Think You’re Not Cut Out for Medicine? Think Again with a Career in Dentistry

Many women consider a career in the medical field, perhaps as a doctor or nurse. A lot of us want to do something to help other people, and helping to heal the sick and injured has to be the ultimate way to do it. But after considering what it takes to get the right qualifications and to perform well on the job, most people decide against it. It takes a special person to be able to survive in a medical environment, especially in a hospital. But if you’ve decided that you aren’t cut out for surgery, emergency medicine or treating acute illnesses, it doesn’t mean you can’t work in medicine.


Dentistry is an alternative field that many people who are interested in medicine consider. There is a range of roles you can train for, and you can treat people in an environment that isn’t as high pressure as some others. If you want to work in a medical role and you love working with people, there could be a career for you in dentistry. From dentists to technicians, there are different jobs to suit your personality. Some positions require years of training while some are attainable in just a year or two. If you’re interested in dentistry, have a look at these career paths to decide which one to take.





Some people may view being a dentist as inferior to practicing in another field. But there are many great reasons to train as a dentist. The career offers flexible hours, and you can be your own boss by owning a practice. Dentists have the time to get to know their patients and schedule appointments to suit them. If you want to attend dental school, you usually need an undergraduate degree first. Requirements include hours in Biology, Chemistry, and English. Before applying for dental school, you will need to take the Dental Admissions Test. This exam analyzes your suitability for dental school. Usually, students complete four years at undergraduate level. Then they take another four qualifying as a dentist, before becoming licensed.


After attending dental school, you may decide not to become a dentist. There are a number of alternative careers in dentistry that might interest you. For example, you may go into academia or dental insurance. Some other options include consulting, research and dental organization. You may also decide to work with dental health products, perhaps in sales, product development or another area. Qualifying as a dentist doesn’t limit you to just one job, so there is room to explore your options.


Dental Assistant


It takes a long time to qualify as a dentist, and dental school is highly competitive. You may be more interested in a career that’s more easily attainable. Dental assistants play a vital role in the dentist’s practice, and they can qualify in just a year or even less. A dental assistant provides help to the dentist during appointments, among a broad range of tasks. They might complete tasks such as taking x-rays, helping patients feel comfortable or managing the office. They perform both technical and interpersonal services. So you should be organized and have excellent communication skills.


You can train to be a dental assistant through a program at a community or technical college. Courses often last nine to eleven months, but can be accelerated or longer, if taken part-time. At the end of the course, students need to pass an exam to show that they’re qualified. For example, many take the Dental Assisting National Board’s Certified Dental Assistant exam. To take this exam, you need to complete a course accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.


Matt Lemmon


Dental Hygienist


Another option for being part of a dental team is the role of a dental hygienist. This job involves providing education and treatment to help patients with their oral health. The dental hygienist works with the dentist to provide the best care for their patients. The duties involved in the role differ from state to state, so there are lots of possibilities. Some of the things that a dental hygienist might do include screening procedures, cleaning teeth and teaching patients hygiene methods. They might also be involved in office management. But can you make a living as a dental hygienist? The answer is yes. You may not earn as much as a dentist, but the average salary is $70,000 a year, with many people making more. Your salary will depend on your duties and role in the office.


If you want to become a dental hygienist, you need to train for at least two years. You can gain your qualifications at a community college, earning an associate’s degree so you can get licensure. You can also go to university to train as a dental hygienist, where you may be able to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The extra schooling can be useful if you want to teach or research in the future.


Dental Laboratory Technician


If you prefer to work more behind the scenes, you might consider a career as a dental laboratory technician. Anyone who enjoys making things and is interested in the technical side of dentistry would enjoy this role. Dental technicians work with different materials, tools and equipment. They use them to create implants, crowns, dentures, and more. You could work with materials including wax, plastic, metals and even glass. In a way, working in a laboratory is both artistic and scientific. You perform a technical role, but there is also an element of being creative and making things.


To become a lab technician, you should complete a course at a community, technical or vocational college. You can also go to a dental school. Course usually last two years, but you can also complete a four-year bachelor degree in dental technology. After completing an accredited course, you would then need to pass an exam to gain certification.


Dentistry is a broad and colorful field with many different career opportunities. Whether you want to qualify within a year or spend eight years training, you can find a role that’s right for you.


Header image by Herry Lawford


Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.