Dental assistants are the jack of all trades in any dental establishment. They perform administrative work in the office plus laboratory duties to aid the dentist and other dental auxiliaries on duty. Without them, the operations of the dental clinic will not go smoothly. With that tall order, is the pay commensurate to the work done? The size of the pay check can motivate any employee to do more than what their job description requires. With the time and effort they invested in this career path, dental assistant salaries should compensate for the work they do.
Dental assistants and those aspiring to be one should keep abreast with the current dental assistant salary trends to improve their current income and future earnings. They can either opt to change their employers, practice in a different but better paying state, or pursue more training. Either way, there no denying that a career in dental assisting is one of the most in demand and stable jobs there is in the field of health care.
Factors that can affect dental assistant salary
According to the US Department of Labour, dental assistant salary is highly variable across the country. It can be as high as USD 22.37 per hour which is offered in Manchester, New Hampshire, or as low as USD 11.00 hourly in Eastern Kentucky. It pays to know certain elements that affect dental salary rates.
- Location. Where a dental assistant practices dictates the baseline of their salary. Most states factor in the number of possible dental assistants employed in their area. Populous states such as California can offer a yearly annual income of USD 35,000 while those with the lowest number of inhabitants such as Alaska give an annual mean wage of USD 43,000.
- Industry. Most dental assistants get employed in dental and medical establishments which can offer USD 30,000 and USD 34,000 a year respectively. However, specialty dental clinics or high end dental offices can compensate dental assistants with USD 37,000 yearly, as they have limited vacant posts for this profession.
- Credentials. Certification and training might involve some money and time on the dental assistant’s end but in the end, they tend to be compensated more by their employers than the ones who don’t. Aside from providing professional service, their mastered skills will save the clinic in return because they can multitask instead of getting another person to do the job.
- Experience. The longer a dental assistant stays in their career, the more they earn. Those with a year to four years work will get about USD 10.00 to USD 15.00 an hour but those with more than 20 years of experience can demand USD 15.00 to USD 20.00 hourly pay. Dental assistants who have worked with reputable establishments will also command more pay than the average.
- Scope of duties. Dental assistant salary is also dependent on how much work they need to be involved in. The more responsibilities dental assistants take on, the fatter the pay checks they receive. It can also translate to the less dental assistants employed, the better the pay.
Negotiating for a better dental assistant salary will require some careful consideration. Midsized and larger establishments have set pay scales for dental assistants. Bargaining for better pay is barely negligible at five to 10 per cent and there should be justification why there should be an increase.
Current trends in dental assistant salary scale
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the dental assistant salary scale in 2012 ranges from USD 23,000 to about USD 47,000 annually. That means getting an average pay of about USD 35,000 yearly for a typical 35 to 40 hour work week.
The data provided by the BLS showed that cities of San Francisco, California (USD 47,300 a year), Anchorage, Alaska (USD 44,600 per year) and St Paul, Minneapolis (USD 44,100 annually) registered higher than the average dental assistant salary scales. By state, New Hampshire offers the highest average hourly wage at USD 21.00.
Value added benefits in dental assistant income
Companies that hire dental assistants offer more than money to get their services. They may offer health care coverage, insurance and educational reimbursements on top of paid vacation leaves and sick days. Add to that the periodic bonuses, pension plans and tax incentives, the total compensation that makes up the dental assistant salary goes up by 33 per cent.
Job availability, stability and advancement for dental assistants
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, dental assistant jobs are considered to be one of the fastest emergent careers in the country as it is predicted to hit 38 per cent by 2018. The positive forecast is based on the increasing number of people who want to maintain their dental health, from the younger generations who are aware of dental health’s impact on their wellness to the elderly who managed to retain their natural teeth. The growing demand stems from the need of the population to put a premium in dental health for a better quality of life.
As the pay is variable across the states, the requirements for licensing and certification also differ. Some states do not require dental assistants’ certification to practice. However, getting a license ensures added credibility giving certified dental assistants an edge, especially when it comes to compensation. Most employers also prefer their dental assistants to have multiple specialisations as it saves them the hassle of hiring and training another person to do the job. Some dental assistants also get promoted, after some training, to the ranks of better paying dental auxiliaries such as being a dental radiology technician or dental hygienist. Other avenues that dental assistants can venture into are to be employed by dental product companies, become a dental assistant training instructor or get hired as claims processors for dental insurance companies.