According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in January 2014, dental hygienist positions are projected to increase 33 percent between 2012 and 2022, a steep increase that exceeds the average occupational growth. With flexible hours and competitive pay rates, a career in dental hygiene is an attractive option for men and women interested in oral care or health science. For those near the Atlanta metro there are several schools which offer certification, associate degrees and initial licensure in dental hygiene.
Gwinnett Dental Career Academy
The Gwinnett Dental Career Academy is located in the Gwinnett County city of Suwanee, in the northeast metro. This introductory 10-week program is offered on Saturdays only, allowing working professionals who are just beginning in the dental care industry or considering a career change to learn some of the duties of a sterilization technician, hygiene assistant or chairside assistant without the academic and financial commitment of a two- or four-year program. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and in possession of a high school diploma or GED. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be equipped with the basic skills and requirements for employment in a dental office, including a certificate of completion, a Georgia Department of Human Resources radiology certificate, and an American Heart Association CPR certificate.
Atlanta Technical College
Atlanta Technical College, located just south of downtown Atlanta, offers a two-year associate degree in dental hygiene. Students complete courses in both dental hygiene and general education, receiving a Dental Hygiene Associate of Applied Science degree upon graduation, equipping them for employment in either private practices or public health clinics. To be accepted into the program, applicants must be at least 18 years old and in possession of a high school diploma or GED. In addition, applicants must complete prerequisite courses in biology, microbiology, and chemistry, as well as complete the ACT Asset/Compass standardized test.
Georgia Perimeter College
Georgia Perimeter’s dental hygiene program is taught on the Dunwoody campus north of Atlanta. The program focuses on dental services such as radiography, tooth scaling and polishing, and precautionary oral care. Students who complete the two-year program, including general education and professional dental hygiene courses, will receive their associate degree and official qualification to apply for the Dental Hygiene National Board Examination and State Board Exam for licensure as a dental hygienist. Applicants interested in the program must first be accepted to Georgia Perimeter College with a major of health science and must pass the prerequisite courses of chemistry (one semester) and anatomy and physiology (two semesters) with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
Clayton State University
Clayton State is a four-year college located in Morrow, a suburb south of the city. Students can get their bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene by completing two years of general education courses and two years of dental hygiene coursework and fieldwork, resulting in initial licensure upon graduation. Applicants must be accepted to Clayton State University with a major of pre-dental hygiene, and complete 45 hours of core curriculum with a 2.5 GPA or higher in order to qualify for the dental hygiene program. Clayton State also requires applicants to interview with the program staff prior to acceptance.
2016 Salary Information for Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of $72,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dental hygienists earned a 25th percentile salary of $60,500, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $86,390, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 207,900 people were employed in the U.S. as dental hygienists.
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