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We often get questions from new students in our Dental Assistant program about they can expect after graduating.

Yes, you’ll walk away with the knowledge, skills, and even hands-on experience needed to jumpstart your Dental Assisting career, but where do you go from there? And how exactly do you go about landing that first official Dental Assisting position?

Whether you’re getting ready to graduate from a Dental Assisting school program and are feeling nervous about the future or are still considering a Dental Assisting career and want to understand the whole process, this guide will help.

We’ll cover topics like…

  • How to get Dental Assisting experience
  • Where to look for Dental Assisting jobs
  • Tips for creating your Dental Assistant resume
  • What Dental Assisting interview questions to prepare for
  • And more!

Let us know if you have any questions — as the best school for launching your Dental Assisting career in Portland and Vancouver, our team is here to help future students just like you.

1. Take advantage of your internship

If you’re completing your Dental Assisting training at a reputable program, then an internship will be included in your coursework. For example, at Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School, in addition to 144 hours of classroom study, you’ll also complete a 50-hour Dental Assistant internship.

This is a benefit for many reasons:

  • Finding and winning a Dental Assisting internship is very difficult
  • Hands-on training looks great on your resume and can help when looking for your first position
  • It’s an opportunity to work alongside experienced dental professionals and build your network

This last point is the one we want to focus on.

You’ll get the best results (and set yourself up for a successful career after graduation) if you take this internship seriously and take advantage of your time with these dental professionals.

Ask lots of questions, take plenty of notes, and follow their advice.

Outside of the training they provide, here are a few things that should be on your list to learn:

  • What skills they personally value in a Dental Assistant
  • How you can set yourself apart from other applicants
  • Any additional coursework or certifications they recommend
  • Job searching tips or advice
  • Networking or volunteering tips

2. Network and volunteer in the community

Speaking of networking — this is absolutely something to focus on in the weeks and days after finishing your studies. After all, it’s all about who you know! Definitely listen to the networking and volunteer opportunities recommended by your school. If none are suggested, make sure to ask.

Beyond their advice, here are a few specific groups to join and places to look for networking opportunities in your community.

3. Consider additional certifications and licenses

Do you want to work in Washington or Oregon? Knowing ahead of graduation is very important as there are different licensing requirements for Dental Assistants depending on which state you work in.

In Washington, you’ll be able to start work right away as there are no licensing requirements for the majority of entry-level Dental Assistant jobs. Oregon is different — before working as a Dental Assistant, you’re required to work for at least 1,000 hours or pass a series of Oregon licensing exams.

The good news is, your previous internship hours will count towards this 1,000 hours of work experience. The not so good… you’ll still need to find a practice that will let you complete the remaining 968 hours.

As we mentioned above, finding Dental Assisting internships can be challenging. Remember that your program is your best partner in this search, so make sure to take advantage of your time there to seek assistance in this area.

If you’d rather forego the additional internship hours, you also have the option of passing a series of Oregon licensing exams. This will require some extra study time, but thankfully you’ll have just completed your training and will have all the knowledge you need to pass these exams.

Beyond licensing, some students decide to give their job search a leg up by obtaining additional Dental Assisting certifications. There are a number of certification you may be interested in obtaining, but the most popular include:

These certifications can make you look more attractive to potential employers or may help you start off in a higher level position.

4. Know where to look

Your Dental Assisting program will be a huge help to you when looking for your first position out of school, but you should put some effort into looking for opportunities on your own, too.

You should begin looking for Dental Assistant opportunities before you finish training. Don’t be afraid to start developing relationships and “putting out feelers” at various dental practices in the area.

Even if a practice isn’t looking to hire, they may know of another place that is or can put you on a list to call in the future. If nothing else, the practice of approaching a dentist office will help you feel more comfortable and confident.

In addition to researching local dental practices, you can also look on traditional job board sites, such as…

  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Craigslist

5. Develop an interview-winning resume

Take some time to craft a professional resume. There are a few best practices you should follow:

  • Keep your resume to a single page.
  • Only include information that will be interesting and relevant to a dental practice.
  • Include a brief summary of core competencies including both soft and hard skills. For example detail-oriented (soft skill) and equipment sterilization (hard skill).
  • Include the name of the Dental Assisting program you completed.
  • Include any and all dental-related roles — paid or unpaid. Include duties performed, skills gained, and any notable achievements.

We highly recommend taking showing your resume to your Dental Assisting instructor to gain feedback. They know exactly what dental practices are looking for and will be able to give it a good critique.

6. Prepare for common dental assistant interview questions

Every practice will vary in their approach to interviews, but there are a few common questions that most Dental Assistants are asked during this process:

  • Why did you choose a career in Dental Assisting?
  • What steps do you take to prepare for a patient visit?
  • How would you explain the need for a dental procedure to a patient who doesn’t understand its importance?
  • How do you maintain patient confidentiality?
  • What’s your comfort level with dental practice management software?

Throughout these questions, the practice will be looking for signs that you possess qualities like:

  • Knowledge of the role
  • Resourcefulness
  • Organization skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Computer literacy and possible dental
  • software knowledge
  • Patience
  • Listening skills
  • Friendly and professional

Read more about the qualities of a successful Dental Assistant here!

The right job starts with the right school

Going through a trusted Dental Assisting program will make all the difference in your ability to get to work right out of school.

At the Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School, you’ll never be left up a creek after finishing our program — it’s one of the big benefits of going through our program! We actively assist every one of our students in their career search and place graduates with many local dental practices. In fact, nearly 100% of graduates start working right away!

If you have questions about finding a Dental Assisting job after school, let us know. We’d love to help.