The salary for a dental assistant can vary wildly. Some of the considering factors include: location (for example, is the position in an area with a high cost of living), experience, working conditions, education, and a multitude of other factors. Even though there is expected to be explosive job growth in the coming years, that doesn't mean one shouldn't prepare themselves as well as possible for the job. In doing so, you will find it easier to command one of the higher salaries in the field.
According to government data, the average hourly pay for a dental assistant was $14.53 (the data is from 2006, the last year on record). It's important to note that the figure is only an average, as the lowest ten percent made under ten dollars, and the highest ten made over twenty dollars. That's quite a range, and that doesn't even begin to include other factors that influence compensation. If you're going to be working one job full time, then you will likely also have the opportunity for a lucrative benefits package including health care and, of course, dental coverage. Make sure you factor this into your weighing of potential salaries.
One other consideration that many dental assistants don't consider is compensation for continuing education and course credits. Consider this, if the potential employer is willing to pay for your continued training and certifications, that can translate to big dollars down the line. Even if your pay stagnates at the current job you find yourself in, you'll become a much more attractive hire to other positions, and this in turn means a bigger salary. It's a winning combination for your future.
The majority of positions pay an hourly rate and not a yearly salary. There are a number of reasons for this, but if an annual salary is a preference for you, then the option is available. Many dental practices prefer the hourly rate because of changes in scheduling and the uncertainty of business. This way, they can hire extra work for the busy times, and when things slow down, they may offer less work to dental assistants, thus impacting their salaries.