Landing Your First Job as a Dental Hygienist

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You just earned your degree in dental hygiene and you’re ready to pound the pavement for that first job. The good news: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for dental hygienists is expected to grow by 38 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. The bad news: the competition for jobs is fierce, since the pay is good and all you need to break in is an associate’s degree. To beat the odds, you’ll need the three P's--preparation, participation and persistence.



After you finish school, you’ll need to pass some exams for licensure. Most dental clinics and dental practices will expect you to have passed the Part I, Part II and Dental Hygiene examinations administered by your state licensing board. These exams assess your ability to understand basic biomedical and dental/dental hygiene sciences and to apply this information in a problem-solving way. Specific dental and dental hygiene licensure requirements vary, but all have three basic requirements: an educational requirement, a written examination requirement and a clinical examination requirement. You must complete all three for basic licensure requirements. Before you can apply to take any examinations, you must obtain a DENTPIN®. If you want to become a hygiene leader, practitioner, educator, oral health promoter, administrator, or engage in dental research, you may want to consider going for a master’s degree in dental hygiene.



To help you find a good dental hygienist job in this down economy, Doug Perry, author of Landing a Great Dental Hygiene Job, notes that dental associations can be a huge positive factor if you join and participate. He’s spent his career working at professional associations and have seen first-hand the many positive things that come from active involvement in them. 



Jenn, who recently landed a dental hygienist job after graduating with a B.S. degree in dental hygiene, advises job seekers not to settle. “I ended up interviewing with a dental group that had me do a 'working interview' for an entire day and did not offer to pay me--RED FLAG,” wrote Jenn in a blog. “They then told me they needed me to do a SECOND working interview without pay the following week and that then they would hire me. It sounded to me like they were looking for free work so I declined my second working interview.” After finally being hired by a practice that appreciated her degree and talents, her first day on the job was a challenge. “I was off to a rough start. It is a transition from school to private practice,” noted Jenn.


Landing that first job as a dental hygienist won’t be easy. You’ll have plenty of competition, but if you follow the three P's—preparation, participation and persistence—you’ll beat the odds and launch your career.


Image courtesy of Ambro/


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  • Nancy B
    Nancy B
    Being a dentist truly not an easy job but I'm proud when I saw those lil kids and smile :)

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