Is it your dream to become a dental hygienist? To make it easy for you to take the next step in your journey, we have gathered in-depth information on dental hygienist schools and career opportunities in all 50 states.
Below, you can find a list of states. Simply click on the state you are interested in to bring up a list of dental hygiene programs in that state.
Along with this information, you can also view licensing requirements for that state and salary information.
Click on any of the states below to get started, or scroll down to learn more about how to become a dental hygienist.
How Do You Become a Dental Hygienist?
The exact steps to become a dental hygienist depend on the state where you wish to practice. But across the board, you can expect the following requirements:
- Graduate successfully from an accredited dental hygiene program.
- Obtain licensing.
Generally, licensing involves passing one or more exams to test your skills, verifying your citizenship and paying a fee.
What Degree Do You Need to Become a Dental Hygienist?
If you simply wish to practice dental hygiene in a regular clinical setting, the requirement is usually an associate’s degree.
If you are interested in employment opportunities which involve teaching or research, you might need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.
The vast majority of dental hygienists obtain an associate’s degree and begin practicing.
What Should You Know About Accredited Dental Hygienist Schools?
It is very important that the school you attend have a dental hygiene program which is accredited by a qualified professional organization.
Before you investigate schools and programs, you should look up the detailed requirements for becoming a licensed dental hygienist in the state where you plan to practice.
This will tell you what accreditations the state requires the dental hygiene program you enroll in to possess.
For example, in the state of Alabama, to obtain a license, you must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
But in the state of Montana, the school must only have a program accredited by CODA.
Those are just two examples. Accreditation requirements vary throughout the 50 states. They also can change over time. So it is always important to look up the current requirements directly through the state licensing board before you enroll in a program.
What else should you know about dental hygiene programs?
- On average, an accredited dental hygiene program requires three years of study.
- You will receive both instruction in the classroom and hands-on clinical training.
How Should You Pick a School?
With hundreds of accredited dental hygiene programs available throughout the country, how should you decide upon a school?
Here are some factors that you might consider when deciding on a program in which to enroll:
- If it is convenient to stay in your home state, you may want to pick a program which is located close to where you are now.
- Should you have the freedom to relocate for your education, you might want to investigate career opportunities, cost-of-living and lifestyle for different states, and attend a school in a state where you would like to work.
- Look into campus housing if you are thinking about living on campus. If not, check into nearby housing and transportation options as well as whether you can attend classes online (which may be possible for the classroom portions of your education, though not the clinical portions).
- While the average program is three years, some dental hygiene programs may take a shorter or longer time period to complete. There may also be differences in scheduling requirements for classes and clinical experience hours. Choose a program which will fit your scheduling needs.
- Some programs may offer more specialization training than others, which is something to check into if that is something you’re thinking about.
- Take a look at the prerequisite requirements for the various programs you are investigating. If you have already completed some higher level education, you may have satisfied some or all of those requirements for certain programs already.
- You will find that there are accredited dental hygiene courses at universities, community colleges and technical schools. Decide what type of learning environment is most suitable to your needs.
- As with any other educational program, cost is also a major consideration. Find out about the price of tuition, room and board, supplies, and other fees.
If you find yourself particularly interested in a specific dental hygiene program, it is a good idea to contact the department directly. Someone at the school should be able to send you additional information, and may even be able to take you on a tour.
What Else Is Required to Become a Dental Hygienist?
As already discussed, once you obtain your degree, the next step will be to pass the required testing to obtain your licensing.
Aside from these formal requirements, you will need to possess problem-solving skills, attention to detail, steady hands, and a calming, friendly demeanor.
Get Started On Your Dental Hygiene Career Path Now
Ready to begin? Scroll back up to our list of states, and click through to view information on salaries, accredited dental hygiene programs, licensing steps and more. Before you know it, you could be on your way to becoming a dental hygienist.