Dentist Career Plan

Dentists have doctoral level education, but students who are well prepared sometimes complete the process in less than eight years. Whether you’re still in high school or have begun college, the following steps were designed to help you expedite the process.

Become a Dentist…

Dental Resources

  1. Consider taking advanced placement courses in high school, particularly in the sciences. Get a solid foundation in all academic subjects, including composition. Also put in a bit of time preparing for the ACT or SAT.

  2. Make sure that your manual dexterity is well developed and that you have good depth perception and visual analysis skills. You may want to do crafts or fine arts, play a musical instrument, or engage in a sport like archery.

  3. Also do some job shadowing at this stage. You may want to contact the Area Health Education Center in your region. The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is a good resource.

  4. Apply to college. You may be a pre-dental student or select some other major like chemistry. Most students earn a bachelor’s before attending dental school, but some are admitted after as few as two years of college. Look ahead and know what prerequisites you’ll need. Dental schools typically require more than thirty semester hours of science prerequisites. Read more about applying to dental school.

  5. Consider enrolling in a pre-dental program during the summer. This will help you prepare for the rigors of dental school. It will also give you a chance to make connections.

  6. You may want to spend some time working as a dental assistant. You may also want to take business classes for future reference.

  7. Fulfill all requirements for admission to an ADA-accredited school. You will need to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Apply. There is a centralized service, the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service.

  8. Put in a strong performance in dental school, both in the classroom and in your practicum setting. You may want to join a professional organization.

  9. Decide if you want to pursue a specialty. Graduates can apply through the ADEA Postdoctoral Application Support Service.

  10. Now it’s time to find a position. Most dentists work for themselves, and many purchase an office right after completing their education. Still, you may want to work for a few years as an associate at an established practice.

Personality Traits: According to ADEA, dentists are scientifically curious. The BLS notes good visual perception and memory and strong business sense (which is needed for self-employment).