Under the supervision of dentists, dental laboratory technicians create impressions of patients' teeth to make dentures, crowns, bridges and other types of dental appliances. Both the mean annual wage of $39,780 and the median annual wage of $36,440 for dental laboratory technicians are below the national average for other workers. But dental lab techs in the top industries and locations can earn much more than the national average.
According to May 2013 salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental laboratory technicians earned a mean annual wage of $39,780, or a mean hourly wage of $19.13. The median annual wage of dental laboratory technicians was $36,440, or a median hourly wage of $17.52. The annual wage at the 10th percentile was $21,920 annually, or $10.54 hourly. At the 90th percentile, the annual wage was $61,320, which is $29.48 hourly.
Dental laboratory technicians earned the highest annual mean wage -- $63,780 -- working in medical and diagnostic laboratories, according to BLS wage estimates from May 2013. They earned the second highest amount, $53,770, working for the federal executive branch of the government. The third highest wage -- $49,990 -- came working in the offices of health practitioners. The fourth and fifth highest-paid industries were professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers, and offices of dentists, with annual wages of $48,260, and $41,670, respectively.
At $53,610, Massachusetts had the highest annual mean wage for dental laboratory technicians in 2013, according to the BLS. The District of Columbia was in second place, with $52,620, followed closely by Alaska, with an annual mean wage of $52,470. Montana and New York rounded out the top five, with $46,270 and $45,540, respectively. By region, dental laboratory technicians made the most money along the East and West coasts. They made the least in the Midwest.
The BLS reports that there are no formal educational requirements to be a dental laboratory technician, besides a high school diploma. Some community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools do offer postsecondary certificates. Fifty-three percent of respondents who supplied salary data to the Occupational Information Network, which partners with the U.S. Department of Labor to provide comprehensive occupational descriptions and data, had a high school diploma, and 27 percent had a postsecondary certificate.
The BLS projects a 7 percent growth rate for this occupation from 2012 through 2022, which is slower than average. Americans will continue to have accidents and exercise poor dental hygiene, which will create demand for dental laboratory technicians. Also, as crowns, veneers and other prosthetics become more cost effective, more people will seek these services, which also increases demand. But since baby boomers and subsequent generations are more likely to keep their teeth longer, this will decrease demand for dental laboratory technicians. The BLS also notes dental laboratory technicians in large laboratories may work their way up to supervisory positions.
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