Dental Assistant Salary: How much can you make?

So, what is a reasonable dental assistant salary? How much better can it get than when we have found that job that truly makes us feel valued? It is all too well known that people spend year after year in positions that lack feelings of challenge or triumph, let alone appreciation or even mere gratitude.

dental assistant salary

Dental Assistant Salary

For one reason or another employees don’t feel that they can make a break from their current situations. But for individuals who have found an occupation that provides satisfaction on many different levels, how much better can it get? The answer is that it gets better by getting paid well.

It is clear that the career of dental assisting can liberally provide a daily feeling of contentment through the performance of numerous activities that truly touch other’s lives, but the next logical question is, “How much do dentist assistants make?”

Few of we humans have felt the calling to a career that cannot lead us to a cozy home with a comfortable place to lay our head at night so the dental assistant’s salary is certainly relevant and worthy of discussion.

Variations in Salaries

As with any occupation, there is quite a broad range in the amount of pay that you can expect. So many factors are involved, such as the size of the city or town the dental practice is in or how many dentists are in the office where you want to work.

Another consideration is if the dental practice is a very new one, in its early growth period, or a long established business that is largely made up of loyal patients of many years. A newer establishment may not yet be in the position to pay as well as one where the dentist has had many of the same faithful patients and their families for twenty-plus years and more.

Of course, there are choices to be made that will greatly influence the likelihood of getting the dental assistant salary that one is shooting for, such as preparedness. Although it is true that from state to state educational standards may vary, and there is even a slim chance of finding on the job training, there are significant realities to be aware of.

For instance; it is likely that the ones least skilled through academic training are the ones making up the lions share of the lower than average side of the these salaries.

Looking At The Numbers

The United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports their figures on the dental assistant salary here.

(This has not yet been addressed, but please don’t confuse the data with that of a dental hygienist, which is not the same as a dental assistant.)

dental assistant hourly pay

Occupational Employment and Wages reports that as of May 2013 the average salary was $17.13 per hour, and the average salary for a year is $35,640. In doing the math, that is based on a 40-hour workweek.

Statistics show how location may, not necessarily dictate, but influence the salary for a this job. This is seen by the information given for various areas of the country.

The top paying states and their average annual salaries are New Hampshire ($43,810), Alaska ($43,330), Minnesota ($42,900), Massachusetts ($41,910), and Connecticut ($40,730).

That also translates into $19.58 to $21.06 per hour – keeping in mind that these are the averages, we are reminded that when we ask how can you make, some are making less and many are making more than these median figures provided.

There also statistics available regarding major Metropolitan Divisions. From these numbers we can see further variance in how location may affect a dental assistant salary.

Some that show averages above the national mean are Manchester, NH; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA; Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH; Anchorage, AK; Worcester, MA-CT; Rochester, MN; Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH; Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA; Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI; Nashua, NH-MA.

Salary, State By State

You have likely made up your mind by now that dental assisting is your career choice and looking at pay rate will help reinforce that decision.

State by state the salary can vary – it may even fluctuate from one metropolitan area to another – regardless of where you are the numbers are encouraging.

In all probability, being intelligent and well aware of contrasting statistics on just about any subject, you will want to make your own reasonable assessment of what to expect regarding your dental assistant salary.

average dental assistant salary - top 10 states

For your consideration, below is a list of state-to-state dental assisting salary averages:

  • Alabama (AL): $54,000
  • Alaska (AK): $42,100
  • Arizona (AZ): $45,000
  • Arkansas (AR): $51,000
  • California (CA): $55,000
  • Colorado (CO): $45,000
  • Connecticut (CT): $54,000
  • Delaware (DE): $49,000
  • Florida (FL): $49,000
  • Georgia (GA): $54,000
  • Hawaii (HI): $39,000
  • Idaho (ID): $45,000
  • Illinois (IL): $54,000
  • Indiana (IN): $53,000
  • Iowa (IA): $48,000
  • Kansas (KS): $45,000
  • Kentucky (KY): $48,000
  • Louisiana (LA): $51,000
  • Maine (ME): $49,000
  • Maryland (MD): $52,000
  • Massachusetts (MA): $51,000
  • Michigan (MI): $47,000
  • Minnesota (MN): $48,000
  • Mississippi (MS): $63,000
  • Missouri (MO): $51,000
  • Montana (MT): $50,000
  • Nebraska (NE): $43,000
  • Nevada (NV): $48,000
  • New Hampshire (NH): $53,000
  • New Jersey (NJ): $54,000
  • New Mexico (NM): $45,000
  • New York (NY): $60,000
  • North Carolina (NC): $49,000
  • North Dakota (ND): $49,000
  • Ohio (OH): $48,000
  • Oklahoma (OK): $46,000
  • Oregon (OR): $48,000
  • Pennsylvania (PA): $45,000
  • Rhode Island (RI): $54,000
  • South Carolina (SC): $46,000
  • South Dakota (SD): $43,000
  • Tennessee (TN): $48,000
  • Texas (TX): $48,000
  • Utah (UT): $48,000
  • Vermont (VT): $52,000
  • Virginia (VA): $52,000
  • Washington (WA): $47,000
  • West Virginia (WV): $52,000
  • Wisconsin (WI): $42,000
  • Wyoming (WY): $55,000
  • D.C.: $58,000
  • Puerto Rico (PR): $37,000
  • Guam (GU): $47,000
  • American Samoa (AS): $41,000
  • U.S. Virgin Islands (VI): $61,000
  • Mariana Islands (MP): $51,000

(these averages were sourced from: http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=Dental+Assistant&l1)

With only nominal contrasts in this list of average salaries state-to-state, it is easy enough to see that the news is, at the least, very hopeful – getting into a dental assisting school right away means that you could be on your way to making a good salary.

Being in a field that is proving statistically to be rapidly growing calls for speedy action; if it continues at the rate that has been projected it will not be long before you can advance as the newer ones come in behind you.

Dental assistant salaries are so favorable right now because dental assisting is in high demand. It can be somebody else’s dream-come-true or it can be yours – jump in and start the process today.

How Much Do You Want To Make?

Successful and high-achieving people are seldom where they are because luck just happened to strike them on the head. We all make scores of choices every day of our lives. Some choices do not take us to higher places and many of our choices can and do.

The ones getting paid what they want rarely just fall into those positions by accident any more. Competition is tough and action is required when reaching for advancement and success.

For those who want more than they might just stumble across, there are decisions to be made, goals to be set, goals to be met, some adjustments to be made, positive attitudes to maintain, and largely, a commitment to staying pointed in the right direction.

So, we really do need to ask ourselves how much we want to make and then plot the course of action required to make that happen. Doesn’t that sound like a walk in the park; a piece of cake? No, not really. But is it possible, achievable, doable, promising, feasible, practical or realistic?

Of course it is. So, in contemplating a career in dental assisting there is another star to reach for if you really want an excellent chance of hiking that salary up even further. Consider becoming a registered dental assistant (RDA).

A Registered Dental Assistant Salary

To find statistics for an RDA salary one has to keep searching, and that is because those official salary statistics given above are not differentiating between the trained or untrained dentist assistant, experienced or inexperienced, and certainly not between those with a high school diploma or a RDA.

Whether or not RDAs are even included in that group of statistics is unclear. A bit more information and some common sense can help us see how it is reasonable to believe that being registered would bring about better options and a higher salary.

The Opportunities Leading to Higher Salaries

The benefits of one choosing to be an RDA are many and it is easy to see how it opens up more opportunities that can lead to higher paying jobs.

Registered dental assistants are able to obtain positions in forms of more specialized dentistry like orthodontic or oral surgery offices. There are many other advantages of being registered, as well as the larger range of procedures one would be qualified to participate in or perform.

RDAs have a better chance of getting hired in more specialized forms of dentistry such as orthodontics or oral surgery offices. Hospitals and clinics needing assistants will almost certainly seek out those who are registered. Governmental dental institutions hire registered dental assistants and they are qualified for an array of specialized laboratory positions as well.

The chance for promotion is greater in any of these facilities and with the higher education comes the enhanced likelihood of moving into management or administrative positions that could bring much higher pay.

Thinking Big

There is a quotation that has been growing in popularity that deserves the attention of those striving for additional income or any sort of higher accomplishments, in any aspect of our lives. It comes from the infamous Donald Trump, a man who is not always everybody’s favorite person in the world, but a man who has proven over and over to possess some business savvy at the very least.

He is also practiced in achievement, evidenced by his wealth. The quotation is one hard to argue with and one in which it is easy to see the common sense: If you are going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.

Where else is it a better idea to think big than in our career endeavors, where the rewards can be vast and immeasurable? And if we are going to be thinking about careers or career enhancement, then we might very well be considering additional education. It is nearly effortless to find and more graceful to realize than it ever has been at any time.

So, if you are going to be thinking about a career in dental assisting, you might consider thinking a bit bigger and earning your registration. Bigger thinking may just lead you to a broader range of reasons to love your job and bigger salaries along the way. Keep progressing and expect that your salary will grow with you.



Comments

  1. Darla Phelps says:

    I stumbled on this article looking for something different. It also gave me alot of insight and different angles to help me come up with ideas for updating my resume and cover letter.

    After reading this article this is exactly how i feel about being in this postion for 25 years and why i chose it. The problem now is being 52 and having some erganomic issues and being overqualified. I have been out of work for a few years after being a part of a practice for 14 yrs which i lost because of breast cancer. I’ve lost my confidence in my abilties to perform these duties at this point.

    How do u know whether to stay, in your field or not, This is all i know, but this is my forte and has been a very rewarding career. Salary wise i dont want to sell myself short bit i feel like with my knowledge and experence that i bring to the table warrants a good salary. Hope this wasnt to lengthy. Thanks, Darla

    • Hi Darla,

      Thank you for sharing your situation – I totally understand where you’re coming from and I’m glad you have gleaned some new ideas for your resume and cover letter – nice! What ergonomic issues do you feel are holding you back?

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve gone through a battle with breast cancer, but I’m happy you’re doing so well, congrats on that!

      My advice would be to get back into the daily tasks and see how you feel – muscles are re-trained when doing the task at-hand, even “confidence” muscles – the more you get back in and practice, the easier it will become. If you can afford it, taking a few Saturday/Sunday classes could help get you comfortable with performing those tasks again – keep your faith and get back to it – I’m sure you’ll get right back into the swing of things in no time.

      All the best, Darla.

  2. Feyisope Williamson says:

    hi,
    i did a 3yrs course in dental surgery assistance in my country,Nigeria and graduated in 2007.i just came into the country,what do i need to get going?

  3. Hi…I am 2months away from finishing Dental Assistant at Concorde Career Institute. I have to complete 240 hours at an extern site…I am so nervous! They are looking to hire…of course if I do a good job. I am in desperate need of a job. I don’t want to come off as desperate I want to show myself as a good fit for the dental office. I would also like to further my education in dentistry what would be the next best step?

    • Lena – you sound like you’re doing a wonderful job with your training, so great job on that! As per your question, it really depends on where you want to go from here.

      Do you want to hone your general skills further, or would you rather go into a more specific field, like orthodontistry, cosmetic dentistry?

      Most schools offer both types of classes – once you get into the field you’ll be doing tasks on a daily basis, which should improve your skills even further – take care and keep working hard!

  4. Anabel.alcantar says:

    Hi!! I am currently about to finish my first semester in Houston Community college (hcc) in houston,tx.im going for dental assistant,for i wanted to know what classes will i need to take to be certified.

    • Hi Anabel – congratulations on getting through the first semester, that’s great!

      Dental assistant certification varies state-to-state, so it would be best to speak with an advisor at your school who is familiar with the dental assisting certification requirements – alternatively, you can also visit this page to look up Houston’s certification requirements: http://www.danb.org/main/statespecificinfo.asp – keep putting in the work, take care and good luck!

  5. HI,
    my name is Maja Ristovska and i’m from Macedonia.I have graduated dentistry at University: St. Cyril and Methodius – “Faculty of Dentistry”- Skopje; in my country and i would like to come in USA and continue with my career there.Can i star working like a dental assistant with my degree???

    • Hi Maja – congratulations on receiving your dentistry degree! That’s great news – I’m not exactly sure how that will transfer over to the US – try searching here for state-by-state requirements: http://www.danb.org/main/statespecificinfo.asp – it will also depend on what state you choose to work within – all the best, good luck!

  6. Thank you so much for your replay,i’m trying to find so many answers, i’m sending emails…but without reply’s…you are the first one!!!
    I appreciated this so much!

  7. With 12 years experience of being an orthodontic dental assistant I feel that I am under paid for my position I was wandering what pay range I should be at for an LDA in Minnesota for 12 years of Ortho ?

    • Hi Judy – to be honest, salary is highly based on what you started out at and the type of raises you’ve received over the years – if you feel you’re underpaid, I’d recommend researching “how to ask for a raise” online – that way you can learn what has worked for other people, try it out yourself, and hopefully bump up your pay – I believe that will be your best bet, there’s really no set standards, just averages – good luck!

  8. clarissa Alcala says:

    hello my name is clarissa and i live in Perris CA. I am currently debating on attending a vocational school to become a dental assistant and i was wondering if there are any other steps or any schools you can recomend to get me on the right track. I have recently been looking into American career college and my biggest concern of all is the money. I want to make sure that whatever school i choose to attend i get my moneys worth and actually learn valuable information. I have one last question i had spoken to my college councelor about my decison to attend a trade school and she seemed to frown down upon it because she believes once i am done with my training my job options will be limited due to the lack of college degree.

    • Hi Clarissa – thank you for the question!

      You’re smart to be doing your own research and taking other people’s opinions into account.

      To be honest, it’s going to be up to you on whether you’d like to attend an online school, or one on-campus – that will be the main decision – we’ve witnessed many students finding success just by attending a vocational school – gone are the days of going to college and automatically having a career.

      I would personally recommend working on your communication and people skills – find confidence in that and it will help you find a dental assisting position you enjoy – all the best and good luck!

  9. Hi! If I attend a school in Georgia that gives you a certification in radiology and certificate for dental assistant, but its not a school that is accredited to be “registered” so will that hurt me when I apply for jobs? Can I become registered by taking a test after I receive my certification somewhere else?

    • Hi Melanie – yes, it’s possible that it may “hurt” you when you look for a dental assisting job – but remember, it depends on the requirements designated by the state – on the flip side, it may also help you secure the position if you’re familiar with those specific tasks, and the dentist believe you fill that need, it just depends – check here for more state-specific information: http://www.danb.org/main/statespecificinfo.asp#GA – best of luck, Melanie!

  10. Marlin Veliz says:

    hi my name is Marlin Veliz and Im so excited because this is my senior year, and i want to be a Dentist but i dont know how start, because Im a single mom and i have to work and go to school at the same time.. thank u and blessings :)

  11. Odwa Mte says:

    I want to do a dental assistant now i don’t know how much do they earn in south africa.I did a research about the courses they said it’s approximately R8000.

    • That makes sense.. salary will vary depending on the dentist you work for and in what area – all the best!

  12. hi , my name is sana. i have done my dental assistant diploma course in India . could i able work as dental assistant in USA with this dental assistant certificate . if yes, do i need to take USA registration . and ,will it possible to register with this certificate. kindly reply ……..

    • Hi Sana – there’s a good chance you would need to re-take the registration process in the USA, however, the requirements will vary depending on what state you would like to get a job in – good luck!

  13. Caroline says:

    Hi – I’m starting dental assisting school in the fall and was completely excited about it. I thought new career, better money. But I’ve been reading all these horrible reviews on being a dental assistant. How the dentists treat them horribly, they are underpaid, etc. I know that I want to do this to better my education and to be on a career path, but will my spending all this money for a years worth of school be enough for a happy outcome? I’m reading that in MA (which is where I’m from) the average salary is $51,000 per year. I guess I’m just asking, in general, is it worth going to school for, and are most people happy with the outcome with their jobs and salaries? I know it depends on where you live, and who you work for, but I have my concerns. Any advice to lift my spirits would be appreciated. I was so excited to go school for this and better myself, but reading all these depressing reviews has got me thinking twice about it. Thanks in advance.

    • Caroline, I definitely get where you’re coming from – to be honest, whenever you’re working for someone else there’s always a chance of not meshing with their personality – I’ve also read horror stories like that as well. I think you should take solace in the fact that there are plenty of different dentists out there – of course, like you said, that will vary based on your location, but there are plenty of nice, caring professionals out there that will treat you with the respect you deserve – my main advice would be to not settle on a job just because they hire you – while there will always be a hierarchy, you deserve to be treated with respect – as long as you can find the right people to work with, you will be – best of luck and take care!

  14. I am interested in becoming a dental assistant and I want to know if this will be the right career to pursue if I have a hearing disability. I do wear hearing aids in both ears and I was thinking if the Dentist would be willing to hire someone with a hearing disability and if needed to wear a receiver transmitter digital device, which helps me hear very clear.

    • Hi Mihaela – if you’re setup allows you to hear clearly I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem – I wish you the best of luck, take care!

  15. that kind of salary you’ve posted in here only for certified asst and who had at least 10 years experient :)

    • That’s good to know – thanks for the heads up, 3M – I’ll have our research department do some additional research on the factors that influence a dental assistant salary.

  16. SHAKAYLA TAYLOR says:

    HOW DO I BECOME AN REGISTERED DENTAL ASSISTANT?
    IM ALREADY IN SCHOOL FOR DENTAL ASSISTING, DOES THAT MEAN IL’ BE REGISTERED.

    • Hi Shakayla – how to become a “registered” dental assistant varies depending on what state or country you live in – usually a specific certificate needs to be earned before you’re considered a registered assistant, which means you may need to pass a designated test and meet a certain level of other related requirements.

  17. how much do dental technicians earn per month in south africa?

    • Hi Sduduzo – I apologize, I don’t have reliable numbers on the earnings per month of a dental assistant in South Africa – I can tell you the annual pay ranges from around R29,361 to R108,256, depending on if you’re certified and your level of experience – all the best and take care!

  18. lindiwe phakathi says:

    hey my name is lindiwe phakathi i’m current doing grade 12 so i real want to be dental assistant i want to know about requiment in south africa and how much do you earn after your study.thank you

    • Hi Lindiwe – thank you for the comment! The best estimate I’ve researched is between R29,361 – R108,256 annually – you’ll need to check locally on the prices required for the classes, as they vary depending on if you’ll be taking them in-person or online – good luck with your studies!

  19. ellrni teffera says:

    i like to take a dental assictance class I live in alexandria va but I keep looking a top school in my home
    still i can not find could helping me to find the right school and also I like to know the starting salary and also
    if I got a jop by this field how the benfit and the salry increasing what the last salry if I be keep working by this
    please explain to me about my concern is to making a good salary.

    I like to know the starting salary of about dental asscitance and also do you know the best schhol in
    alaxandria va or closed to my home area i live in alaxandria I keep seariching about dental asscitance but
    stiil Ican not find it.
    s
    Elleni

    a

    • Hi Ellen – to be completely honest, all of the questions you mention will vary on a bunch of different variables, such as the state you choose to work in, your level of experience, the need for dental assistants in the area you’d like to work, how hard you work, what schooling you have, etc – on average, a beginning dental assistant in Virginia earns around $34000, give or take depending on their experience, the level of certification they have, as well as a few of the variables I’ve mentioned – I hope this answer helped somewhat, take care!

  20. Karen Rodriguez says:

    Hi! My name is Karen, Im from Houston Tx and am 21 yrs old.

    I recently started school at Remington College for the Dental Assistant program and should graduate by March of next yr. After looking online I realized that I also want to become a Dental Hygienist and would like to go to the University of Texas Health Science Center. As i was looking into the Admissions requirements for that program I realized that it is VERY hard to get into UT. My question is.. what can i do in order to accomplish that even if that means me going to a community college then having to transfer to UT. I do not have any kids and am single so im willing to put whatever time and effort i need to put in order to get in to Ut i just need a little guidance.

    • Hi Karen,

      Thank you for your question..

      To be honest, I think this is a great question to ask a counselor – they will be familiar with the structure of your best options when it comes down to getting into UT – if I were you I would call the community college and setup an appointment with a counselor, explain your situation, and take it from there – good luck!

  21. I just finished my associates degree last year and I have been thinking about going back to become a dental assistant ever since. I finally talked to an academic advisor at my local community college and am planning to start the online program in the Spring. However, like a few others have mentioned, there are a lot of people out there that say this is an overall “bad career” to get into. It’s really discouraging to finally decide on a career path and be excited about it just to have others bash it by tell me it won’t work out. All of this makes me really nervous about starting this program, especially since it’s online (but it does have a long externship during the program). I guess I’m mostly just venting frustrations but I really just want to get some positive perspectives about this career. Thanks!

    • Hi Lauren – great idea speaking to the academic advisor, I really feel strongly about getting the right answer for your own specific situation – to be honest, I’ve also heard the same thing – the thing is, it’s always going to vary no matter what – if you’re flexible with your job selection and find a good staff to work with, all of those kinds of problems will be avoided – at this point, I truly wouldn’t worry about it too much – there are good people out there who are dentists, who will treat you well, that’s for sure – finding them might take a little time but the career path is very rewarding otherwise, so to me it seems worth it – that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself thought – best of luck coming to the decision!

  22. s mcdonald says:

    Im thinking about starting in this job field and excited about all the oportunities how ever im in my forties and havent figured out what i want to be when i grow up. Do you think its to late to start in the field?

    • Hi there S. McDonald – I’d say, if you’re excited about a dental assisting career, go for it – in my mind, it’s never too later – all the best and good luck!

  23. Hi,

    I plan on going to my local community college this fall for the Dental Assisting program. (I live in NJ). How in demand are dental assistants right now? Are most struggling to find jobs after completing school? I know this varies by location, but I’m speaking generally. Also, what is the average salary for a dental assistant who has just completed schools? When I read the chart above, and then saw somebody comment that those salaries are for people with 10+ yrs experience, it left me confused.

    Thanks,
    Michele

    • Hi Michele – to be honest, the demand for dental assistants varies across the United States – I can’t tell you the exact facts, but I do know that dentist’s are certainly not suffering as much as other kinds of businesses – since tooth care is so vitally important, I think most states are still seeing demand for qualified dental assistants – it would be best to call around and do your research up-front though, just to be sure – good luck!

  24. hi im currently doing my masters in educational management ,but i just need something to keep me going financially i want to train to become a dental assistant is that good?

    • Sure Debbie, it could be a good career choice for you, definitely – the classes are usually quite affordable and the amount of time to earn your certification is rather short – if you’ve decided on that, I’d say get started and go for it – good luck!

  25. How much does dental assistants make per hour in st petersburg fl?

    • Hi Nakila… please take the above dental assistant salary numbers only as a reference, they’re estimates – your starting salary always varies based on current market conditions and demand – as your experience increases, you’ll usually receive raises. All the best and good luck!

  26. Hi Brad, I worked as an RDA for 8 years and loved it. Unfortunately, I had to leave the field due to a severe allergy to latex gloves. I didn’t renew my license. 20 years had gone by now and I wanted to go back into the dental field since there are latex free gloves now. I want to take some refreshment courses but have not found any. What would you suggest? Thank you very much for being a great help for so many people. God Bless You!

    • Hi Noemi, thank you for the question and for the very kind words, I really appreciate it – it depends where in the United States you are, but I would recommend looking at the community college, many have basic courses which would seemingly be a nice refresher – alternatively, some states also have specific dental assisting trade schools, where you can go in-person to train and practice – I truly wish you the best Noemi and hope you find what you’re looking for, thank you!

  27. hi brad my name is noluthando i would like to know which subject are required in order to study Dental assistance and what levels should u pass with? By the way am in south africa hpe 2 hear from u very soon

  28. I am in the process of going to school but I would like to know if I get certified in Pennsylvania and move to north Carolina or any other state will my certification be expected because its from another state

  29. hello upon reading this article i noticed the term registered dental assistant a lot like it provides better chances for being hired better pay as well im looking into an online course for dental ASSISTANT its a yr course so im wondering is there a difference between that course and a registered dental assistant if so What are the steps to become a registered dental assistant
    does it require pre recs to become a registered d.a.
    if also there are any online schools that provide this any as much info as you can give me please

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