Dentistry is an essential medical service that has growing demand. Graduating dentistry students should be able to command a healthy salary. However, potential dentists should be aware that they will have to complete many years of schooling before they can begin to practice. Specializing in an area of dentistry will also help them secure a job and earn a higher salary.
Job Outlook for Dentists
The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that the employment outlook for dentists in the future is robust. In the 10-year period from 2008 to 2018, the number of dentists is expected to grow 16 percent, faster than the average profession in the U.S. New dentists should be able to find work easily after graduating, as many dentists of the Baby Boomer generation are looking to retire and pass on their practices to younger people.
Although the future outlook for dentists is good, some areas of dentistry are likely to grow more than others. Dental students might want to think about specializing in these areas if they want to be in the fastest growing parts of the field. For example, while job openings for general dentists and oral surgeons should increase by 15 percent by 2018, orthodontists and prosthodontists will see a 20 percent and 28 percent increase, respectively.
Future dentists can also expect to earn a high salary. As of 2009, the latest statistics available, prosthodontists were the lowest-paid dentists, but they still made an average of $125,400 a year, and their wages were rising the fastest, at a brisk 21.9 percent a year. General dentists earned $156,850 in 2009, with their wages rising 1.2 percent. Orthodontists made $206,190, with earnings growing 3.1 percent. The highest-paid specialty, oral surgeons, earned $210,710, with their salaries rising 4.5 percent. However, while these salaries are high, dentists also have high schooling costs.
The majority of dental students have a four-year bachelor's degree before starting dental school, which also lasts for four years. Competition is stiff for dental school entry, so not all would-be dentists will be able to attend. After graduating, dentists cannot practice until they also pass written and practical exams, which vary by state. Becoming a dentists takes a serious commitment.
Although the future outlook for dentists is good, there is a cyclical nature to the business, as patients either pay out of pocket for services, or have insurance through their employers. During slow economic times, patients may cut back on dental visits to save money, or lose their health-care benefits with their job, both of which can cut into dentists' earnings.
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