How To Become a Dental Assistant: Salary, Skills & Responsibilities
One of the quickest growing sectors of the healthcare industry, dentistry offers stable and well paid assistant roles all across Australia. So, how do you become a dental assistant?
What is a dental assistant?
Dental assistants are support staff who work directly with dental practitioners, dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists, helping them with day to day patient-facing responsibilities, dental treatments and administrative tasks. They are a crucial part of any wider dental team that may work in a private practice, hospital or community health centre.
With experience and relevant training, dental assistants can diversify and move into dentistry research, training, sales and consultation.
Your key responsibilities and duties
A dental assistant acts as an all-rounder in the clinic. They are often the middle man between the administrative staff, the doctors and the patients. For this reason, a dental assistant is responsible for a diverse range of duties and tasks that are critical to the smooth running of a clinic.
There are three critical areas in which a dental assistant will have responsibilities. These are:
1. Administrative tasks
2. Cleaning and setup duties
3. Procedural duties
Due to the broad range of responsibilities, becoming a dental assistant will help you develop a diverse skill set. Plus, you will gain valuable insight into the dental service industry from health, patient care and business perspectives.
Depending on which part of the job you’re particularly drawn to, career development through further study may be possible to reach your dream job.
Salary expectations across Australia
The dental industry is predicted to grow by 14% by 2024, providing over 4,500 new jobs across Australia for dental assistants. The majority of trained dental assistants currently work in the healthcare industry, with New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland demanding most workers.
Depending on your experience and time in the field, the average salary curve of a dental assistant is:
|0-2 years experience||$58,500|
|3-5 years experience||$59,640|
|5+ years experience||$68,256|
Dental assistant work is also a flexible job pathway for those who need more freedom throughout the week for other responsibilities. Currently, approximately 46% of dental assistants work full time, while the majority choose to work part-time, earning an hourly rate.
With 3-5 years of experience under your belt, the average hourly rate spans between $30-$35.
However, the hourly wage is slightly lower for those in an entry-level role and varies across Australia.
The average hourly rate by state is:
How do you become a dental assistant?
Becoming a qualified dental assistant is a straightforward and relatively short process. Most qualified dental assistants complete a Certificate III or IV in Dental Assisting with a registered training organisation. Currently, approximately 40% of working dental assistants hold this level of qualification, while a further 12.5% chose to progress further with an Advanced Diploma or Bachelor’s degree.
A Certificate III in Dental Assisting will prepare you for all the core responsibilities required of a dental assistant within the procedure room. This includes:
A certificate III qualification also includes practical placement. This allows training dental assistants to experience what the job is like first-hand.
A certificate III can take anywhere between 12 weeks of full-time study to one year of self-paced learning. Depending on your situation, the theory components of most courses are offered via both in-person and online methods. However, it’s important to note that all practical elements of the course, including work placement, will be conducted in person.
A Certificate IV in Dental Assisting provides more detail and depth into the nuances of dental assisting, ensuring your thorough preparation for your first role post-completion. Along with learning the relevant skills to perform key responsibilities, a certificate IV will also cover:
A certificate IV also requires a work experience placement in a dental office and can take anywhere between 12-18 months to complete, depending on your chosen study pace. Similar to certificate III, many educators will offer the theoretical components of this qualification online. However, in-person training is essential to complete the course successfully.
Some certificate IV course providers offer their students the opportunity to extend their studies and specialise in an area of dental assisting. Specialising within the dental industry will help you better understand the job and its possibilities, giving you a competitive edge in the job market.
Two of the most sought-after specialisations include:
Working as a specialised dental assistant allows you to find your niche in the dental care industry. This can lead you to a fast-tracked career progression into a more senior position within a dental clinic. You can continue to complete an Advanced Dental Hygiene Diploma and become a qualified dental hygienist.
Becoming a dental assistant will not only offer you an exciting and diverse career but a stable income as well. With both full-time and part-time opportunities available all across Australia, this pathway can also give you flexibility and mobility.
I’m ready to start my journey
If you’re ready to take the next step in your healthcare career journey, it’s time to start looking into training opportunities.
Browse your course options for further information and enquire today!
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