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The complete career guide to be an Odontologist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $93,730
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 8.2%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

An odontologist is a skilled medical professional who works as a dentist, investigator and a researcher. Odontology involves studying the application of dental science to identify bite marks, missing persons, human remains, etc.

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What is an Odontologist?


The following duties are performed by an odontologist:

  • Travel nationally and internationally based on assigned work, approximately 5-10% depending on the role.
  • Closely track the progress of cases, build databases for future reference and generate reports on dental coding, age estimation, bite mark patterns.
  • Utilise technology to assist with the accounting and assessment of dental remains post-mortem, e.g. radiography, photography.
  • Assist police authorities with identifying victims of murder cases, mass deaths like plane accidents or natural calamities.

Day In The Life

As an odontologist, you will be working primarily as a clinical dentist and occasionally taking on forensic dentistry work upon the request of law enforcement agencies or medical authorities. Utilising your specialised knowledge of the anatomy of the human mouth, you may also double as an expert medical examiner and compile evidence from different sources to identify victims. Your advice and compiled data might help police authorities narrow down their list of suspects. While examining the body, you will make note of aspects such as dental impressions, dental charting, x-rays, photographs and any other information that is relevant for identification.

Work Schedule

Odontologists do not have fixed working hours due to the nature of the work. Many have to put in extra hours to complete a job within assigned deadlines. When you are assisting law enforcement agencies with ongoing investigations, you are sometimes required to travel to the crime scene or a specific location to collect samples for further analysis. In addition, you may take x-rays and measurements of the dental region at a laboratory setting.

If you are working in the field of forensics, you are required to be ready no matter what time of the day and remain on call. It is not unusual for work to extend over holidays, weekends and nights. This is why being accurate, efficient and detail-oriented is a must. Since working at sensitive locations like crime scenes and medical examiner’s offices can be stressful, you must be comfortable working in emotionally challenging environments.

Growth Of The Job

Career prospects in dental practice is positive, especially when it comes to the pay-scale since 2010. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, there will be an addition of 23,300 jobs in this field by the year 2024 with an expected growth of 18% by that time. There will be increased demand for professionals specialising in complex dental work like dental bridges and implants.

Typical Employers

Odontologists are usually hired by dental schools, medical clinics or hospitals and medical examiners’ offices. Based on the need, one may also work as an independent contractor for law firms, district attorneys, coroners and police departments.

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How To Become an Odontologist

You can work as an odontologist only after completing a traditional four-year Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S) degree program. Based on the specialty you choose, completion of the degree can range between 1 to 4 years for a master’s or 3 to 4 years for the doctorate. Through the course of this program, you will get the chance to familiarise yourself with technical and medical aspects of oral hygiene and how to execute routine dental check-ups, administer anaesthetics, understand x-rays and undertake several diagnostic procedures.

Before applying for such a degree, you must have completed a bachelor’s degree in some relevant area like biochemistry or neuroscience. There are also advanced credentials you can obtain from organisations like the American Academy of Forensic Science or the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. A sought-after diploma from the American Board of Forensic Odontology can further help elevate your credentials. In America, you must continue to keep up with educational requirements to maintain your license, which ranges from 12-30 hours per year depending on the state you are in.

If you choose a career as an odontologist, you will be signing up for quite gruesome sights that require strength of mind and a calm demeanour. If you are easily squeamish, this may not be the right choice for you. It is a great opportunity for individuals that are fascinated by the thought of contributing to criminal justice while also pursuing their medical careers.

Odontologist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Odontologist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Odontologist's can make an average annual salary of $93,730, or $45 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $57,640 or $28 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #82 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Highest Education Among Odontologists

  • 61.7%   Doctorate
  • 28.9%   Masters
  • 7.5%   Bachelors
  • 0.5%   Associates
  • 0.9%   College
  • 0.3%   High School
  • 0.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Odontologist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 8,900 jobs for a total of 116,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 8.2% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #268 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Odontologists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 37,100 2,500 3%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 19,400 800 1%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 10,700 800 1%

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