Pitt Dental Medicine Dental Assisting Apprenticeship Program

The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Dental Assisting Apprenticeship is a paid, full-time, onsite program designed to provide comprehensive training for students who wish to pursue a career as a dental assistant.

 In dentistry, many procedures require four hands to treat patients effectively. Dental assistants provide the necessary support to dental providers and perform other important tasks such as preparing patients for treatments, taking radiographs, sterilizing instruments, disinfecting clinical treatment areas, maintaining patient records, and billing and coding for insurance purposes. Given all these responsibilities, dental assistants play a critical role in providing oral health care to patients. The Pitt Dental Medicine Apprenticeship Program is a unique partnership which provides clinical experiences working in the general dentistry and graduate specialty clinics in the School of Dental Medicine.

Courses in the program include, dental sciences, radiology, anatomy and terminology, dental materials, and chairside assisting

Dental assisting is a rewarding career

The bureau of labor statistics states that the annual mean wage of dental assistants in Pennsylvania as of May, 2021 was 43,540, or $20.94 per hour. Dental Assisting National Board’s Salary and Satisfaction Survey report from 2022 highlights that 2/3 of dental assistants were satisfied or very satisfied with their work, and that 78% of dental assistants agree or strongly agree that dental assisting is a career, not a job.

The Pitt Dental Medicine Dental Assisting Apprenticeship can also be the foundation for future career growth. Apprentices in the program will be sponsored to take three required exams administered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), to qualify to apply for National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification. NELDA-certified dental assistants also can continue to pursue advanced career tracks such as a certified dental assistant, expanded function dental assistant, practice management, dental hygiene, or various levels of more advanced dental medicine.

What are our dental assisting apprentices working on? 

  • Introduction to radiology, dental assisting profession, dental team members and specialties;
  • Didactic learning in ethics, dental materials, chairside assisting, anatomy, and intro to radiology;
  • Simulation (SIM) lab and dental hygiene clinic experiences, including sterilization, barrier wrapping, identifying instruments, transferring instruments; and
  • In the coming months, we will continue learning dental specialties, radiology, treatment planning, and case studies.

Apprentices are provided with full-time temporary employment with the University of Pittsburgh throughout the apprenticeship, didactic (classroom) and hands-on training by Pitt Dental Medicine staff and faculty, study and textbook materials, paid DANB exams toward NELDA certification, and a sponsored Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus pass.

For more information about dental assisting as a career, please visit the Occupational Employment and Wages Statistics website, or the Dental Assisting National Board Salary and Career Report


More about Pitt Dental Medicine and PASmart

Pitt Dental Medicine is one of the only partners in the region who can effectively implement such a creative and unique apprenticeship program. This is because the Pitt School of Dental Medicine currently conducts the clinical operations that are critical for training and educating dental assistant apprentices. In addition, Pitt Dental Medicine has the trained faculty to teach this curriculum.

The ability to leverage these existing resources not only allows for the creation of this program, but it also allows for funds from PAsmart to be used to directly help the apprentices – by paying for the cost of the training and providing compensation to the apprentices. This truly is a great partnership that will see the apprentices benefit from leveraging the combined resources of both Pitt Dental Medicine and PAsmart.