Employment prospects for dental assistants are expected to skyrocket over the coming decade, growing just under thirty percent during that time. The reasons for the employment growth are varied, but include an aging population, a greater emphasis on health (since dental health has been tied to mortality and morbidity), and a greater demand for dentist procedures. Since dentists will be busier with the more complicated procedures, in the future it is expected that dental assistants will take on more of the less challenging treatments. This means more employment and great salaries for dental assistants; this is definitely a good result.
From the last year of data available, 2006, there were just under three hundred thousand dental assistant positions available. Given the relatively modern nature of the field and the recent decision by the American Dental Association to only accredit legitimate training programs, the field is seeing a lack of qualified individuals ready for employment. This has resulted in a steady increase in both the initial starting salaries of positions as well as the gradual increase for more experienced practitioners.
In order to maximize one's employment potential, there are a number of steps that can be taken. Initially, it is important to excel in high school or the equivalent, with a special focus on biological sciences. Some programs are also emphasizing computer skills, as you will doubtless be handling medical records, many in electronic format.
Besides good grades, it's also a good idea to have some practical experience in a dental office, even if it means volunteering for free. This will give you tremendous experience, allowing you to excel beyond your peers, and likely also result in a letter of recommendation or a reference for hire. Even before you finish a training program, this sort of experience means you'll be readily employable upon successful completion and receipt of your dental assistant certificate.