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Back to school for dental hygiene?

If one has aspirations of being employed in dental hygiene education, corporate positions or sales, a bachelor’s degree is sometimes mandatory. (DTI/Photo Konstantin Sutyagin,
Angie Stone, USA

Angie Stone, USA

Mon. 27 June 2011


The bachelor’s of science in dental hygiene degree is becoming more difficult to obtain due to the closing of many traditional four-year programs. This leaves many hygienists with an associate’s degree in hygiene. While an associate’s degree allows a graduate to practice dental hygiene, a four-year degree is preferable for many positions associated with dental hygiene.

If one has aspirations of being employed in dental hygiene education, corporate positions, sales, etc., a bachelor’s degree is sometimes mandatory.

Degree completion programs are available to obtain a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene and there are hygienists who wish to pursue that degree. For those interested in a career in dental hygiene education, this is usually the mandatory path. In many programs, full-time teaching positions may even require a master’s degree in dental hygiene education.

For the other positions, the course of study is not as important. Bachelor’s degrees in other courses of study mix nicely with the profession of dental hygiene. Hygienists can often be heard saying they feel like counselors. Understanding the way human beings learn, think and are motivated help hygienists relate to patients. For these reasons, clinical dental hygiene is well complemented by a parallel degree in psychology.

For those interested in a sales position, a degree in business may prove to be a good parallel degree. A hygienist who likes to write might want to consider a degree in journalism. Those who have a patient base that speaks languages other than English may benefit from a degree in a foreign language. Clinicians interested in research might want to consider majoring in a field they would like to research, such as biology. A four-year degree in something other than dental hygiene may open doors to other career opportunities if one decides to leave the dental hygiene profession.

These degrees can be obtained in a variety of ways. There are the traditional avenues, such as attending courses on a campus. However, this may not be the most convenient for working adults. With the inception of non-traditional learning, the working adult population can continue to work and complete a four-year degree.

There are universities that offer evening classes in an accelerated format that meet in person and/or online. A quick inquiry of local colleges and universities can provide information about one’s options.

Paying for an education up front might pose a hurdle for some students. Adults can apply for financial aid. This is a relatively easy process and filing an application will let a potential student know what assistance is available. If one is not eligible for grants or scholarships, student loans are another option. These loans often have low interest over a long period for repayment.

Acquiring a bachelor’s degree is doable and well worth the time and effort. If you have been thinking about going back to school, there is no time like the present to do some investigation of the possibilities, get all of your ducks in a row and actually “take the plunge.” You will likely not regret having expanded upon your educational horizons.

About the author

Angie Stone, RDH, BS, is editor-in-chief of Hygiene Tribune.

Editorial note: This article was originally published in Hygiene Tribune, Vo. 4 No. 5, May 2011.

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