Dental Assistants are the right-hand support for dentists, assisting them with various patient care tasks and performing administrative duties.

To start your career as a dental assistant, a combination of formal education and training is essential.

In this article, we’ll explore the educational requirements for becoming a dental assistant and the various options available to you.

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So, let’s get started!

dental assistant during treatment

Minimum Education Requirement

While there is no strict requirement for the educational qualifications of dental assistants, most states in the United States have established specific standards that individuals must fulfill to work as a dental assistant.

The minimum education requirement typically includes a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a GED).

Formal Education for Dental Assistants

People who want to become dental assistants can choose different ways to learn. They can go to college for two years to get an associate degree., which is usually very comprehensive and detailed.

Let us take a look at the options available to you.

Option 1 – Dental Assisting Associate Degree

Getting an associate degree in dental assisting is a thorough way to learn for this job. These programs usually take two years. You can look for these programs at any accredited university or college wherein you get in-depth knowledge about dental assistants.

The typical cost that occurs in an associate degree program lies between $20,000-$30,000.

Option 2 – Dental Assistant Certificate Program

Dental assistant certificate programs are usually shorter than associate degree programs. They usually take 12 months to finish. You can find these programs at community colleges, schools, and some universities.

However, the typical overall cost for a dental assistant certificate program is lower than an associate degree program and lies between $8,000 and $15,000, which makes it a better option.

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The above two options, however, involve certain drawbacks like high enrollment costs and longer duration of the course. But you need not worry as you have another option, online training programs, that are highly recommended for several reasons.

Option 3 (Recommended) – Dental Assistant Online Programs

Completing your dental assistant training through online programs is the most recommended, for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s self-paced, where you can learn at your own speed and time schedule.

There are also no scheduled classes and you have the freedom to access online courses at your own pace.

The duration for such courses generally lies between 6 to 9 months, which is ideal, and means you can get certified much faster.

The overall cost of online training programs is less than $5,000, which makes it the cheapest alternative.

NELDA Certification

Getting a special certificate called NELDA can help you get a better job as a dental assistant. NELDA is offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and you become an entry-level dental assistant once you clear this exam.

To become NELDA certified, candidates need to pass three component exams: Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), Infection Control (ICE), and Anatomy, Morphology, and Physiology (AMP).

NELDA certification


In summary, to become a dental assistant, you usually need a high school diploma, but it’s a good idea to get more training through a degree, certificate program, or online classes. However, we recommend getting an online training certification program.

It’s also a good idea to get certified as a NELDA, which can help you find better job opportunities and make more money. If you get the right education and certification, you can have a satisfying and well-paying job in the dental field.

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