Ashlie Walters, of Sutherland, takes a maxillary impression from Elisha Keim, of Cozad. Walters and Keim are students in the dental assisting program
at MPCC.

Mid-Plains Community College is now offering a faster way for people to embark on a career in dental assisting. Those with qualifying college placement exam scores will no longer have to interview for MPCC’s Dental Assisting Program. The timing couldn’t be better. “There is such a demand right now for dental assistants,” said Lauri Rogers, director of the dental assisting program at MPCC. “I have had numerous calls in the past 30 days from dental offices looking for help. I don’t have any more graduates to send. They’ve all been snatched up.”

It’s a predicament not likely to be resolved any time soon. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the employment of dental assistants will grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024 – much faster than the average for all occupations.

The Bureau attributes the demand to ongoing research linking oral health and general health, which in turn increases the need for preventive dental services.

Dental assistants aid dentists similarly to how nurses help doctors. While specific duties vary by office, dental assistants often prepare and hand dentists instruments, inform and calm patients, take x-rays, keep track of records and sometimes even schedule appointments.

“It’s a stimulating and rewarding profession,” said Rogers. “You never get into a routine of doing the same thing every day. Even the same procedure on a different patient is challenging.”

The pay is pretty good, too. According to the Bureau, the median annual wage for dental assistants as of May 2015, the most recent statistics available, was $35,980 or approximately $17.30 per hour.

MPCC’s 11-month American Dental Association-accredited program leads to a diploma in dental assisting and comes with the option of completing an Associate of Applied Science degree.   

Dental Assistant stats according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2015 Median Pay:
$35,980 per year/
$17.30 per hour

Number of jobs in 2014: 318,800

Job Outlook for 2014-2024:
18% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change for
2014-2024: 58,600

Nebraska

1,840 jobs available in the state in 2014. 2,040 expected by 2024. An average of 70 openings per year in the state.