The dental assistant in Montana is an entry-level health worker who aids the dentist in multiple routine duties around the office. Some assistants can potentially find jobs even if they are not certified, but this is becoming rare as the majority of organizations now would prefer to employ only applicants who have finished an accredited program.

This position is a good one for those people who are beginning their careers in healthcare, due to the increasing demand for their abilities in Montana. The 2016 Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% surge in new opportunities for dental assistants through 2026.

What is a dental assistant?

For the most part, dental assistants in Montana handle a range of day-to-day customer service and patient care tasks for the dentist. The link here reflects the traditional assignments that offices place on their assistants.

The steps to becoming a dental assistant in Montana

The four-part process for becoming a dental assistant in Montana is shown below.

Step 1 – Get your high school diploma or GED

Getting your high school diploma is one of the important foundations to finding work in any type of skilled position. Working in the healthcare field is no different. There are a few openings in the industry that can be held without completing a high school diploma, but they generally have very little room for growth.

If shopping for a dental assistant certification program, you can expect to also find that almost all educators require trainees to hold a diploma or G.E.D. before registration. For that reason, whatever your ultimate professional goal, be sure that you finish this step.

Step 2: Register for courses accredited by the CODA

The next step in becoming a certified dental assistant is to register for classes that are approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The CODA is a nationally-recognized body that coordinates dental assistant education around the nation.

What’s CODA accreditation?

Considering that only individuals who graduate from a training course approved by the CODA are immediately eligible to take either of the national certification exams, it’s imperative that you attend a training program that is recognized by this organization.

About online dental assistant programs

In order to better cater to pupils who are employed or have other responsibilities that make going to class difficult, a large number of schools offer pharmacy tech classes online. In circumstances where a college student might not live near a school, these courses are also ideal.

To clear up a common misconception, even though online classes allow students to undertake their classroom studies via distance learning, the clinical, internship part of their training has to be finished at a physical location.

Step 3: Finish program and necessary hands-on training hours

Once you’ve found an accredited program that satisfies your requirements, the next thing is to finish it. The classroom and hands-on segments of the conventional program can often be finished in 12 months or less.

The academic segment of your training will most likely include all of the concepts and procedural-type information that will be a part of the certification test. Offering trainees hands-on practice in a real dental office, alternatively, is the emphasis of the internship section of a course.

Step 4: Pass the NELDA or CDA Certification Exam

In order to receive a nationally-recognized dental assistant certification, you will need to pass the NELDA or CDA exam. Eligibility to challenge either of these assessments requires you to initially graduate from a CODA-accredited training program. A passing grade on either examination will award you the title Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

We take a deeper look at these exams below.

National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)

One of the primary nationwide examinations is the National Entry Level Dental Assistant Exam (NELDA), which is a three-part examination administered throughout the nation. The test is given in a timed structure, and consists of three component exams (the RHS, ICE and AMP). Right after passing the examination, the individual obtains the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) credential.

Becoming eligible to sit for the test requires the student being able to satisfy one of the next two criteria:

    • Completed a CODA-accredited dental assistant training course, or
    • Obtained comparable work experience as a dental assistant

CDA Exam

The CDA Exam is sponsored by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), and additionally offers the title of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). This timed exam features 60 questions, presented in a timed format.

In order to be eligible to sit for this assessment, candidates have to satisfy one of the following prerequisites:

    • Finished a CODE-accredited dental assistant program, or
    • Obtained equivalent work experience as a dental assistant

How much does a dental assistant make in Montana?

Dental assistant compensation can vary based upon many variables, but the median pay was $37,630 in 2017 per the current data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The data table below highlights the most recent data on salary offered in Montana.

LocationPay TypeLowMedianHigh
United StatesHourly$12.24$17.76$25.00
Yearly$25,460$36,940$52,000
MontanaHourly$12.22$16.63$22.28
Yearly$25,420$34,590$46,350
Billings, MT MSAHourly$13.71$19.05$24.15
Yearly$28,520$39,630$50,220
Western Montana BOSHourly$11.47$16.94$21.39
Yearly$23,850$35,240$44,490
Central Montana BOSHourly$12.51$16.54$22.52
Yearly$26,020$34,410$46,840
Great Falls, MT MSAHourly$13.20$16.33$19.23
Yearly$27,460$33,970$40,000
Southwestern Montana BOSHourly$12.38$16.25$21.58
Yearly$25,740$33,790$44,880
Eastern Montana BOSHourly$10.54$15.74$21.40
Yearly$21,930$32,730$44,520
Missoula, MT MSAHourly$10.96$15.52$19.42
Yearly$22,790$32,270$40,400