You know you’re drawn to dentistry, but do you know what type of position best fits with your passions and talents? A key part of choosing which health care career path you’ll go down is exploring all of your options, including the lesser known ones. Dentistry may conjure images of all of the dental professionals you’ve interacted with firsthand over the years, but this isn’t the only position available to you in this field.
For instance, have you considered dedicating your time to educating the next generation of dentists? Allied dental educators are at the forefront of oral health practice, science and technology. After spending some time as dental hygienists, dental assistants or dental laboratory technicians, these professionals shift their focus from practicing to educating and mentoring students interested in dentistry.
According to a survey conducted by the American Dental Educators’ Association (ADEA), about 50 percent of dental hygiene faculty will be retiring within the next few years — that translates to an expected 300 vacancies in dental hygiene education over the next few years! For those thinking of taking the path to become a dental educator, opportunities are becoming available more than ever.
Education for the Educator
As of 2012, hundreds of accredited allied dental educator programs are available. This includes 332 dental hygiene programs, 287 dental assisting programs and 19 dental laboratory technology programs.
Allied dental educators can work in full-time or part-time capacities. Each level requires specific certification. Considering part-time? Expect to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. If you want to be a full-time educator, you will need a graduate or doctoral degree. Throughout your career, continuing education will be key to keeping up with this fast evolving, technology-driven field.
Hours and Conditions
ADEA has found that over 70 percent of new faculty start out in part-time positions. This has lowered in the past few years — in 2014, over 72 percent of the new faculty started in part-time positions. As time goes on, we can expect incremental increases in full-time positions available for new faculty, depending on those part-time educators advancing their degrees.
Dental educators can work in many different educational environments. Vocational schools, colleges, universities, health centers and dental schools are a few options. Wherever certificates and degrees are available for dental hygienists, assistants and/or laboratory technicians, you’ll find an allied dental educator at work.
If you’re interested in dentistry and passionate about teaching, you just might find your perfect caring career in allied dental education.