Best Dental Assistant Schools In California | Cost, Requirement & How To Apply

Formal learning is likely to take place primarily in the classroom. However, good dental assistant schools in California will also include hands-on experience, which many CODA-accredited programs contain.

Some dental assistant schools in California programs even include an internship, which is a great way to gain work experience and technical skills.

Coursework can vary from program to program, but those attending a CODA-accredited program can expect to cover many things during their studies:

Are There Dental Assistant Schools In California?

Currently, there are 24 such programs operating in the state. Each of the dental assistant schools in California includes specific coursework as well as administrative and clinical practice and can be completed in a year.

If you are an unlicensed dental assistant, you may perform some basic dental duties but under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist.

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How Much Do Dental Assistant Schools Cost In California?

The cost of becoming a dental assistant varies greatly depending on the school and the level of training you complete. So going to dental school costs anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000.

When you research programs, make sure you know what’s included in the training. For example, at some schools the following items are included, but at other schools you may have to pay for them separately:

  • Books
  • Payment of the laboratory
  • Equipment
  • Registration fees

Schools with higher tuition rates typically include many of these costs in their tuition. Financial aid is often available to students who qualify.

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What Are The Requirements For Dental Assistant Schools In California?

The primary certification that almost all students obtain is the CDA. It can be obtained after successfully passing three component exams.

To be eligible to take the CDA exams, individuals must complete a CODA-accredited dental assisting program or have 3,500 hours of dental assisting experience. Unfortunately, all DANB credentials must be renewed annually.

All require at least 30 credits in the following areas:

  • At least 12 credits in clinical practice
  • At least 3 credits in dental office management
  • At least 3 credits in volunteer/academic activities
  • At least 12 credits in DANB/other dental exams

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What Are The Best Dental Assistant Schools In California?

Becoming a dental assistant can take anywhere from nine months to two years, depending on the dental career path you pursue.

Certificate programs typically last nine to eleven months, while associate degree programs take about two years. Dental Assisting program courses are typically tailored to meet national certification and state licensing requirements.

#1. Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill

Diablo Valley College provides students with a solid foundation for dental care through its quality education. The on-campus dental clinic serves the community by providing affordable dental services.

Dental students use this opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience. Diablo Valley College offers two program options: Certificate and Associate. Beginning in the fall semester, only 24 students are accepted each year.

The certification program includes technical courses and lasts nine months. Associate’s takes more time, as do technical courses; you must also complete general education courses.

To be eligible for both programs, you must have a high school diploma and successfully complete a dental assistant training course.

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Students pursuing an associate’s degree must complete nine additional units of general education courses before graduation and before applying for the licensure exam.

While the coursework you receive as part of a certificate program provides the necessary training needed for this career, an associate’s degree, which also includes general education courses, is broader in terms of knowledge and helps develop critical thinking and communication skills.


#2. Pasadena City College, Pasadena

Pasadena City College provides a conducive learning environment with state-of-the-art facilities and dedicated faculty who help and support students throughout.

With clinical training at multiple sites, graduates are ready to begin their dental careers shortly after graduation. You can earn a certificate or associate degree offered by the college.

To qualify, you must graduate from an accredited school with a minimum 2.0 GPA and hold CPR certification throughout the program. To earn a certificate, you must complete 37.5 credits of coursework.

The employee needs additional general education courses to help advance your career. The coursework is designed to help you pass various exams such as Certified Dental Assistant, Certified Orthodontic Assistant, and Registered Dental Assistant.

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#3. Palomar College, San Marcos

Palomar College offers one of the most affordable dental assistant programs. With an excellent faculty teaching students, the RDA exam pass rate is above the state average.

In addition to improving clinical and technical skills, the college encourages students to intern at local dental offices and gain hands-on experience.

The college offers a ten-month California Dental Assistant Certificate Program that begins each fall.

This full-time program covers coursework that will train you to be competent in providing safe and professional dental care to patients by assisting the dentist during various dental procedures.

You will learn about dental law and ethics, sealant application, radiation safety, crown polishing, infection control, in addition to dental office management and administration.

You can also earn an associate degree in dental assisting at Palomar by completing general education courses in addition to your dental assistant coursework.


#4. American Career College, Anaheim, Los Angeles

American Career College’s student-centered policy creates a productive environment for dental students to excel and compete in the job market.

The college mainly focuses on hands-on learning and provides students with ample opportunities to practice in the dental laboratory.

Students are supported throughout, whether it’s arranging a 160-hour externship or finding a suitable job, the faculty and career center play an important role here.

The college offers a diploma that can be earned in 10 months. In this short term, you will learn the skills and knowledge needed to perform duties ranging from managing a dentist’s office to caring for patients.

Basics of dental care, science of dentistry, restorative dentistry, laboratory procedures, pediatric dentistry, endodontics, anesthesia, and externships are part of the coursework.


#5. San Joaquin Valley College, Visalia

Graduates of San Joaquin Valley College of Dentistry are known to be job-ready because of the rigorous hands-on training they receive.

In addition, the college provides a caring environment where students are guided throughout, from admission to finding a suitable job. With this 11-month certificate program, you can enter an allied dental field.

This coursework prepares you for the skills and knowledge required to perform routine tasks such as managing a dental office, using dental software, understanding oral anatomy and dental radiology.

Upon completion of the program, you will be eligible to take the state licensing exam for Registered Dental Assistant status.


#6. Foothill College, Los Altos Hills

Foothill College provides rigorous training for aspiring dental assistants who aspire to become an integral part of the dental team.

With a dedicated faculty and carefully designed curriculum, students graduate ready to face the real-time challenges this career presents. The college offers two options: a certificate and an associate degree.

The certificate can be obtained in 9 months, on a daily basis. An associate’s degree takes longer and provides a more comprehensive learning experience, including general education courses. Students of both programs begin their studies in the fall.

You begin with core courses related to dental care, including orientation to dental care, specialty practice procedures, dental science, dental radiography, dental office management, and fissure sealants.

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Students pursuing an associate’s degree must complete all general education courses to graduate, usually within two years of enrollment.

An externship, where students apply professional knowledge while assisting a dentist at the UCSF School of Dentistry, is an important component of the coursework.


#7. Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa

Orange Coast College’s dental career education includes intensive training through classroom work, laboratory sessions and 300 hours of clinical training at the UCLA School of Dentistry and nearby dental offices.

Obtaining a dental care certificate takes 48 weeks. The curriculum prepares you for dental assisting duties in a variety of settings such as private dental offices, public hospitals, specialty practices and dental schools.

The program begins in the fall and courses are offered in sequence. Before starting the program, you must complete the prerequisite courses in Medical Profession and Medical Terminology with a minimum grade of “C”.

For those seeking an advanced associate dental certificate, some credits from this program may be transferred to a dental hygiene degree.


#8. Carrington College, Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro & Stockton

With multiple campuses in the state, Carrington College is a convenient choice for a dental assisting education because of its nearby campus.

This dental assistant school in California prepares students to work in dental offices, private and public clinics. You can gain professional skills by completing a certificate or associate degree program offered by the college.

The certificate is a short course of less than one year that teaches you the technical skills to help you understand the various dental procedures performed in a dental clinic.

An associate degree, on the other hand, provides a broader knowledge base, including general education courses in communication skills, computer use, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Both programs include an externship where you will apply your professional knowledge to patients in real time.


#9. Concorde Career College, San Bernardino, San Diego, Garden Grove & North Hollywood

Concorde Career College’s conveniently located Southern California campuses make getting to college a breeze.

You can choose any location as they are all well-equipped with learning resources and provide sufficient support to help dental students achieve their academic goals.

In a short eight-month period, this Diploma in Dental Assisting offered by Concorde teaches you the entry-level skills needed to provide chairside assistance and front office management in a dental practice.

The concise curriculum includes courses in dental terminology, dental specialties, dental materials, dental clinic management, dental radiology, orthodontics, and diagnostics.

To sharpen professional skills, the coursework includes an externship, locally in a dentist’s office. After completing the program, you will be able to pass the state exam and become a registered dental assistant.


#10. UEI College

The dental assistant profession is in high demand and UEI College prepares you for this career with great aplomb. With 13 locations in Southern California, you can attend any campus that suits you.

To become a dental assistant in California, you may want to consider this 10-month certificate program that prepares you for entry-level oral surgery assistant, surgical dental assistant, and orthodontic assisting positions.

Coursework covers a variety of topics, from dental emergencies to chairside care, radiography to dental materials, preventive dentistry to dental specialties and prosthodontics, and administrative duties in a dental clinic.

After completing all courses, you will be given the opportunity to complete an internship at a local dental clinic where you will put your newly acquired professional skills into practice. Often this opportunity turns into placement.


How Much Do Dental Assistants In California Earn?

The average salary for a dental assistant in California is $44,940 per year, which is $21.61 per hour. Salary can also vary based on several unique factors.

For example, if you work for a local, state, or even federal government, you will earn more than a dental assistant working in a small private dental office.

Similarly, completing an associate degree program rather than a diploma or certificate program will make you more desirable to high-paying employers. Associate degree programs are longer and more in-depth, and this often leads to better patient outcomes.

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How Do I Become Dental Assistant In California?

To become a registered dental assistant in California, you must complete the following steps:

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Complete a program approved by DBC. These programs typically consist of nine to twelve months of study, followed by a diploma or certificate. You can also complete a two-year program with an associate degree.

Alternatively, you can complete 15 months of work experience under the supervision of a dental assistant. If you have completed a program that is not DBC approved, you can apply to have that program count towards your work experience.

  • Take a basic life support course approved by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
  • Complete DBC approved courses in radiation safety and crown polishing (ie removing plaque and stains from tooth enamel).
  • Take courses on the California Dental Practice Act and Infection Control that have been approved by the DBC. You must complete these courses within five years of applying so that the information you receive is not out of date.
  • Pass a written exam conducted by DBC. You must complete all the previous steps to be eligible to take the exam and you will have to pay a fee. As of May 2018, the exam includes questions on law and ethics in the profession.
  • Apply for a license. This step includes passing a criminal record check and being fingerprinted. You must also pay a non-refundable fee to register.

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Best Paying Dental Assistant Jobs In California

According to the California Department of Employment Development, as of 2014, the largest employers of dental assistants were:

  • Dentist offices: 27,065 employers in California
  • Physician offices: 63,218 employers in California
  • Outpatient care centers: 7,547 employers in California

Dental offices were the largest employer of dental assistants, employing almost 93 percent of all dental assistants.

You can find a number of employment and networking opportunities through professional associations:

Dental Assistant Schools In California FAQs

What Is Dental Assistant Job Prospects In California?

Your job prospects as a dental assistant are excellent, which means that as long as you work hard, you can enjoy great job security in the industry. Trends show that the number of dental assistants in California will grow by 15.35% from 2018 to 2028. There are currently 59,300 statewide, but there will be 68,400 by 2028. That means an additional 9,100 dental assistants.

Do You Need A Degree To Work As A Dental Assistant In California?

Although no official regulations require a dental assistant to complete a post-secondary education, the state of California maintains a strict level system for dental assistants. The duration of the dental assistant program depends on the level of dental assistant you wish to obtain. The rules for each level of practice are set by the Dental Board of California.

What Is The Requirement For Registered Dental Assistant In California?

To become registered you must complete an RDA board approved course or have 15 months experience as a dental assistant. In addition, candidates must complete a state written law and ethics exam, an American Red Cross or American Heart Association approved BLS course, a board approved course in crown polishing and radiation safety, and board approved courses in infection control and the California Dental Practice Act. After meeting these requirements, the assistant must apply to the Dental Board of California for an RDA license.

How Do I Get Dental Sedation Assistant Permit In California?

To obtain this permit, candidates must be an RDA and have at least 12 months experience as a dental assistant. You have to complete a board-approved dental sedation assistant course and a state dental sedation duty exam. After meeting these requirements, you must apply to the Dental Board of California for a license as a dental sedation assistant.


Choosing whether to pursue a dental assistant degree or certification depends on your short-term and long-term career goals. An associate’s degree in dental assisting potentially offers higher earning potential and career opportunities because you can more easily transfer credits from an associate’s program to a bachelor’s program. However, a dental assisting certificate program is more economical and cost-effective.

If you want to start working as a dental assistant sooner rather than later, getting certified is a great way to do it and set yourself apart from other entry-level candidates. If you plan to use your dental assistant education as a stepping stone toward a long-term goal of becoming a dental hygienist or dental hygienist, associate degree programs may be worth investigating.



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