According to the United States Department of Employment, over the next several years the dental hygiene profession is projected to grow at nearly three times the average rate for job growth overall. It is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, it provides a good income and you can become a professional dental hygienist in just two years.

While there are a few bachelor’s degree programs available in dental hygiene, the great majority of men and women working in the field have gotten their degree and passed the state licensing exam over a two year period, at one of the dental hygienist schools. It can be an intense learning experience and will require some clinical hours as a student hygienist working alongside experienced professionals.

Working in dental hygiene is an opportunity to both work as a skilled professional and work with people. Educating patients about dental care is an important part of a hygienist’s duties, so people skills are important to the job just as technical proficiency is with the dental cleaning and treatments that are required.

Academic Options

Because of the clinical hours required, most dental hygiene degree programs are offered at campus-based schools; either community colleges, private vocational institutions or colleges that offer medical technology training. However many online universities that have campuses offer a blended program to working students, so that some of the classroom work can be accomplished online while the hands-on experience can by created on campus or coordinated with a nearby dental clinic.

Independent Working Arrangements

While there are approximately 175,000 dental hygienist jobs in the country currently, the job figure is deceiving because many people in the field work in more than one dentist’s office. If one office doesn’t have sufficient patient flow, a hygienist can take a position in another office that requires similar part time services. Dental hygienists in that position can, to a certain degree, do their own scheduling and essentially become their own boss. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary range for dental hygienists is $32.00 per hour, or about $66,000 per year. That is an excellent salary and one that should be attainable to most licensed graduates in a market with a chronic shortage of professionals.

State Licensing Requirements

All states require that hygienists obtain a license in the state where they are working. The written portion of the licensure examination is the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, developed by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, an arm of the American Dental Association. Each state has a regional or state-administered clinical exam as well that tests the applicant’s patient skills.

Author's Bio: 

Bob Hartzell writes on education and careers for several websites