Degree Completion: A Bachelor’s Can Unlock Opportunities for Dental Hygienists

© / Adobe Stock

Graduation from dental hygiene school is an impressive and rewarding accomplishment. For many, it meant overcoming numerous challenges and obstacles to ultimately achieve the dream of working as a dental hygienist.

If you’re like me, it means that ─ even after several years of a commitment to prerequisite courses and hygiene courses ─ at the end of it all, you’re awarded an Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene. To this day, it is the degree that I am the proudest of, but there are many reasons to consider pursuing a higher education beyond the associate degree, including obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, pursuing a bachelor’s degree completion program could be how you expand your skillset and increase your earnings by unlocking new career opportunities.

Expand Your Skill Set

When it comes to a clinical role in dental hygiene, an associate degree can earn the same position as a dental hygienist who possesses a bachelor’s degree. However, there is an advantage to more education. Allowing yourself to be a continual learner can help to expand your clinical knowledge further, deepen your communication skills, and increase your confidence. It may not be easy to quantify, but the value of personal growth and self-esteem should be considered.

During many conversations with patients, my educational journey is a topic. I am proud to share that I pursued higher education and successfully obtained a bachelor’s degree after completing dental hygiene school.

Earning a degree can be empowering and warrants a sense of achievement. The journey of higher education also prepares a person to overcome adversity and other varying challenges. For many, going back to school would mean working full-time, caring for a family, and undertaking college courses. Successfully achieving a degree amongst life’s responsibilities and challenges only deepens a person’s self-confidence and a stronger sense of self.

Ultimately, higher education can provide a sense of self-accomplishment and allow a dental hygienist to develop new skills.

Increase Your Earnings

The completion of a bachelor’s degree has the potential to set you apart from other applicants when applying for your desired position. It can provide an instant advantage when a prospective employer reviews your resume. Generally speaking, clinical wages for a hygienist with an associate versus a bachelor’s degree is the same. However, earning your bachelor’s degree may provide some leverage when it comes to earning higher wages because a dental hygienist who has furthered their education has also invested in their education, and that should be communicated with your employer as a worthy reason for their investment in you!

Committing to a bachelors’ degree program can demonstrate favorable attributes that an employer seeks in their employees. It can validate a person’s drive and desire to learn. It can also affirm advanced communication skills.

It’s important to describe your proficiencies to your employer in an effort to maximize your earnings. Perhaps it’s explaining that you feel earning your degree enhanced your communication skills, which has transcended into positive communicative ways of explaining periodontal disease to patients. Perhaps earning your bachelor’s degree deepened your ability to problem solve, which can allow for favorable outcomes at the workplace.

Marketing your accomplishments will hopefully help to better achieve competitive wages. Holding the additional credentials that a bachelor’s degree offers can serve as confirmation of your marketable accomplishments.

Open the Door to Opportunity

The career paths for dental hygiene professionals are growing exponentially, and the pursuit of higher education can support a dental hygienist in accessing diverse opportunities. A dental hygienist has the ability to work in clinical, public health, corporate, educational, research, or entrepreneurial settings.

An important item to note is that a bachelor’s degree doesn’t necessarily need to be in the field of dental hygiene. The degree can be for other health or business-related fields. Expanding your scope of education can only increase and expand potential opportunities, and it can advance your personal marketability.

Some professional roles require a bachelor’s degree. Positions for dental hygiene educator or classroom instructor may even require a master’s degree. A career as a representative for an oral health company may require a bachelor’s degree and offer opportunities as sales representatives, product researchers, corporate administrators, and corporate educators. Another professional role that may require a bachelors’ degree is working as a researcher. This career usually entails quantitative and qualitative research, such as conducting surveys, analyzing results, and testing products and procedures for accuracy and effectiveness.

There are various professional roles that a dental hygienist can pursue, and completion of your bachelor’s degree may help obtain the many possibilities that are available.

Your dental hygiene education and experience will open the door to your desired career path. The pursuit and accomplishment in higher education deepens your professional growth and allows you to explore all the possibilities. Educational and career advancement are interconnected and can result in expanding your skillset, increasing your earnings, and opening the door to new opportunities.

Need CE? Check Out the Self-Study CE Courses from Today’s RDH!

Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:


  1. Career Center. (n.d.). American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Retrieved from