Posted by Jeffrey E. Wherry, CFP®, ChFC®, AIF® on May 17, 2021 9:00:00 AM
Getting through dental school and preparing to move into the working world can be an exciting time. To help maximize your ability to move from dental school to practicing, you can apply for associate dentist jobs. But when should you do that, and what should you be considering as you apply?
Those are fair questions, and important ones as you work your way through school and get closer to graduation. In general, you don't want to start applying for associate dentist jobs too early.
You don't have much chance of being accepted to a job you won't be licensed to do for some time yet. But when you're much closer to the end of your studies you have a better chance at securing employment that starts when school ends.
You may need to wait for a while to be licensed, since it doesn't happen the moment your last class is finished. You have tests to take, and then you'll need to wait for your license to become active. But that doesn't mean you have to wait until then before you start applying for jobs.
You can strive for a balance between getting close to the end of your schooling before you apply and not waiting too long, so you don't miss out on valuable time in your career. Many people start applying for residency or jobs while in their 4th year of dental school, but you can also begin your search during your third year of dental school.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Dentist Job?
The length of time it takes to get hired as an associate depends on a number of factors. Some people will have great success and get hired right away. Others might have less success and not be hired as quickly. There are a lot of things that matter to the dental office you're applying to, and even if you're a great candidate there may be others who seem to be a better fit. Often, it's nothing personal when you don't get hired right away or someone else is hired instead of you. It also depends on the state you're in, as each has different practice requirements, and you may have to make some adjustments if you're planning to move.
It's not likely that your scores in dental school or on exams will be the only thing that matters, because the ability to interview well is also important. But don't underestimate the value of high marks during your dental school years.
If you have a high GPA, belonged to or even led dental clubs, shadowed dentists, or did other work that appears to go above and beyond the norm, you may have a better chance of getting hired right away. With multiple factors coming into play and everyone's case being different, it's not easy to know exactly how long getting a job will actually take. Some people look for work for months, while others have a job before they graduate -- and everything in between.
Where Do You Want to Live?
Where you plan to live matters. That's true not just of neighborhoods and nearby locations, but also of cities, towns, and states. The requirements to be an associate dentist in one state may be slightly different from those of another state.
Your education should be good in any state, but you'll need to make sure you also understand that there are exams and other requirements to address before practicing. If you're coming from another state and must complete additional activities because of it, that may make it more difficult to get a job. Being a strong candidate in other ways may also help to offset that concern.
Also consider the number of people you'll be competing against, depending on where you choose to live. For example, some dental school graduates have had more success by choosing to live and work in rural areas. They may be able to get patients more easily that way, and they may also have a better chance to be hired because there aren't typically as many people who want to work in those areas. Many dental school graduates head to the big cities where they believe their starting salaries will be higher, but that means there's likely a shortage of rural dentists. Choosing a less populated area could make starting your career easier.
What Are Your Future Career Plans?
Working as an associate dentist can help you learn a lot and get years of practical experience. But is it what you plan to do forever? The goal of many dental school graduates is to open their own practice.
If that's something you plan to do in the future, deciding where and how you want to work toward that path may help you make choices now that you can benefit from later. Because dental school takes a lot of time and effort, performing well as a dentist should be a serious focus. That may help you pay your student loans from completion of your degree, and may also give you a quality career where you can help people and do work that you're passionate about.
How Have You Set Yourself up to Achieve Your Goals?
Starting early may make things easier, but that doesn't mean you can't attend and graduate from dental school at an older age, either.
Learn more about the decisions you’ll be facing as graduation nears and your career begins in our Post-Dental School Survival Guide.
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This content is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice. Treloar & Heisel, LLC. does not offer legal advice.