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Herzing Staff

Which Dental Degree is Right for Me?

If you want to get a job in the healthcare industry but aren’t sure what you’d like to do, consider the dental field.

If you want to get a job in the healthcare industry but aren’t sure what you’d like to do, consider the dental field. The demand for both dental assisting and dental hygiene are expected to grow by about 20 percent the next several years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, which one is right for you? Or, is it possible to pursue both? Let’s take a look.

Dental assistants

Dentists rely on dental assistants to provide quality patient care and ensure the office runs smoothly.

For example, they could:

  • Process X-rays
  • Schedule appointments
  • Sterilize tools
  • Take impressions of a patient’s teeth
  • Prepare materials for dental impressions or create temporary crowns

The perks of the job include the ability to work part-time as well as full-time. You can also earn your diploma in a relatively short period of time – as little as 16 months.

Dental hygienists

Dental hygienists fill an indispensable role at dentist’s offices, providing care to patients to help them maintain strong oral health.

Dental hygienists will:

  • Clean teeth
  • Provide education about oral health
  • Check for indications of oral disease
  • Deliver preventive dental care

Dental hygienists make a higher salary than dental assistants, but most will usually need to attain an associate degree and pass a state licensing exam.

So, can I do both?

Yes – you can start as a dental assistant and become a dental hygienist much easier than you might think. At Herzing University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, you can participate in a direct Dental Pathway to ensure the credits you earn for the dental assistant program count toward your bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene.

A graduate with both degrees is highly sought after within the dental community, so it’s a good idea to pursue dental hygiene if you’ve earned your dental assistant diploma. In fact, a student can work as a dental assistant while going to school to become a dental hygienist.

Other benefits of the Pathway program:

  • A student will have two credentials (LDA and RDH) once they complete both programs
  • Easy transferability of classes that will help dental hygiene students finish quicker
  • Dental Assistants have prior knowledge and experience, so dental hygiene classes are easier to comprehend
  • Students can complete both programs in four years and have the two credentials when they graduate

Learn More About Our Dental Pathway


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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