A career in the medical profession is one that practically guarantees employment today as not just population, but life expectancy continues to rise.
An often overlooked segment of healthcare however, is the dental care profession, which is another great option for those looking for an interesting job that requires attention to detail, direct patient care and a well-rounded education.
Dental assistant salary is also competitive in comparison to related and similar healthcare jobs, so it is a good option for someone who may have more of an interest in dental care over general health care.
Finding the best job opportunities as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) does depend on having the right education of course, but interested students can be graduated, certified and well on their way to a brand new, essential career in just over two years.
Current Salary Information in Dental Assisting
Every year, US News and World Report publishes Best Jobs report, as well as Best Jobs in Health Care report, ranking current professions based on employment and salary demographics, and feedback from professionals working in different fields. In their 2013 reports, dental assisting appeared as #30 in Best Health Care Jobs1 and #66 in the 100 Best Jobs2 overall.
According to this site, and the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent salary information3, the median salary as of 2012 was $34,500 annually.
This is about 33% higher than the median salary for other comparable healthcare support jobs at $25,550, and almost equal to the median salary for all occupations combined, at $34,750. Low-end salary is documented to be $23,550 with high-end at $47,580 annually.
Best Paying Areas for CDAs
Location trends in salary rates for assistants seems to reasonably follow other medical salary trends based on metropolitan areas, with bigger cities and areas with higher populations paying slightly more than smaller and more rural regions.
Pay rates are still mostly competitive in the lower ranges as compared to other similar professions however. Also, it should be taken into account when considering average salary rates that many work part-time, and these salaries have been calculated into estimated rates.
Based on currently available information,
- New Hampshire is the state averaging the highest salary for CDAs, paying $43,480.
- Minnesota ranked next with salaries averaging $42,420, then Alaska at $41,970.
- Massachusetts at $41,290. All of these averages are above the national median of $34,500 as mentioned above.
On the lower end of the pay scale,
- West Virginia and Utah averaged lowest at $27,170 and $27,460, respectively.
- Arkansas rated slightly higher at $28,590 annually.
- Louisiana and Alabama were next with average salary rates at $29,460 and $29,550.
- It should be noted that even the lowest average is still above the estimated low-end salary for CDAs, that being $23,550, as well as the median pay for all healthcare support jobs overall, at $25,550.
Highest recorded salary for dental assistants by city was,
- San Francisco with an average salary of $47,280 annually.
- Nashua, NH averaging $46,750. Both N.
- Andover, Mass and Haverhill, Mass average $45,700 annually.
- Worchester, Mass only slightly lower at $45,130.
- Rochester, MN averages $44,680, still almost $10,000 over the estimated median salary for the profession in general.
Lowest ranging cities include,
- Salt Lake City, UT at $27,920.
- Miami, FL at $28,000.
- Rapid City, SD at $28,140.
- Mobile, AL at $28,980.
- Bakersfield, CA at $29,210, all of which are well above the $23,550 low-end national salary estimate.
As the above averages illustrate, the highest paying region for dental assistants is the northeastern US; based on this information and additional salary averages, the lowest regions are the southeastern US and the western (not pacific) US.
Other Effects on Certified Dental Assistant Salary
Based on salary, population, metro area and other findings it is reasonable to assume that the above averages correspond with the assessment that more populated areas generate higher salaries and lower populations, lower ones.
It must also be taken into account however that some higher populations with lower salary averages may actually show that way due to a higher number of part-time employees in the region, whether because of high or low population (ie: Bakersfield, CA).
In general though, salaries tend to be somewhat higher than many other healthcare support jobs. The duties performed by most dental assistants are fairly similar, so there is little variance in work being performed as related to salary being paid, and assistants are typically paid the same, whether employed by general practice or specialty practice.
As with most other medical and health careers, the best jobs and salaries are generally awarded to the most skilled and qualified employees. Although some practices do still hire unschooled assistants and provide their own training, most are progressing to more increased qualifications along with the rest of the healthcare profession, and hiring certified dental assistants. To become certified and licensed, an individual must complete an accredited course in their field and pass a certification test for more details on certification and whats needed visit www.danb.org.
Job and Salary Outlook for the CDAs
Healthcare careers overall are on the rise, both in hiring and salary, and dental assisting is no exception. The BLS currently estimates that by 2022, healthcare support occupations will increase in number by at least 28% as compared to 11% for all jobs, overall.
Among these numbers, dental assisting is expected to increase by 25%, making it a career that is in demand, and should stay that way for the rest of the decade.
Salary projection is that pay will rise as well, according to estimates drawn from data collected over the past 10 years. Salaries have risen consistently from a median of $29,600 in 2004 to the current median of slightly more than $35,000 annually, and all signs are that it should continue rising.
Increase percentages have slowed slightly in the past four to five years to about .05 to 1% annually, but this still seems to be competitive with other support staff positions.
For those interested in higher salary that is rising faster as well, CDAs are in prime position to continue their school education to graduate to employment as dental hygienists, another recommended healthcare career.