A dental associateship is an excellent way to practice dentistry without the burden of running one’s own independent practice. Dental associateships may happen within corporate dental offices, which may have multiple locations throughout the country. They may also be offered by independent local practices that are looking to grow.
Regardless of where a dental associateship may be, it generally offers the same basic pros and cons.
The pros may be that you’re an employee as opposed to a business owner, meaning you only have to worry about practicing dentistry on a daily basis.
The cons may be that you don’t have ownership of a business, so you may have less opportunity for income growth or promotion. Some associates may be paid based on production with potential for growth based on production or collections.
Still, associate dentists can be happy in their positions — and their lives — depending on what they want out of their careers.
Here’s how you can pursue becoming a dental associate.
Tips to Pursue a Dental Associateship: A Three-Step Plan
If you think a dental associate is the path you want to pursue to begin your dental career, keep the following three steps in mind as you pursue that path.
Step 1: Network with Practicing Dentists
During dental school — as opposed to graduation — is a good time to network.
This is because you need to earn a future position with an already practicing dentist for your associate placement. If you meet practicing dentists while you’re in school and develop relationships with them, then those relationships could help you with an associate placement after your graduation.
You may want to have as little downtime as possible between your graduation and when you begin your first employed position as a new dentist, so don’t wait until graduation to cultivate important relationships within the dental industry.
Even though you may only work for one dentist, it's also beneficial to build a network of professional relationships with several dentists and other industry professionals.
Step 2: Pick Your Employer
There are a few choices for you to consider as your first employer post dental school. The most common decision is whether to opt for a corporate office setting or a small practice.
Many dental graduates may work as associate dentists within a corporate office, which isn’t a bad thing. You may consider working as an associate dentist within a corporate dental practice or dental service organization (DSO). In fact, in some cases, larger corporations or DSOs can offer you a more secure employment opportunity when compared with small practices for various reasons.
For example, a corporate dentist practice will likely provide a more clearly defined path of advancement for you as a new dentist, while smaller practices might leave you waiting on the primary dentist or owner to retire in order for you to advance your career.
Of course, a small practice may be more likely to allow you to know the members of your community well and establish lifelong relationships with your patients.
As a result, it’s important to understand that there are advantages and disadvantages to each option. Regardless of whether it's a corporate setting or a local, smaller practice, make sure any employer you consider lines up with you in terms of company culture and personal values.
These are often non-negotiable. You must agree with the value and direction of any practice you join to help your career advance as you prefer.
Step 3: Know When to Move on
Becoming an associate dentist means you have a great deal of opportunities for career advancement. Consequently, if you maintain a positive reputation for yourself, you may be given opportunities to move to a different practice.
While job-hopping isn’t common in dental careers, as a dental associate you have the flexibility of finding employment elsewhere. Conversely, this is not as practical for dentist-entrepreneurs who likely would not want to leave a business without selling it.
This freedom you enjoy as an associate dentist is one of its most significant benefits and can make it a better option than starting your own practice.
It’s important to recognize when your appropriate job opportunity might be at another practice. When you realize you need to move on, begin preparing to do just that, don’t delay. Remember, the freedom you have now as an associate dentist should be embraced.
Treloar & Heisel: Working with Associate Dentists throughout Their Careers
Becoming an associate dentist can put you on a lucrative career path and give you a way to give back to your community with a valuable service. While the journey to becoming an associate dentist is not necessarily easy in terms of educational requirements and training, it’s a worthwhile effort for a rewarding profession for those who become associate dentists.
Contact Treloar & Heisel today to learn how we can help you prepare for and protect your career as an associate dentist.
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Treloar & Heisel, Inc. does not offer career management advice. This information is intended for general informational purposes only.