online. Depending on the semester, you can also complete one or two days per week of on-campus lab courses. Upon graduation, you’ll be able to work in various employment environments, such as in private practice, community health, or secondary education settings.
One of the more selective public universities in the country, the University of Georgia, offers a quality of education comparable to that provided by Ivy League institutions. In fact, it’s regarded as a “Public Ivy” because of its quality of programs.
A 100% online program, the administrative dental assistant program at the University of Georgia includes 150 hours of study and costs just $1,995. You’ll earn 15 CEUs, and you can start your courses at any time.
Because courses are offered exclusively online, this accredited program is the perfect fit for working adults or busy learners. You’ll be able to complete your courses quickly so you can get out into the workforce as soon as possible.
You’ll build skills in dental terminology and office management. You’ll also learn how to use important software like:
- DENTRIX G4
- patient recording software
- CDT coding
You’ll even learn how to complete dental insurance claim forms, a valuable skill for the modern dental office.
Located in Springfield, MO, Ozarks Technical Community College offers a variety of programs for busy workers. In addition to one-year certificates and two-year associate degrees, the college also has many vocational education courses so that high school students can earn college credit before graduation.
The dental assisting program at Ozarks Technical Community College is the only accredited program in Southwest Missouri that has received accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). This specialized accrediting body is one of the only dental accreditation organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education.
Therefore, you’ll find that the courses in this program meet or vastly exceed national standards. You’ll take classes such as:
- Chairside Assisting
- Dental Radiology
- Office Procedure
- Dental Science and Health
You’ll even complete a clinical practicum to help you gain more hands-on experience.
This program from Ozarks Technical Community College is an affordable online option that costs around $15,526 (in-district) or $17,403 (out-of-district) for the entire program of study.
Monroe Community College is part of the larger State University of New York system. It has two campuses in Rochester, NY, and Brighton, NY, along with numerous off-site learning facilities online and at places like the Applied Technologies Center.
The Dental Assisting Rapid Track Certificate at Monroe Community College is a great way to earn the credentials you need to start working in one of the country’s fastest-growing professions right away. You’ll learn under the sponsorship of a practicing dentist to gain the skills you need on the job and get to work immediately. Of course, your coursework is done online while you’re working on your practicum.
You’ll gain advanced skills in topics like:
- Biomedical science
- Oral histology
- Specialty assisting procedures
- Manipulation of dental materials
- Chairside dental assisting procedures
You must be currently employed since you’ll complete around 500 hours of clinical experience with your sponsoring dentist. Other than that, you can complete the program’s 24 credit hours entirely online.
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, is a core campus of Indiana University that also offers degrees in partnership with Purdue University. With more than 200 degree programs to choose from at the undergraduate and graduate levels, this space-grant institution is easily one of the best in the nation.
The School of Dentistry at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, offers a traditional on-campus program in dental assisting that is perfect for aspiring professionals. As a CODA-accredited program, it requires you to take three Dental Assisting National Board exams to become a Certified Dental Assistant.
This is a full-time, two-semester certificate program. It requires the completion of 30 credit hours, including 14 required classes. In these classes, you’ll complete 1000 hours of lectures, clinical experiences, and labs, with all instruction taking place at the School of Dentistry.
Upon graduation, you’ll be eligible for the Indiana dental radiographers’ license and the coronal polishing and caries prevention certificates.
Located in Watertown, SD, Lake Area Technical Institute has a 40-acre campus and serves a regional area of more than 18,000 square miles. It offers dozens of programs of study, including many online degrees in popular topics like welding, agriculture, and nursing. Of course, the dental assistance program here is one of the best as well.
Lake Area has impressive career outcomes. This is partly due to its 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 99% graduate placement rate. The quality of education you’ll receive here also has a lot to do with the excellent career placement rates.
This dental assisting program is a “certified e-degree” that you can complete entirely online. You’ll enjoy a hybrid education for maximum flexibility paired with vital hands-on learning experiences. Upon enrollment, you’ll begin completing on-campus lab requirements that total about 12 days per semester. Furthermore, you’ll participate in 300 hours of clinical experience in a dental practice to get real-world, hands-on experience in dental assisting.
Designed exclusively for part-time students, you can graduate in as few as five to seven semesters. You will take classes such as:
- Basic Life Support for Healthcare Workers
- Dental Radiography
- Dental Materials
You’ll also take a course on Orthodontics.
This affordable program costs less than $15,000 for your entire course of study, including books and uniforms.
A public community college in Troy, NY, Hudson Valley Community College is affiliated with the State University of New York system. The school serves a population of students from the Capital District in New York. That said, you don’t have to be from New York to benefit from this school’s quality academics. It offers more than 80 academic degree programs, nearly two dozen of which are online.
The online dental assisting certificate program at Hudson Valley Community College is ideal for enrollment if you’re new to the profession. It takes just one year to complete. You’ll learn how to:
- sterilize instruments
- prepare materials for dental procedures
- perform advanced office duties
You will have the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.
This online program includes 27 credit hours of coursework along with 225 hours of hands-on clinical experience in an internship. After completing the program, you can apply for:
- New York State Professional Dental Assisting Examination
- Infection Control Exam
- Radiation Health & Safety Exam
Many graduates also apply for state licensure. Doing so requires that you pay additional fees.
Madison Area Technical College is a public technical and community college located in Madison, WI. This school serves students in 12 counties in the south-central part of the state. It’s one of the largest schools in the Wisconsin Technical College System, enrolling more than 30,000 students each year.
With a 99% student satisfaction rate, the Madison Area Technical College dental assistant program is close-knit and hands-on. You’ll complete 16 credits of courses, primarily in an online format, with some classes taking place on campus. You’ll pay $3,100 in tuition, making it an affordable option if you want to advance your career without spending a fortune.
Core courses include:
- Dental Health Safety
- Dental Radiography
- Dental and General Anatomy
You’ll learn how to perform basic office procedures, maintain inventories of supplies, and how to use and care for dental equipment and instruments. This is a one-semester, full-time program with 16 credits required for completion. You can enroll in the fall, summer, or spring semesters.
Southeast Community College is a public community college system in southern Nebraska, with more than 20 different sites in 15 counties. Whether you’re looking to earn a certificate or an associate degree, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Southeast.
With a cost of just $7,420, this affordable and accredited online program takes two to four semesters to complete. Classes are offered in the fall and spring semesters and culminate in either an associate degree or a diploma.
While in this program, you’ll gain hands-on experience in:
- chairside assisting
- dental health education
- laboratory procedures
Radiation exposure and processing and coronal polishing are other skills you’ll acquire, mainly during the 300 hours of required clinical experience.
Southeast’s program has a 96% student success rate. It qualifies you for certification and licensure in almost every state, including Nebraska.
Carrington College is next on our list of online accredited dental assistant programs. Carrington refers to an extensive network of for-profit private colleges in the western United States. The main campus is in Sacramento, CA. Carrington offers a limited number of programs—but what it does do, it does exceptionally well. This school offers career training in the medical, veterinary, criminal justice, and dental fields.
If you want to enter the workforce as quickly as possible, the dental assisting program at Carrington College is one of your best options. You’ll be able to start working in as little as nine months and will receive either an associate degree or a certificate of achievement. You can take classes online, or if you prefer, at more than a dozen locations throughout California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and beyond.
You’ll learn from instructors with years of experience working in real dental offices. You’ll take classes that cover scheduling, oral hygiene, and recordkeeping. Additionally, you’ll learn about:
- restorative dentistry
- dental assisting procedures
- dental science
The program prepares you for examination for licensure as a registered dental assistant in many states. You can also acquire the necessary skills for licensure with rock-bottom tuition rates.
Texarkana College first opened its doors in 1927 as a constituent of the Texarkana Independent School District. Later, the college separated, offering dozens of programs as a community college to students in the Texarkana region.
The dental assistant certificate at Texarkana College is offered online. You’ll be able to access a highly interactive program that you can complete in as little as four to six months of full-time study. The program requires no campus attendance, with everything completed entirely online instead.
This program allows you to build competencies in key areas like:
- the history of the dental industry
- the legal policies and issues of dentistry
- the anatomy and structure of the oral cavity and teeth
You’ll also learn about:
- dental radiology
- infection control
- pediatric dentistry procedures
You can choose to complete a voluntary externship to gain additional skills if you like.
Plus, you’ll pay just one flat rate of $1,299.00. This covers all of your expenses, from the course tuition to the textbooks and all the materials in between.
Middlesex Community College is a public institution in Massachusetts. The school has multiple campuses and, as such, is one of the largest community colleges in the state. It has locations in both Lowell and Bedford.
The dental assisting program at Middlesex Community College is just one option for you to pursue. There is also a dental hygiene track and a dental laboratory technology track.
The dental assisting option requires you to complete 60-62 credits over two years. Upon completing the requirements of this dental assistant school’s program, you’ll graduate with a dental assisting certificate and an Associate of Science degree.
You’ll take courses in patient care, anatomy and physiology, and dental science. You’ll also build your aptitudes in:
- preventive dentistry
- risk management
- dental materials and procedures
There is a clinical practicum component as well.
Western Wyoming Community College is in Rock Springs, WY, and is part of the Wyoming Community College System. With a robust online clinical dental assisting program, it is one of the best accredited dental assistant schools online.
This program introduces you to critical topics in dental assisting that help you build the skills necessary for employment upon graduation. This includes learning about:
- Infection control
- Dental anatomy
- Sterilization and disinfection techniques
- Patient charting
You’ll also learn how to take patient vital signs and maintain medical charts.
Upon completing this course, you’ll be ready to sit for the Radiation Health and Safety and Infection Control components of the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) Exam.
As part of the University of Houston System, the University of Houston-Downtown is a large public university with more than 15,000 students. It offers dozens of degree programs. The school’s dental assistant program is one of the best in the country.
Pursue this program, and you’ll be ready for an entry-level position in one of the fastest-growing healthcare professions. You’ll acquire a solid introductory education to the workings of a dental office and the legal aspects of dentistry. You’ll learn about:
- the oral cavity
- dental handpieces
- tooth structure
- oral anatomy
- assisting in oral care
Of course, as with many other programs, this one includes major-area coursework and general education classes. It also includes a 40-hour clinical externship. You can complete your work either online or in person. Either way, you’ll benefit from small class sizes and superb instruction.
After graduating, you’ll be ready to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) – Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam and the DANB – Infection Control Exam (ICE). The entire course of instruction costs just $1,199.00 for all-online instruction.
A public university in Augusta, ME, the University of Maine at Augusta is a regional institution offering baccalaureate and associate degrees on campus, in Bangor, and online.
The University of Maine, Augusta dental assisting program is a competitive and demanding program that requires a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. It can be completed as a two-year associate degree or a one-year certificate, whichever option works best for you. You will gain skills in four-handed dentistry and all the other duties typically delegated to dental assistants. This includes oral health education and business office management.
You’ll take classes such as:
- Biodental Sciences
- Dental Radiology
- Clinical Dental Assisting
- Dental Office Management
- Dental Materials
There are plenty of clinical and preclinical experiences embedded in the program’s curriculum, too.
The College of Western Idaho dental assisting program prepares you for an entry-level career in a dental office setting. You can choose from one of two tracks:
- An Associate of Applied Science degree in dental assisting
- An Intermediate Technical Certificate in dental assisting
The AAS program takes about two years to complete, while the ITC program is approximately three semesters of work. If you choose the AAS program, you’ll also earn the ITC.
In either case, you’ll learn essential skills related to dental assisting. This includes coursework in dental theory, dental office management, and dental procedures. You’ll also take courses in:
- Dental Radiography
- Dental Clinical Skills
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Dental Prosthodontic Materials
The College of Western Idaho’s dental assisting program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA.
Indiana University, Bloomington, is a public research university in Bloomington, IN. The flagship institution of the state system, it is home to nearly 50,000 students and offers high-quality programs in dozens of different schools.
The certificate in dental assisting at Indiana University, Bloomington, is a one-year program that consists of 37 credit hours and culminates in awarding of a certificate. You’ll learn the skills you need to aid the density in treating, caring for, and detecting a patient’s oral health. In addition to courses that are done primarily online, you’ll also complete at least 300 clinical externship hours to get some practical work experience.
An affordable degree, this accredited online college offers low tuition rates, especially for Indiana residents. If you’re still a high school student, you may be able to begin this program for college credit before you even graduate! Get more program information by clicking below.
The Eastern Iowa Community College system is home to three separate community colleges that span the Mississippi River in Iowa. You’ll find them in counties such as Muscatine, Clinton, and Scott. The system has thousands of students pursuing college transfer and career technology programs. You can get a degree in areas like:
- graphic arts
- engineering technology
- manufacturing technology
- dental assistance
The dental assisting program at Eastern Iowa Community College prepares you to perform a wide variety of tasks that require both interpersonal and technical skills. You might learn how to help a dentist at chairside or how to make or cancel office appointments. In this program, you’ll complete a practicum in local dental offices as well as at the Veterans Affairs Dental Clinic and the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.
The program can be completed as a diploma or as an expanded functions certificate. You can even complete an additional community dental health coordinator certificate if you choose.
19. Century College
Century College is a community and technical college located in White Bear Lake, MN. Founded initially as Lakewood State Junior College, Century is now known as one of Minnesota’s largest and most influential community colleges. It offers dozens of degrees, certificates, and diplomas in several areas. This includes social and behavioral sciences, business, applied design, health sciences, and more.
Available in a blended format online as well as in a daytime format, the dental assistant program at Century College can be completed as a certificate (16 credit hours of study), a diploma (48 credits), or an Associate in Applied Science degree (64 credits). Whichever you choose, you’ll find that this program goes a long way in helping you to meet your personal and professional goals.
Core classes include:
- Dental Assisting Advanced Functions
- Chairside Dental Assisting
- Dental Radiology
- Dental Materials
- Nitrous Oxide Inhalation Sedation
Of course, several internships are also required.
As a student in this program, you’ll pay around $230.83 per credit hour and be able to qualify for federal financial aid like Pell Grants and Federal Direct Loans.
The Dental Assistant Certificate of Completion program from Seattle Central College is a predatory program for entry-level positions in the field of dentistry. It’s a four-quarter program that you can complete in about a year and a half.
This program focuses on many important aspects of working as a dental assistant. To prepare you for your career, you’ll learn how to:
- Provide evidence-based dental care
- Demonstrate professional and ethical practice
- Set professional goals
- Apply the scientific method to your work
Additionally, this program emphasizes the importance of considering the needs of the community. As such, you’ll learn how you can provide community service and outreach as a dental assistant.
After finishing this CODA-accredited program, you can continue your education to get advanced credentials. For example, you can enroll in Seattle Centra’s Associate in Applied Science-Transfer program, which lays the foundation for getting a bachelor’s degree.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
As a dental assistant, you will perform a crucial role as a vital member of the dental team. You’ll offer patients a variety of services. Most states do not require formal licensure, but some do, so it’s important to look into your specific state’s requirements.
You’ll usually need to take about nine months to two years to complete a program in dental assistance. You’ll perform administrative tasks, like scheduling and confirming appointments, ordering dental supplies, and updating patient records. You might also perform work in a clinical setting. For example, some dental assistants hand tools to a dentist during examination and treatment. You might also be responsible for sterilizing materials and instruments or processing X-rays.
Is There a High Demand for Dental Assistants?
There is a respectable demand for dental assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment will grow by about 8% through 2021. This is about average for all other occupations.
The steady job growth in this field is partly due to the aging population; as the population ages, there’s a need for increased dental services. Likewise, research connecting oral health to general overall health suggests regular check-ups and dental services benefit physical health. Therefore, there is an increased demand for preventive and routine dental services.
What is the Fastest Way to Become a Dental Assistant?
For most students, the fastest way to become a dental assistant is to enroll in dental assistant online degrees like the ones discussed above. Alternatively, you can participate in a vocational school program after high school. You’ll usually be able to earn your certificate or diploma and get out into the workforce in less than a year.
Choosing an accredited dental assisting program will give you the knowledge and skills to hit the ground running. Plus, by studying at an accredited school, there’s no worry about getting a fake dental assistant certificate when you graduate. You’ll get a real diploma with real, verifiable credentials.
What is the Difference Between a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) and Registered Dental Assistant (RDA)?
A registered dental assistant must pass both a written and clinical examination. If you choose this path, you will also need to apply for and receive a state license to practice in a professional setting. A certified dental assistant, however, needs to graduate from a dental assisting program that provides a certificate of completion.
Does a Dental Assistant Clean Teeth?
Dental assistants are often confused with dental hygienists. While dental assistants handle things like appointment setting and patient care, they don’t perform dental care duties or preventative dentistry. Dental hygiene tasks, like cleaning teeth to remove tartar and plaque, are also under the purview of dental hygienists.
Are There Dental Assistant Online Schools With Financial Aid?
Yes. Most financial aid for aspiring dental assistants comes via federally-funded grants and loans. Occasionally, you can find a scholarship by searching sources like the American Dental Association and the American Dental Assistants Association. Be sure to complete the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to explore all the options available to you based on your eligibility.
How Long Does it Take to Go From Dental Assistant to Dental Hygienist?
If you’re interested in making the leap from a dental assistant career to becoming a dental hygienist, you don’t need too much additional education. Dental hygiene jobs typically require an associate degree or two years’ worth of education to practice.
Some certificate programs require a year or less of education, too. How quickly you complete a dental hygienist program depends on whether you choose to study full-time or part-time. Moreover, it also depends on how many credits (and what credits) you’ve already earned. Generally speaking, it takes less than a year of additional coursework to become a dental hygienist.
Is It Worth Being a Dental Assistant?
Ask any dental assistant whether earning a degree in this field was worth it, and they’ll likely answer with a resounding “yes!” There are plenty of good reasons to become a dental assistant, regardless of whether you are pursuing a new career or starting fresh out of high school.
You’ll be able to help people and make personal connections on a daily basis. You can work anywhere, and you’ll be able to perform various tasks, from processing X-rays to assisting dentists with procedures, so no two days will ever be the same. Plus, you’ll have an excellent foundation should you continue your education to become a dental hygienist or dental assistant instructor.
Of course, don’t forget that becoming a dental assistant can be financially rewarding, too. While some states offering students the highest salaries, such as North Dakota, Minnesota, and New Hampshire, also require the highest levels of training, the extra education is worth it when payday arrives!
If you’re interested in pursuing higher education, check out the 30 Top Fastest Masters Degree Programs in the United States & 20 Accredited Online Colleges That Offer Laptops.