Dental Assistant Salary: How Much Do Dental Assistants Make?

Dental Assistant Salary & Hourly Wage

For dental assistants, salary and hourly wage vary based on location, training, experience and qualifications. This page will walk you through current dental assisting salary figures and provide a few pointers on increasing your pay as a dental assistant.

How Much Do Dental Assistants Make? Current Salaries and Wages Nationwide

Here is an overview of annual dental assistant salary and hourly wage figures for the US, as of 2012:

Lowest Pay Median Pay Highest Pay Average Pay
Annual Salary $23,550 $34,500 $47,580 $35,080
Hourly Wage $11.32 $16.59 $22.87 $16.86

Dental Assistant Salary and Wages by State

How much dental assistants make varies from state to state. This is due to differences in cost of living, levels of demand for dental assistants, and other factors. Here are the 10 highest-paying states for dental assistant salary and hourly wage:

Salary by State

State Lowest Salary Median Salary Highest Salary Average Salary
New Hampshire $29,380 $44,360 $57,630 $43,480
Minnesota $32,470 $42,480 $54,630 $42,420
Alaska $27,970 $42,250 $56,780 $41,970
District of Columbia $26,600 $42,400 $57,610 $41,730
Massachusetts $28,880 $40,950 $56,100 $41,290
Connecticut $30,970 $41,010 $53,460 $40,680
Oregon $30,720 $38,140 $52,710 $39,500
Washington $27,700 $39,390 $52,340 $39,430
New Jersey $24,380 $38,730 $53,950 $38,690
Maine $27,330 $37,650 $47,520 $37,780
See all states…

Hourly Wage by State

State Lowest Hourly Wage Median Hourly Wage Highest Hourly Wage Average Hourly Wage
New Hampshire $14.13 $21.33 $27.71 $20.91
Minnesota $15.61 $20.42 $26.27 $20.39
Alaska $13.45 $20.31 $27.30 $20.18
District of Columbia $12.79 $20.38 $27.70 $20.06
Massachusetts $13.88 $19.69 $26.97 $19.85
Connecticut $14.89 $19.72 $25.70 $19.56
Oregon $14.77 $18.34 $25.34 $18.99
Washington $13.32 $18.94 $25.16 $18.96
New Jersey $11.72 $18.62 $25.94 $18.60
Maine $13.14 $18.10 $22.85 $18.17

Dental Assistant Salary and Hourly Wage by City

Dental assistant salary also varies by city. In general, major cities trend toward higher dental assistant pay than small towns and rural areas do, though several factors make some cities more lucrative than others for dental assistants. Here is dental assistant pay for a few major US cities:

Salary by City

City Lowest Salary Median Salary Highest Salary Average Salary
San Francisco, CA $31,240 $49,680 $60,000 $47,280
Anchorage, AK $30,470 $45,620 $57,390 $44,610
Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN $34,580 $43,840 $55,930 $44,130
Boston, MA $30,670 $42,270 $57,460 $42,560
Seattle, WA $29,540 $42,580 $55,290 $42,240
Hartford, CT $32,310 $42,420 $53,620 $42,060
Newark, NJ $25,340 $42,210 $56,320 $40,880
Portland, ME $32,140 $41,670 $47,810 $40,860
Washington, DC $25,600 $39,170 $57,870 $40,350
Tacoma, WA $27,660 $39,490 $55,060 $40,020
See other cities…

Hourly Wage by City

City Lowest Hourly Wage Median Hourly Wage Highest Hourly Wage Average Hourly Wage
San Francisco, CA $15.02 $23.89 $28.85 $22.73
Anchorage, AK $14.65 $21.93 $27.59 $21.45
Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN $16.62 $21.08 $26.89 $21.21
Boston, MA $14.75 $20.32 $27.63 $20.46
Seattle, WA $14.20 $20.47 $26.58 $20.31
Hartford, CT $15.54 $20.39 $25.78 $20.22
Portland, ME $15.45 $20.03 $22.98 $19.65
Newark, NJ $12.18 $20.29 $27.08 $19.65
Washington, DC $12.31 $18.83 $27.82 $19.40
Portland, OR $15.07 $18.81 $25.01 $19.24

Factors that Impact Salary and Wages for Dental Assistants

How much dental assistants make is not set in stone. There are many factors that can influence dental assistant salary, including the level of education received, the amount of job experience, the presence of dental assistant certification, and others. Here are a few of the larger ones.

  • Geographic location. Location affects dental assistant salaries more than most other factors, with higher-demand areas such as major cities generally paying more than rural areas. The cost of living also plays a part in a dental assistant salary, as more expensive locations typically pay a higher salary to compensate for higher living costs.
  • Scope of Duties. A dental assistant’s specific job description affects pay, because employers balance their employees’ pay with the amount of work being done. A single dental assistant working in a large office will generally make more than one of several assistants splitting duties.
  • Training. The level of training impacts how much dental assistants can make because of opportunity cost. Since a well-trained dental assistant can find work more easily, employers are willing to offer higher salaries to make their opportunity more attractive.
  • Certification. The presence of dental assistant certification is another factor that employers are willing to pay higher wages for, because certified dental assistants are usually in higher demand than those whoa re not certified.

How to Increase Your Dental Assistant Salary

Following from the factors that impact how much dental assistants make, the way dental assistants can improve their pay is to manipulate these factors. Here are some things you can do to increase your salary as a dental assistant:

  • Get more education. Since an associate degree is more focused than a certificate, more training can often lead to a higher salary.
  • Get certified. A certified dental assistant is worth a higher salary than a non-certified dental assistant, because employers value the affirmation that they are competent.
  • Gain more experience. It goes without saying that a more experienced dental assistant can ask for a higher salary than a less experienced one.
  • Move to another city. As the chart above demonstrates, dental assistant salary by city can vary widely. The best thing is to live in a low-cost area and work in a high-paying area.
  • Ask for a higher dental assistant salary. If everything else on this list is in place, sometimes all a dental assistant needs to do is ask for a higher salary.

Figures based on 2012 data courtesy of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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