The dental assistant in California is an entry-level health worker who supports the dentist in multiple routine duties around the office. Although it is possible for those who have graduated from high school to prepare for this career through on-the-job training, most employers prefer to employ candidates who have completed a 12-month dental assistant certification training course.

The need for dental assistants in California is expected to increase greatly in the next few years, which makes it an attractive option for those who are beginning their careers. The 2016 Occupational Outlook Handbook released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 19% growth in new jobs for dental assistants through 2026.

What is a dental assistant?

Dental assistants in California are employed under the guidance of a dentist, and are responsible for completing a variety of supporting duties that help to keep the office running smoothly. While many managers might require additional duties, the following link shows what the principal function of most dental assistants are.

The steps to becoming a dental assistant in California

The certification process to become a dental assistant in California can be summarized in the next four steps.

Step 1 – Complete high school or earn your G.E.D.

Getting your high school diploma is one of the important foundations to becoming employed in any specialized job. When considering job opportunities in the medical field, this is particularly true. You can find jobs in the field that can be held without finishing a high school diploma, but they typically have little room for growth.

Where dental assistant training courses are concerned, you’ll also discover early on that the majority of accredited programs want students to provide proof of at least a G.E.D. before beginning classes. For that reason, whatever your ultimate career goal, make sure that you finish this step.

Step 2: Find a program accredited by CODA and register for training

The second step in becoming eligible to work as a certified dental assistant is to register for training courses that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The CODA is a nationally-regarded body that coordinates dental assisting training across the nation.

Why CODA accreditation matters

Considering that only trainees who finish a training program accredited by the CODA are immediately eligible to sit for either of the national certification exams, it really is imperative that you finish a training program that is recognized by this body.

Dental assistant classes online

A favored alternative option to campus-based instruction, dental assistant classes online supply students the versatility to attend class and complete their education according to their own daily schedules. In instances where a student may not live near a school, these courses are likewise ideal.

While it’s quite possible to complete the academic part of a course online, it will nevertheless be necessary to finish the hands-on training section in-person at a designated location.

Step 3: Complete training course and required hands-on training hours

After finding an accredited program that meets your requirements, the next thing is to finish it. The academic and hands-on sections of the conventional program can be completed in 12 months or less.

The majority of training programs dedicate the classroom section of their syllabus to the subject matter that is included in the national certification assessments. Giving students hands-on experience in an actual dental office, on the other hand, is the emphasis of the internship section of a course.

Step 4: Pass the NELDA or CDA Certification Exam

There are two highly-popular dental assistant certification tests – the NELDA and CDA. Becoming eligible to challenge these examinations requires you to initially graduate from a CODA-accredited training course. College students who pass either examination obtain the nationally-acknowledged distinction of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

Each of these tests are broken down in more depth below.

National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)

One of the primary nationwide tests is the National Entry Level Dental Assistant Exam (NELDA), which is a three-part assessment administered all over the nation. The NELDA includes three component exams (the RHS, ICE and AMP) given in a one-hour, 50-minute timed structure. A passing grade on the exam awards the individual the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification.

Becoming eligible to take the examination requires the pupil being able to satisfy either of the next two criteria:

    • Graduated from a CODA-accredited dental assistant training program, or
    • Obtained comparable work experience as a dental assistant

CDA Exam

Also sponsored by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), is the CDA Exam additionally grants the nationally-regarded title Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) to individuals who get a passing score. There are 60 multiple-choice problems on this one-hour, 45-minute timed examination.

In order to become eligible to take this examination, individuals need to satisfy the following prerequisites:

    • Graduated from a CODE-accredited dental assistant training program, or
    • Acquired equivalent on-the-job experience as a dental assistant

Dental assistant pay in California

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a dental assistant in the U.S. was $37,630 as of May 2017.

Dental assistant salary in California may differ a bit from the national average, as is shown in the table below.

LocationPay TypeLowMedianHigh
United StatesHourly$12.24$17.76$25.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSAHourly$13.46$22.53$32.95
Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA MSAHourly$15.86$22.07$31.04
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan DivisionHourly$13.75$21.60$30.85
Napa, CA MSAHourly$11.58$21.42$28.34
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA MSAHourly$15.95$21.03$27.81
Chico, CA MSAHourly$13.66$20.62$25.57
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA MSAHourly$13.39$19.60$27.96
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA MSAHourly$13.23$19.21$24.94
North Coast Region (BOS)Hourly$13.39$19.19$27.03
Yuba City, CA MSAHourly$13.49$19.08$23.91
Salinas, CA MSAHourly$14.98$19.00$27.84
Visalia-Porterville, CA MSAHourly$13.73$18.97$24.70
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan DivisionHourly$15.32$18.86$28.50
Madera-Chowchilla, CA MSAHourly$13.16$18.66$26.10
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA MSAHourly$13.37$18.59$25.74
Hanford-Corcoran, CA MSAHourly$13.22$18.57$26.68
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA MSAHourly$14.57$18.44$23.99
Mother Lode Region (BOS)Hourly$12.69$17.94$26.10
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA MSAHourly$12.83$17.83$26.96
North Valley Region (BOS)Hourly$11.20$17.07$23.70
Northern Mountains Region (BOS)Hourly$10.94$16.95$28.56
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan DivisionHourly$11.15$16.70$26.35
Stockton, CA MSAHourly$13.09$16.56$23.34
Modesto, CA MSAHourly$11.73$16.51$24.58
Redding, CA MSAHourly$12.59$16.43$24.08
El Centro, CA MSAHourly$10.75$16.31$26.09
Bakersfield-Delano, CA MSAHourly$11.13$16.02$24.54
Merced, CA MSAHourly$11.02$15.55$22.46
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA MSAHourly$10.72$15.23$23.02
Fresno, CA MSAHourly$10.37$13.94$21.78