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.