How dental assistants can negotiate pay

close-up of a handshake

While salary is often a hot topic among dental assistants, it can be uncomfortable to discuss salary with your dentist or hiring manager. However, one of the best opportunities to get the pay you desire is when you get a job offer. If you get offered a pay rate or salary that is below your expectations or needs, you’re not obligated to accept. But you don’t necessarily have to turn the job down, either.

Instead, ask the employer if they’re willing to negotiate. If you’re a good candidate and they feel strongly about hiring you, odds are they’ll be open to the conversation. But once that happens, how do you go about the negotiation? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Do your research

Before you start negotiating, research the salary range for dental assistants with similar experience in your area. DANB’s salary survey is one place to start, as it breaks down the median hourly rate by location, experience level, and education level for assistants who are certified. Job websites such as Indeed and Glassdoor are also good resources for seeing the average dental assistant pay in your area. The type of dental practice also makes a difference; for example, dental assistants who work in oral surgery offices typically earn more.

After your research is done, establish a target pay rate. What’s the minimum hourly wage or annual salary you’ll accept? Be realistic, and use your research to inform the final number you land on. Many career experts recommend asking for more than the minimum you’ll accept. This gives you room to negotiate down to a salary you’ll still be happy with. There’s also a chance that the practice accepts your initial proposal. Keep in mind, though, that practices can have budgetary constraints and may not be able to offer what you ask for.

Know your worth and show examples

To get your desired pay, you have to sell yourself. You’ve probably already done this during the interview process — it’s why you got a job offer, after all! But this is your chance to hammer home your value and why you deserve higher pay.

Remind the dentist or hiring manager of the skills and knowledge you would bring to the practice. Give specific examples of how you’ve helped dental offices run smoothly and how you’ve taken care of patients. For instance, maybe you took on expanded duties at your last job that made appointments more efficient and allowed the practice to take on additional patients.

Don’t be afraid to tout your accomplishments and credentials. If you were promoted to lead dental assistant at your last job, remind the hiring manager of that. It demonstrates that you’re responsible, high-performing, and have leadership qualities. If you’re DANB certified, mention it! Holding certification shows the dentist or hiring manager that you’re committed to your career and keeping your dentistry knowledge up to date. On average, DANB-certified assistants earn $2 more per hour.

Stay positive and friendly

A pay negotiation may be a bit awkward initially, but it doesn’t have to be contentious or tense. Keep your tone positive and friendly — but also assertive and confident. You don’t want to come off as demanding or give the perception that you’re only interested in the money. Make it clear that you’re serious about working for the practice and want to reach an agreement that makes both sides happy.

Practice your negotiation

It may help to practice your pitch beforehand with a friend, family member, mentor, or colleague. They can help you organize your thoughts and provide helpful feedback on your tone and the strength of your argument. Even practicing in front of a mirror can help you figure out exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. This step can help you feel more confident when the time comes to negotiate.

Read more: How to ask for a pay raise

Have you negotiated pay with an employer before? What approach did you find effective? Let us know!