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How to Become a Dental Assistant - Career Salaries, Job Stats & Education

How to Become a Dental Assistant - Career Salaries, Job Stats & Education

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/ How to Become a Dental Assistant - Career Salaries, Job Stats & Education

Dental Assistant career profile & Dental Assistance Certification

 To become a dental assistant in Australia, you usually need to complete a VET qualification, such as Certificate III in Dental Assisting. Becoming a certified worker in this profession is a great way to hone your skills in the dental health field, while working alongside patients and colleagues to get the best outcomes for your business.

Here’s everything you need to know about your education, including prospected salary, age profile, certification requirements and more.

Dental Assistant career job outlook

Dental Assistant Job outlook

Source:  Job outlook ABS Labour Force Survey, Department of Jobs and small business trend data to May 2018 and Department of Employment projections to 2024.

It’s great news for this profession. According to the Department of Jobs, up until 2024 the number of job openings for Dental Assistants will be around 36,400.

Job openings occur due to employment growth and job turnover, for example workers leaving this occupation.

This is a popular career choice. Looking forward, employment for Dental Assistants to 2024 is expected to grow strongly. This is a large sized occupation with 26,200 at the 2018 census. 

Duties and tasks of a Dental Assistant

  • arranging and handing instruments, medication, and other assistance help to Dental Practitioners
  • processing X-rays and preparing dental materials 
  • using suction devices and water sprays
  • routine equipment maintenance 
  • prevention of cross infection by sterilisation
  • advising patients on dental health and offering post-operative care and procedures
  • may include doing receptionist duties for Dental Practitioners
  • billing and other clerical tasks

Dental Assistant salary


     Dental assistant salary     Source: Based on ABS Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours (cat. no. 6306.0), May 2018, Customised Report. 

A full-time Dental Assistant will earn $1116 per week before tax and around $58032 annually

 Please note: For roles in Dental Assistance, rates of pay will vary depending on the skills and experience of the worker and the demands of the role. 

Dental Assistant weekly work hours

Full time workers spend around 40 hours per week on an average.

There may also be casual and contractor roles within this profession meaning that a certified worker in this profession will have many career options for weekly hours worked.

Being a Dental Professional: Age profile


 dental assistant age         Source: Based on ABS Census 2016, Customised Report. Age profile of workers in this job compared to the all jobs average.

The most popular age bracket for people in this profession is between 25 to 35 years old, with around 32.3% of workers. Just over 14.6% of workers are aged between 45 to 54 and 20.5% of workers are aged in between 20 to 24. The median age of this profession is 30.

Dental Assisting: Education Levels


dental assistant education

 Source: ABS Census 2016, Customised Report. Highest qualification completed by workers in this job (in any field of study).  Qualifications needed by new workers might be different from the qualifications of workers already in the job.​

The most typical qualification for a Dental Assistant to hold is a Certificate III or a Certificate IV. Nearly 42.9% of workers in this profession hold a certificate qualification.

11.1% of people hold a bachelor degree while 20.9% hold a Year 12 qualification only.  

Dental Assisting industry trends

According to the Australian Department of Jobs, Dental Assistants prepare patients for dental examination and assist Dental Practitioners, Hygienists and Therapists with providing care and treatment for patients. The most common type of educational attainment achieved by workers is a Certificate III. People in this profession are nearly all employed in Health Care and Social Assistance.

According to the Australian Dental Board the types of roles within this profession are Dental Hygienist, Dental Prosthetist, Dental Therapist, Oral Health Therapist and Dentist. The majority of workers work in New South Wales.

Australian dentistry is at the forefront of the world. According to the Australian Dental Association, progress has been made that reduces the need for surgery or antibiotics for people suffering from severe gum disease. Scientists based at Melbourne University's Oral Health CRC have developed a vaccine that works to prevent and reduce periodontitis, a world first initiative.

Dental Assisting Certification: What dental qualification do you need?

Certificate III in Dental Assisting 

This nationally recognised qualification equips you with the knowledge and skills to efficiently support a dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist during healthcare procedures, maintain high standards of infection control and assist with practice administration. Your studies will include cleaning and sterilising as well as helpful administrative skills.

Certificate III in Health Services Assistance

This course could be your pathway to a career as a nursing assistant. Careers in the health sector are regarded as fulfilling, stable and interesting and the Certificate III in Health Services Assistance is a nationally recognised qualification and could enable you to find entry-level work as an assistant in nursing or nursing support worker.

Why study dental through Open Colleges?

Your dental career and education starts here! Open Colleges health courses are a combination of online learning and a work placement, giving you the flexibility of organising your study around your life. You can enrol anytime of the year and study at your own pace. Your course includes comprehensive student support to help you throughout your study.

Among other things, you'll learn how to efficiently support a dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist during healthcare procedures, maintain high standards of infection control and assist with practice administration. You’ll also learn how to manage quality customer service, ensure team effectiveness, manage people performance and recruit, select and induct staff. 

Becoming a dental assistant in Australia

Many dental assistants in Australia are trained on the job. Most dental assistants have qualifications or are certified to assist dental practitioners. Dental assistants are not required to register or be accredited by any overseeing body to be able to work. 

Interview with a past dental assistance student

Liz Charlton

Dental Assistance Student @Open Colleges

Online course with work placement 

What inspired you to study Dental Assisting?

One of my best friends growing up, her dad was our dentist, so I was never scared of the dentist, I was just always kind of interested. I had braces when I was younger, and when I got sick I also suffered several oral health issues, so dentistry has always fascinated me.

How did you choose your qualification?

I thought the Certificate III would be a good stepping stone, it would give me a taste of it, and if I hated it I hadn’t wasted a large HECS debt. And it was online, and the thing was, I essentially had to spend three months in bed doing nothing (due to sickness), so with it online I could do the first three components in bed.

How did you motivate yourself to study Dental Assisting online?

I got a little reminder earlier this year that my course was due to expire, and after two years off I had returned to work in music admin, and I wasn’t enjoying it. I thought I’ll do the placement and who knows what will happen. I’ll just get it done and then I’ll have the certificate and I won’t have wasted my energy. I did one day a week with them and continued working my day job, but my brain was just loving dental assisting.

What was it like changing careers into Dental Assisting?

Usually, in my other job, I’d get to 11 o’clock, I’d eaten my lunch and I’d think ‘oh, there’s still so much more to do, but I’m ready to go home now’. I didn’t find that with dental assisting. I would come home excited. You know that you enjoy something when a day disappears.

What duties do you focus on?

I started off doing duties in the sterilisation room and when I had mastered that, I was tasked with observing how the assistants were helping the dentists. Then one day they said, ‘okay it’s your turn’. I knew all the procedures, I knew I had the information, it was just trusting myself that I had done it once, and ‘Oh I can do this’. I never felt in the deep end. The study periods had given me enough information to make a start.

Are You Ready to Launch Your Career?

There are so many reasons to make this the year you begin to study Dental Assisting. Open Colleges courses can be started on any day of the year and are delivered at your own pace, so many students continue with work and family commitments while studying for a new career. If you’ve always wanted to work as a Dental Assistant, fill in the form below for a free course guide and an Enrolment Consultant will be in touch.

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