The average salary for a dental assistant in the U.S. is about $42,180 per year.
$28,940 (low 10%)
$58,390 (top 90%)
Dental assistants earn an average of $42,180 per year according to the bls.gov.
The range in pay goes from $28,940 to $58,390 per year.
How much does a dental assistant make?
According to the bls.gov, as of May 2020, the average dental assistant salary is $41,180 a year. That works out to an hourly pay of about $19.80 per hour which is much higher than minimum wage.
The nice thing about becoming a dental assistant is that it doesn’t take a 4-year degree to gain employment. Often, you only need to work through a 1-year program that results in a certificate or diploma. In addition, it’s possible to learn through on-the-job training as many states do not require a license to gain employment as a dental assistant.
The lowest pay reported by the bls.gov for dental assistants is $28,940 (or $13.91 per hour) while the highest pay is $58,390 ($28.07 per hour). It’s a big range in pay and the variability includes the state and region of employment, the industry, as well as experience and education level.
Top paying industries for dental assistants
There are certain industries that pay higher for dental assistants. These include state government, nursing care facilities, and other ambulatory services. See the table below for more along with the average pay.
Interestingly, the industries with the highest levels of employment for dental assistants do not make the list of those with the highest pay. Offices of dentists and physicians are two industries with high employment levels for dental assistants. Both pay around the average rate, but do not make the list of highest pay.
|State government excluding schools & hospitals||$50,080|
|Nursing care facilities||$46,370|
|Other ambulatory services||$46,090|
|Management of companies||$46,010|
|General medical & surgical hospitals||$45,620|
Top paying cities for dental assistants
There are several cities where the average pay for dental assistants is higher. These include Santa Rosa, CA, the Minneapolis region in MN, and Vallejo, CA. Check the table below for the average pay in these cities as well as the complete list of higher-paying cities.
In many cases, you can be as much as $15,000 per year over the typical pay just by gaining employment in one of the listed cities.
|Santa Rosa, CA||$58,570|
|Minneapolis/St Paul region, MN/WI||$56,240|
|San Jose region, CA||$54,250|
Dental assistant salaries by state
The top-paying states for dental assistants are Minnesota, Massachusetts, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Oregon.
How do dental assistant salaries compare to related careers?
The average salary for dental assistants is around $42,000 per year which is higher than both medical assistants and pharmacy technicians. Both these similar careers pay around $35,000 per year. Dental assistants make on average $7,000 more per year than both these careers.
Dental assistants and medical assistants often require a certificate or diploma. Pharmacy technicians often only require a high school diploma or equivalent.
Another career similar to dental assistants include dental hygienists. Dental hygienists on average earn $77,000 per year which is $35,000 more than dental assistants. Becoming a dental hygienist often requires an Associate’s degree which is a little more education than dental assistants, but the pay is so much higher it will often be worth it.
Finally, dentists make the list of careers similar to dental assistants. Dentists earn $164,010 on average which is $122,000 more per year than dental assistants! However, the education required to become a dentist is high. You will need a doctoral degree in order to become a dentist.