Dental Laboratory Technician Schools

Nearly 40,000 people were employed as dental lab technicians in the U.S., as of 2012, and the career Is one that requires a variety of skills, not just working on fabricated dental materials. Good time management skills, manual dexterity, and an ability to discern various shades of color can be important. People may not know that dental lab technicians actually work in laboratories, not typically dental offices, where they help to create restorative devices for individuals’ teeth. Each of the restorations that they do can be unique, according to the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL), and the devices they create must be able to function similarly to parts of natural teeth and dentition. “But, beyond that,” the NADL website reads, “the technician’s great challenge is to capture and recreate both the perfection and the imperfection of natural teeth.”

Many dental lab techs work in small labs, often just having a few employees each, but others work for larger companies having close to or more than 100 employees. Some of these labs, particularly the larger ones, may offer on-the-job training to employees, but other individuals may choose to train for the profession by completing a postsecondary education program. The NADL reports there are more than 7,000 dental tech labs in the U.S. Good candidates for employment in these labs should be comfortable using small instrumentation, have an interest in underlying materials and be patient when it comes to working on small details. Interestingly, dental tech labs have a long history in the U.S.: according to the NADL, the first one in the country opened in Boston in 1887, and the existence of more than 7,000 labs in the country now may be a testament to how tried and true dental lab tech skills have become.

Dental Lab Technician fast facts
Projected Jobs Created1,000
Projected Job Growth3%
Low Salary$21,920
Average Salary (Median)$36,440
High Salary$61,320
Entry-Level EDUHS Diploma
Sourced from BLS, January 2015

Degree & certification Programs

No formal training is needed to become a dental lab technician, but a variety of certificate and associate degree programs are available to help provide training, particularly when it comes to education about building crowns, dentures and other types of prosthodontics. However, specific coursework may need to be completed before being accepted into a dental lab tech program. This may include reading, math and writing prerequisites or even completing a wax carving test. Education may be helpful to some people interested in the career. According to the website O*NET OnLine, 22 percent of surveyed dental lab technicians reported having some type of postsecondary education while 17 percent have completed an associate degree. Listed immediately below are six dental lab tech schools offering programs in the U.S., but there are many additional programs that can be found:

  1. Bates Technical College: This Tacoma, Washington-based school offers a 120-quarter credit program enabling students to work toward becoming a dental lab technician. The program, which leads to completion of an associate of applied science degree, includes general education requirements in communications, human relations, and math, with the remainder strictly focusing on dental lab technician education coursework. In the dental lab tech portion, students explore topics ranging from dental anatomy to denture repair and fixed orthodontic appliances and also complete learning experiences or seminars. For those looking for a shorter educational program, Bates Technical College also offers a 63-quarter credit dental lab tech certificate.

  2. Pasadena City College: Students can complete a certificate in dental lab technology over four semesters and two winter intersessions at this Pasadena, California-based school. The program is 61 units in all, and includes classes such as Orthodontics and Pedodontics (‘pedodontics’ means related to children’s teeth), Partial Dentures and Dental Laboratory Management. A clinical experience is additionally required, occurring during the winter intersession of a student’s second year. An expanded associate of degree in health sciences is also available, requiring completion of general education requirements, but the best way to find out more is by speaking with an enrollment counselor, according to the school’s website. Upon completion of the certificate in dental lab technology or the associate degree, students should be prepared to sit for the Recognized Graduate (RG) Certified Dental Technician Examination administered by the National Board for Certification (NBC) of Dental Laboratory Technicians.

  3. AmeriTech College: The dental lab technician program available through this Draper, Utah campus is offered during the day only and leads to the completion of a diploma. The program specifically helps students to understand the entry-level responsibilities needed to work on bridges and crowns in dental labs, including how to use fabricated materials to reproduce outcomes that are close to natural dentition, according to the school website. The program is 60 semester credit hours, which is three semesters in length, totaling 45 weeks. There is no externship available with this program, but graduates of this dental lab technician school should be ready to sit for the crown, bridge and ceramics portion of the Recognized Graduate (RG) exam administered through the National Board for Certification of the National Association of Dental Laboratories.

  4. Portland Community College: Students interested in dental lab technology can complete either the two-year certificate or the associate of applied science degree in dental lab technology at this Portland, Oregon school. The associate degree simply requires students to complete general education degree requirements on top of the program components already needed for the certificate program. Both the certificate and associate degree programs prepare students to sit for the national certification exam. Additionally, the school reports that its graduates are in high demand and many find employment within six weeks of graduating.

  5. Reynolds Community College: This dental lab tech school, in Richmond, Virginia, offers an associate of applied science degree program that requires completion of 67 credit hours. Courses in math, college composition, and college success skills are part of this program as are classes in dental lab materials, dental ceramics, and fixed prosthodontics. Toward the end of the program, students complete six credits of a dental lab practicum that gives them lab experiences in two specialty areas as well as in a commercial dental lab. The practicum takes approximately 16 hours per week. Students also complete a dental lab or dental tech business research project, which entails putting together a paper as well as a table clinic presentation.

  6. Indian River State College: This Fort Pierce, Florida school offers an associate of applied science degree in dental lab technology that prepares students to work on building bridges, crowns, dentures or orthodontic appliances. The 68-credit program can be completed in two years, which includes four semesters plus a summer semester between the first and second years. Students learn about dental theory, oral anatomy, and prosthodontics. They also complete a tooth physiology and anatomy lab, an occlusal topography lab, a crown and bridge lab and additional labs. In their final semester, students round out their education with classes focused on dental ethics, dental assimilation and dental lab operations.

Keep in mind that there may be other requirements necessary to completing a dental lab technology program. For example, at Portland Community College, students are required to obtain a C grade or higher in all of their coursework. Admission for some programs may be selective as well. This is also the case at Portland Community College, where an initial 24 students are accepted into the program and others are placed on an alternate list.

List of Dental Lab Technician Schools

Filter by state :
SchoolCityStateWebsiteTotal grads (2013)
Florida National University-Main CampusHialeahFloridahttp://www.fnu.edu49
Durham Technical Community CollegeDurhamNorth Carolinahttp://www.durhamtech.edu29
Diablo Valley CollegePleasant HillCaliforniahttp://www.dvc.edu22
Erie Community CollegeBuffaloNew Yorkhttps://www.ecc.edu/ 21
CUNY New York City College of TechnologyBrooklynNew Yorkhttp://www.citytech.cuny.edu20
National Career CollegeVan NuysCaliforniahttp://www.nccusa.edu19
Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort WayneFort WayneIndianahttp://www.ipfw.edu18
Bluegrass Community and Technical CollegeLexingtonKentuckyhttp://www.bluegrass.kctcs.edu/18
Tennessee College of Applied Technology-NashvilleNashvilleTennesseehttp://www.tcatnashville.edu17
Gwinnett Technical CollegeLawrencevilleGeorgiahttp://www.GwinnettTech.edu17
Bates Technical CollegeTacomaWashingtonhttp://www.bates.ctc.edu/17
William T McFatter Technical CenterDavieFloridahttp://www.mcfattertech.com15
Pima Community CollegeTucsonArizonahttps://www.pima.edu/ 15
J Sargeant Reynolds Community CollegeRichmondVirginiahttp://www.reynolds.edu15
Columbus State Community CollegeColumbusOhiohttp://www.cscc.edu/14
University at BuffaloBuffaloNew Yorkhttp://www.buffalo.edu13
Moreno Valley CollegeMoreno ValleyCaliforniahttp://www.mvc.edu/13
Portland Community CollegePortlandOregonhttp://www.pcc.edu12
Los Angeles City CollegeLos AngelesCaliforniahttp://www.lacitycollege.edu/12
AmeriTech College-DraperDraperUtahhttp://ameritech.edu/ 12
Kirkwood Community CollegeCedar RapidsIowahttp://www.kirkwood.edu11
Tennessee College of Applied Technology-MemphisMemphisTennesseehttp://www.tcatmemphis.edu10
Texas State Technical College-HarlingenHarlingenTexashttp://www.tstc.edu/ 9
Moraine Park Technical CollegeFond du LacWisconsinhttp://www.morainepark.edu9
Indian River State CollegeFort PierceFloridahttp://www.irsc.edu9
ICDC CollegeHuntington ParkCaliforniahttp://www.icdccollege.edu/ 9
New York UniversityNew YorkNew Yorkhttp://www.nyu.edu7
Columbia CollegeFairfaxVirginiahttp://www.ccdc.edu7
Putnam Career and Technical CenterEleanorWest Virginiahttp://www.pctc.edu/6
Middlesex Community CollegeBedfordMassachusettshttps://www.middlesex.mass.edu/ 6
Moore Norman Technology CenterNormanOklahomahttps://www.mntc.edu/classes/health5
Atlanta Technical CollegeAtlantaGeorgiahttp://www.atlantatech.edu/5
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New OrleansNew OrleansLouisianahttp://www.lsuhsc.edu/4
Commonwealth Technical InstituteJohnstownPennsylvaniahttp://www.hgac.org4
Southwest Collegiate Institute for the DeafBig SpringTexashttp://www.howardcollege.edu/swcid/3
Milwaukee Area Technical CollegeMilwaukeeWisconsinhttp://www.matc.edu/ 3
Mountwest Community and Technical CollegeHuntingtonWest Virginiahttp://www.mctc.edu2
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Hybrid & online programs

Dental lab tech programs are generally campus based, since they require students to learn the hands-on skills essential to creating crowns, bridges and other types of dental devices. However, students may be able to find some programs that allow them to take some of their general education requirements, such as math or English, online or even to take electives through distance learning. You should realize that this is one healthcare field where on-campus attendance is required, but that there are other related fields, in dental assisting, for example, where a broad range of online programs can be found. Work experiences may be part of these dental assisting programs, but again, as with dental lab tech schools, dental assisting program requirements can vary by school or state.

That said, some private organizations, such as PTC Dental, based out of Morgan Hill, California, do offer some online instruction. Students interested in gaining dental lab tech skills through PTC’s program must first take posterior and anterior anatomy courses online. After finishing both of these courses, students are urged to speak to a PTC consultant to find out which of the dental tech program areas may be best for them.

SchoolCityStateWebsiteTotal grads (2013)
San Antonio CollegeSan AntonioTexashttp://www.alamo.edu/sac/ 4
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Core & Elective Courses

Many programs in dental lab tech focus on building crowns and bridges, since these types of devices are an essential part of the occupation. Students should learn many of the necessary skills for the occupation at dental lab tech schools, if they are not completing an on-the-job program, but the name of their classes or courses may vary. Some classes in dental lab tech school could include:

  • Dental Anatomy

  • Dental Materials

  • Dentures - Casts/Trays/Rims

  • Denture Setup

  • Orthodontic Appliances

  • Refractory Cast Production

  • Gold Crown Waxing

  • Porcelain Techniques

Clinicals, practicums and other learning experiences may also be a part of a program, although these requirements vary by school and program type. For example, the associate degree program in dental lab technology at Durham Tech in Durham, N.C., requires students to complete off-campus rotations at actual lab sites during their fifth semester. Alternatively, the dental lab technology program available through McFatter Technical College, in Davie, Fla., requires a five-week internship as part of its program. Students may also need to do research projects or write papers summing up their learning.

Accreditation

Students may want to look for programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or even another accrediting institution. Graduation from an approved school, most often meaning an accredited school, is needed to seek Registered Graduate (RG) status or Certified Dental Technician (CDT) status through the through the National Board for Certification (NBC) in Dental Laboratory Technology. Accreditation also provides assurance to students that their program has been assessed and thoroughly examined by an outside agency, and found to meet certain standards. The ADA currently accredits 27 dental lab technology programs in the U.S. Programs are not available in all states, but two each CODA-accredited programs are available in California, Florida and New York.

Career Outlook

Jobs for dental lab technicians should grow by 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. Although this growth is slower than average, there should still be a need for jobs as the cost of prosthetic veneers, including crowns, is expected to become more affordable. Additionally, accidents and poor individual dental health could also drive the need for dental lab technician skills as will people’s aesthetic desires to improve their smile and dental features, the BLS indicates.

The National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) paints a rosier job demand picture. According to a page on its website, the 21st century will be a time of promise and growth in dental lab and dental sales. “There will be no decline in the demand for dental services, rather the demand will grow,” indicates the site, quoting Peter Stein, BS, MB, PA from the Golden Quarter Century. “The future of the entire dental arena is very promising.”

Career FactsDental Lab Technician
Related CareersMedical Appliance Technician, Opthalmatic Laboratory Technician, Medical Equipment Repairer
Common Job TitlesDental Lab Technologists
Technology & EquipmentDental Articulators, Dental Ovens, Porcelain Furnaces
Sourced from BLS, January 2015

Licensing & Certification

After graduating from a dental lab tech program or completing on-the-job training, students may wish to become a Recognized Graduate, or RG, a status awarded through the National Board for Certification (NBC) in Dental Lab Technology. To be eligible, students must graduate from a National Board Certified school, (see this link here for listings), which generally are accredited through the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation, a U.S. Department of Education accrediting agency, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or another agency. Students must also take and pass the RG exam within one year of graduation.

Individuals might later choose to seek Certified Dental Technician (CDT) status, which, according to the NBC website, is an indication of an employee’s commitment to dental technology and attests to their specialty knowledge. “The pride of earning a CDT is personally rewarding and the CDT designation places the certificant among a group of individuals who are at the top of the dental technology profession,” NBC’s website indicates. To achieve this certification, candidates have to pass three pass exam, which can be taken in any order, within four years. This includes a practical exam, a specialty exam and a comprehensive exam. Specialty exams are available in orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics, according to the BLS. RGs can actually substitute their RG exam for the comprehensive exam as long as this is done within four years. Five years of experience can also substitute for graduation from an accredited program. Individuals are not alone, however, in preparing for their examinations. A downloadable CDT handbook and a number of study clubs are listed along the bottom of the NBC website to help people find others with which to study. Finally, a medical appliance technician certification is also available through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC), according to the BLS.