If you pursue this career, you would be one of 184,110 U.S. dental hygienists, according to May 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Do your job well, and you could become one of the top 10 percent in earnings, making over $94,850 annually. You must enjoy working with people and have a knack for understanding technical terms. Your primary duties would include cleaning and polishing people's teeth, taking X-rays, preparing moldings and handling some administrative work.
Average Salary and Benefits
The average salary is $69,760 per year, according to the BLS. Chances are your pay would fall in the $56,950 to $83,310 per year range, what the middle half make. Your earnings would be contingent on experience, the state you work in and the size of your employer. Those working in dentist offices, for example, averaged $70,070 annually. If you are among the 38 percent of dental hygienists employed full time, expect to receive paid time off, medical insurance and a retirement plan.
Salary by State/District
Your earnings can vary significantly by state or district. You would earn the highest annual salary of $91,010 in California, according to the BLS. Working in the District of Columbia would yield the second highest salary at $90,500 per year. Your salary in Connecticut would be $85,700 annually. And your earnings in Texas would be closer to the national average at $67,190 per year. Expect to earn less in Florida at $58,080 per year, but the cost of living is typically lower there. And you won't pay state taxes.
Education and Training
Dental hygienists have gradually been given more responsibilities over the years. Because of this, the educational requirements are greater than in the past. You would need an associate degree in dental hygiene to practice in most dentist offices. A bachelor's or master's degree is usually necessary if you want to work in research or teach dental hygiene at a public school. The curriculum at most community colleges or universities includes both classroom and clinical training. Therefore, you should be fully prepared for your first job after earning your associate degree. Training would mainly consist of learning the policies and procedures of your employer.
Your future in dental hygiene looks bright. The BLS expects 68,500 jobs to be added between 2010 and 2020, which equals a 38 percent increase. This rate of growth is much faster than the national rate of 14 percent for all occupations. Job growth will primarily be spurred by ongoing research linking oral health to people's overall health. New technology will also drive job growth in this field, streamlining cleanings and treatments. People are also living longer and keeping their teeth, which boosts the number of clients.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dental Hygienists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Dental Hygienists
- StateUniversity.com: Dental Hygienist Job Description, Career as a Dental Hygienist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
- Education-Portal.com: Registered Dental Hygienist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
- American Dental Association: Dental Hygienist
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images