Salary is a hot topic for dental assistants, both for those who are new to the profession and those who have many years of experience. And the truth is median dental assisting salaries can have a big range across the U.S. — anywhere from $15 to more than $25 per hour.
Your earning potential as a dental assistant is influenced by many factors, including where you live, how much experience you have, and what kind of practice you work in.
Because everyone wants to know how to earn more, we’ve combed through the data to find the top things you can do to maximize your earning potential.
1. Consider your job location
Where you live can really influence how much you earn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has salary data for all dental assistants across the country. Additionally, the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) publishes the , which collects dental assistant salary information from those who hold DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification. You can see which states pay the most (figures represent the median hourly wage):
Beyond what state you live in, whether you live in a small or large town can make a difference in your hourly wage. According to both surveys, dental assistants working in a metropolitan area earn the most. Of course, the cost of living may be higher there, so it’s worth taking a close look at other factors beyond salary to see if moving is worth it.
2. Earn certification
Becoming DANB certified is often one of the ways to meet partial requirements to be eligible to perform expanded functions. Earning certification also is a great way to potentially boost your income. DANB’s salary survey survey finds that dental assistants who hold DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification earn more than those who are not certified — over $2 more per hour, or more than $3,500 per year!
Additionally, our survey shows that CDA certificants also reported receiving more workplace benefits, such as paid vacation time and holidays, compared with those who are not certified. For more about the career benefits of earning DANB certification, see why DANB certification matters.
3. Take on more responsibilities
Dental assistants with more experience and more credentials tend to earn more per hour than those who are new to the field. For example, Expanded Functions Dental Assistants (EFDAs) typically earn more because they have taken on extra responsibilities and can perform additional functions in the dental office.
Allowable expanded functions and dental assisting job titles vary by state, but some examples of expanded functions credentials that you might be able to earn are EFDA, RDAEF or EDDA, to name a few. If you’d like to grow your salary by way of performing expanded functions, the first step is to brush up on the requirements in your state.
4. Find your specialty
Although general dental practices are the most common, consider exploring other types of practices. You may find that learning additional skills can lead to an increase in compensation. For example, looking for a position at a specialty practice may be a good move. In fact, DANB’s Salary Survey shows that CDA certificants who work in oral surgery and other specialties have the highest wages.
5. Do your research
Research shows that those who ask for raises are more likely to receive them. But before you do this, it’s important to also do your homework so that you’ll be prepared for this conversation with your employer. First, you’ll want to outline all the ways you’ve contributed to the dental practice in the past year. You’ll also want to look up the average wages for dental assistants in your area. You can look up salaries for all dental assistants or salaries for DANB CDA certificants. Once you’ve gathered your information, you can start thinking about how to ask your employer for a raise.