One of the most common questions asked when researching a career path is, how long does it take? How many years do you need to commit to get there? For successful careers in medicine and healthcare, this question is even more pressing. Many healthcare careers take years of schooling, and often graduate degrees, to achieve.
Dentists, for example, must complete at least a bachelor’s degree (about four years of school), plus a two- to four- year residency, plus two- to five- years in training if they want to get into research or education. For those who are hoping to get into the field fast, or for those who are looking to change career paths, this can sound like a lot.
If you are interested in becoming a dental hygienist in Connecticut, this question is also likely top of mind: how long does it take to become a dental hygienist today? Let’s break it down.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Dental Hygienist Program?
On average, two to three years.
To become a dental hygienist in Connecticut (and most states), you must have an associate degree or higher from an accredited dental hygienist school. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these degree programs typically last three years, as students have to complete extensive laboratory, clinical, and classroom experiences before graduation.
Some colleges will offer more flexible dental hygienist programs, for those looking to get working fast. For example, the dental hygienist school at Goodwin College is structured into six semesters, with three academic semesters offered per year. This means that, if students choose, they can finish their degree in as few as 24 months with full-time coursework.
Some dental hygiene schools will offer bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, though these are much less common. Usually, a bachelor’s or master’s is only required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public health and school settings. A bachelor’s degree program can take about four years to complete.
If two years sounds better than three or four to become a dental hygienist, it is important to seek a program with flexibility. It is also important to find a program that offers you the experience needed to not only become a dental hygienist, but to become a great one. Find a dental hygienist program that offers a blend of online and hands-on learning experiences, so that you can get the most of training and coursework. Look for a school that allows you to get involved in the local dentistry community, so that you can then put your learnings to practice.
At Goodwin College, dental hygiene students are required to fully participate in clinical rotations and community service activities. During their studies, they work inside our state-of-the-art dental lab and active dental hygiene clinic (with real patients!), under the supervision of licensed dentists. During their final year, students also go outside of the clinic to provide dental hygiene services across the Greater Hartford region, and to educate others on the importance of oral health. We believe these hands-on experiences, reinforced throughout the entirety of the program, allows students to perfect their skills and become the most successful dental hygienists possible.
Time to Become a Licensed Dental Hygienist
In addition to earning an associate degree in dental hygiene, aspiring dental hygienists must also earn licensure. This is required in all 50 states, including Connecticut. Licensure is achieved by taking the National Board Dental Hygiene exams, which students prepare for throughout their dental hygiene programs.
In terms of timing, the National Board exams can be completed in one day, taking between 7.5 and 9 hours to complete, according to the ADA. The results are made available approximately three to four weeks after the testing takes place.
As outlined by the Connecticut Department of Labor, to become a licensed dental hygienist, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Graduated from an American Dental Association (ADA) accredited dental hygiene program
- Successfully complete the National Board Examinations
- Successfully complete one of the following clinical performance examinations:
- Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (formerly NERB)
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies
- Southern Regional Testing Agency
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service
- Western Regional Examining Board
All in all, it can take between two to three years to become a dental hygienist, though your educational route will largely dictate the length of time it takes. At Goodwin College, students usually get trained and working in the field in two years’ time, on a full-time class schedule. For aspiring dental hygienists who need added flexibility, class schedules can be adjusted based on your unique needs.
Becoming a dental hygienist is in reach – a length of time should never get in the way or hold you back from realizing your dream. Call 800-889-3282 to learn more about the flexible dental hygienist program at Goodwin College. Or, visit us online at https://www.goodwin.edu/landingpages/dental-hygiene to learn more!