Those who want to become a licensed dental hygienist must first graduate from an accredited dental hygienist school before being granted the eligibility to sit for state licensure. There are several ways to obtain a dental hygiene education. Although most students typically pursue an Associate’s degree in dental hygiene, there are some students who choose to obtain a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Associates’ degrees are awarded by community colleges, dental hygienist schools, and technical or vocational schools while bachelors’ degrees and masters’ degrees in dental hygiene can be obtained by enrolling in universities and in some private colleges. Associates’ degrees are completed within 2 years and it is the minimum qualification in order to work in dental clinics. Bachelors’ and masters’ degrees, on the other hand, can be completed within 4 years and it is a requirement if a student is planning to do research work, teach or to work in public health agencies. Aside from traditional 2 year and 4-year colleges and universities, there are also distance-learning schools that offer dental hygienist programs. These schools conduct lectures and provide instructional materials over the internet but would also require students to complete their practical training hours at an approved clinical setting.
Due to the increasing demand for dental hygienists, the number of student enrollments in dental hygiene programs has begun to escalate as well. This has resulted in a more competitive admission process as most dental hygiene programs prefer to admit applicants who have completed at least one year of college course work.
Admission requirements to dental hygiene programs vary from school to school and also by state. In some cases, high school students who want to become dental hygienists are recommended to pursue science courses such as biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry and mathematics in order to increase their chances of admission.
Before turning program applications, students must first complete the required prerequisites. These prerequisites include sociology, psychology, English, speech, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, anthropology, humanities and physical education. In some cases, science courses must be taken within the last five years to be valid. Additionally, to help improve the chances of being chosen for the program, students who want to pursue an Associates’ or Bachelors’ degree should have already completed their general education requirements.
It is also important for students to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 or higher to be considered for admission. For additional consideration, students are recommended to have previous work or volunteer experience, to present letters of recommendations, have a previous associates’ or bachelors’ degree, and have competed nutrition courses and medical terminology classes.
Setting an appointment with a career counselor can also be a factor in gaining admission to the dental hygiene program. Meeting with the school counselor will enable students to check if they have completed all the required coursework. Furthermore, counselors will be able to advise students with the application process.