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

Choosing a dental care program is an important decision. The best dental assistant schools in San Diego provide a combination of classroom knowledge and hands-on learning to prepare you for a career as a dental assistant.

There are a variety of dental assistant schools in the San Diego area; Career options range from dental assistant to dental hygienist or dentist.

Regardless of level, these programs combine classroom and clinical training and prepare graduates for professional licensure or certification exams.

Dental care certification programs may require a background check and fingerprinting; associate degree programs in dental hygiene may require required coursework in math and science.

Are There Dental Assistant Schools In San Diego?

Currently, there are only 66 accredited dental schools in the United States and its territories. This is important information to note, as most states require dental practitioners to first graduate from an educational institution accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA).

This established CDA standard serves to assure the public that dental practitioners who graduate from an accredited dental institution possess the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the highest standards of ethical and professional practice and to protect public safety.

There are currently no dental facilities in the city of San Diego, California, but there are many other options in the state. They are listed below:

  • California Northern State College of Dental Medicine
  • Loma Linda University School of Dentistry
  • USC Herman Ostrov School of Dentistry
  • University of California, Los Angeles, School of Dentistry
  • University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry
  • Arthur A. Dugoni Faculty of Dentistry, University of the Pacific
  • College of Stomatological Medicine of the Western University of Medical Sciences.

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How Much Do Dental Assistant Schools Cost In San Diego?

Certificate and diploma programs are shorter (and therefore more affordable), while graduate programs are longer and more expensive.

Keep in mind that California dentists prefer to hire dental assistants who have an associate’s degree, so while a degree program may be cheaper and faster, it may limit your employability.

Type of ProgramLengthCost
Certificate / Diploma6 – 15 Months$2,990 – $34,970
Associate Degree2 Years$8,750 – $53,540

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What Are The Requirements For Dental Assistant Schools In San Diego?

Admission requirements for dental assistant schools in San Diego vary from school to school. Therefore, it is advised to always check the school’s official website to confirm.

There are some general requirements that are common to several schools, namely:

  • As an applicant, you must have completed some courses or the equivalent of those courses that are approved to study dentistry at universities.
  • Be sure to confirm the courses on the school’s official website as they may vary.
  • You must obtain a minimum GPA. Some schools will require a 3.0 GPA in the last 30 hours of science courses. But you have to confirm it with the school.
  • You will need to take a test called the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The test, along with other factors, is used to admit students to dental programs.
  • If you have failed the test three times in a row, you will need special permission to be able to take the test again.

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What Are The Best Dental Assistant Schools In San Diego?

There are several possible paths to becoming a dental assistant. Some states require dental assistants to complete an accredited CODA program and pass an exam.

In other states, there are no formal educational requirements, and dental assistants learn to perform their duties through on-the-job training.

Listed below are schools offering dental assistant programs located in San Diego State, sorted by CODA-accredited schools and post-secondary vocational schools.

San Diego Mesa College

The Dental Assisting Certificate Program at San Diego Mesa College offers training in areas such as chairside assisting, equipment operation and instrument sterilization, and business management in a clinical setting.

In addition to a Certificate of Achievement, upon completion of the program you receive a Certificate of Performance that indicates your ability to use dental x-ray equipment in California.

You can also expect to prepare for state and national dental exams if you want to become licensed or practice in another state after graduation.


Southwestern College

While Southwestern College’s main campus is located in Chula Vista, the dental hygiene program is located in National City, which is located about five miles south of San Diego along the California coast.

This program begins each fall and includes training in infection control, community dental health, periodontics, and pain management.

You will also have the opportunity to provide professional dental services (supervised by dentists or registered dental hygienists) to the public in the school’s dental hygiene clinic.


Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University is the closest school to the San Diego area to earn a DDS degree, the degree required to obtain a license to practice dentistry.

The school is located in Loma Linda, which is about 100 miles north of San Diego. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required for admission to the dental program, applicants who have one are given preference in decision making.

In addition to required coursework in the subjects listed above, the dental school recommends courses in subjects such as mathematics, histology, microbiology, and art, among others.

Loma Linda’s dental program includes extensive opportunities for you to provide direct dental care to patients.


Concorde Career College, San Bernardino, San Diego, Garden Grove and 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.


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.


Carrington College

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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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


How Much Do Dental Assistants In San Diego Earn?

The dental assistant career field is booming in San Diego, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting 4,070 local dental assistants in 2017.

Average salary for dental assistants in San Diego is $18.76 per hour, which is above the US average for dental assistants. There is no doubt that this industry will continue to grow in San Diego, as the number of these professionals in California is expected to grow by 16.5 percent by 2026.

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How Do I Become Dental Assistant In San Diego?

Becoming a dental assistant in California requires formal education and/or training and licensure. To become a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) licensed by the California Board of Dentistry, you must complete the following steps:

  • Get formal education or training through one of the following:
  • Complete a board-approved RDA program.
  • Complete at least 15 months of experience as a dental assistant under the supervision of a licensed dentist in the US.
  • Complete a 4-month program approved by the California Department of Education and 11 months of work experience under the supervision of a licensed dentist in the US.
  • Take Board-approved crown polishing and radiation safety courses.
  • Complete a board-approved course in the Dental Practice Act within five years of filing.
  • Complete a Board-approved eight-hour course in infection control within five years of filing.
  • Take a basic life support course from an instructor approved by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.
  • Provide fingerprinting authorization from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Take the RDA General and Law and Ethics Written exam.
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Although entry-level dental assistants can learn on the job, a certificate program is a profitable path for those who want to become a licensed dental assistant.

A definite advantage of certification programs is that they typically include Board-mandated courses related to crown polishing, radiation safety, infection control, and basic life support.

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Best Paying Dental Assistant Jobs In San Diego

No license is required to get a job as a dental assistant in California. However, obtaining the necessary education from an accredited institution is essential for a future in the profession.

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Dental Assistant Schools In San Diego FAQs

Are Dental Assistants In Demand In San Diego?

Dental assistant jobs in San Diego are currently in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects dental assistant employment to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

How Long Is Dental Assistant Schools In San Diego?

It will take you anywhere from six months to two years to complete a dental assistant program in California, depending on the type of program you choose. Certificate and diploma programs are shorter (and therefore more affordable), while graduate programs are longer and more expensive. Keep in mind that California dentists prefer to hire dental assistants who have an associate’s degree, so while a degree program may be cheaper and faster, it may limit your employability.

Are Dental Assistants Paid Well In San Diego?

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 Licensed To Work As A Dental Assistant In San Diego?

You do not need to be certified to be a dental assistant. However, dental assistant certification can help you gain additional technical skills and advance your career. Most dental assistants who want to become certified take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam from the nationally recognized National Dental Assisting Board (DANB).

How Long Does It Take To Become A Dental Assistant In San Diego?

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.


Choosing a dental care program is an important decision. The best dental assistant programs provide a combination of classroom knowledge and hands-on learning to prepare you for a career as a dental assistant.

When looking for a prospective school, research its curriculum, tuition, and other vital aspects. Talk to faculty and staff about school standards, ask for community surveys that measure the temperature of the academic “climate,” and explore postsecondary opportunities.

 A school evaluation usually helps to list their wants and needs in order to choose a program that is more in line with their long-term goals.


  • – Which Schools Offer Dental Programs in San Diego, CA?
  • – Best Dental Assistant Schools in California – 2022


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