Dental hygienist degree programs are designed to provide the comprehensive background education and hands-on skill set dental hygienists need to perform in a dental office.
Most dental hygienist programs last around two years and grant an associate’s degree in dental hygiene upon completion. Different programs will offer different types of degree in addition to different types of coursework.
Dental Hygienist Degree Options
There are a few different levels of dental hygienist degree, each of which allows graduates to pursue a slightly different career path:
Associate’s Degrees - These degree programs take around two years to complete, and are intended to provide a more well-rounded education than lesser credentials such as certificates. An Associate degree provides essential dental hygiene knowledge with a few basic general education courses, and is usually sufficient for entry level employment as a dental hygienist.
Bachelor’s Degrees - These more advanced degrees take around four years to earn. Bachelor’s degree programs include more general education requirements along with career-specific courses that apply directly to dental hygiene. A bachelor’s degree is usually required for management and supervisory roles.
Master’s Degrees - Master’s degree programs in dental hygiene are more rare, and take around two additional years beyond a bachelor’s degree. These programs cover advanced topics in healthcare and dental hygiene, and are taken by those who want to teach, engage in dental hygiene research, or practice in school or public health systems.
A high school diploma or GED and a submission of college test scores is the usual requirement for admittance into a dental hygienist program.
Dental Hygiene Coursework
Although there are several different degree options available for those who wish to become dental hygienists, the various courses between different programs may be similar. Some of the courses you may encounter include:
- Clinical Dental Hygiene
Becoming a Licensed Dental Hygienist
After earning your dental hygienist degree, there is one last step you must take before beginning your career; obtaining your dental hygienist license.
The licensing procedure for dental hygienists involves the successful completion of a written and a clinical examination. The written exam is administered by the American Dental Associations Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations and the clinical exam is administered by state and regional testing agencies. Alabama is the only state that does not require dental hygienists to take the written exam. Instead, applicants fulfill the requirements of the state’s Dental Hygiene Program.