Dental Laboratory Technician Schools

“Beyond the actual work of producing restorations, dental laboratory technicians are serving more in a consultant role with dental practices as chairside subject matter experts. Having strong communication skills is also very valuable.”

Bennett Napier, MS, Chief Staff Executive, National Association for Dental Laboratories (NADL)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022), 33,330 people were employed as dental lab technicians in the U.S. While working on fabricated dental materials is a critical part of the career, it also requires a variety of other skills, such as manual dexterity and an ability to discern various shades of color.

Dental lab technicians work in laboratories, not dental offices, where they help create restorative devices for individuals’ teeth. According to the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL), each of the restorations they do is unique, and the devices they create must function similarly to parts of natural teeth and dentition. 

Many dental lab techs work in small labs, often just having a few employees each, but others work for larger companies having 100 employees or more. Some of these labs, particularly the larger ones, may offer on-the-job training to employees. Still, many aspiring dental lab technicians choose to train for the profession by completing a postsecondary education program. 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.

Meet the Expert: Bennett Napier, MS, CSE

Sean Khozin

Bennett Napier has made significant strides in the dental laboratories industry and has worked with nonprofits in the dental field for 30 years. His impactful leadership and business acumen have earned him recognition as one of “Florida’s Most Influential Business Leaders” by Florida Trend Magazine for six consecutive years. Bennett has also served as the past board chair for the AMC Institute, an international trade association representing the association management company industry. Mr. Napier’s academic credentials include a master’s degree in applied American politics and policy from Florida State University, and he has been leading the National Association for Dental Laboratories (NADL) as the chief staff executive since 2001, contributing significantly to its growth and success.

MedicalTechnologySchools.com: What is something that many people don’t know about the dental laboratory technician profession?

Napier: In many respects, dental laboratory technicians are on the cutting edge of new technology that enters the dental marketplace. By nature, dental laboratory technicians are fulfilling prescriptions from dental practices, so efficiency and consistent quality are key.

In today’s dental laboratory, dental laboratory technicians are using ever-evolving dental materials and digital technology (digital impressions, 3D printers, CAD/CAM mills) to design and manufacture dental restorations. The profession is an attractive career for individuals who seek a medical device healthcare role with considerable hands-on production compared to medical devices made for a hospital setting.

MedicalTechnologySchools.com: What is one piece of advice you would give to a dental laboratory technician who is starting out?

Napier: Be a constant student. The technology (materials and equipment) that are used by today’s dental laboratory technicians are changing at a rapid pace. It’s crucial to learn through in-house training as well as take advantage of formal education or continuing education.

Beyond the actual work of producing restorations, dental laboratory technicians are serving more in a consultant role with dental practices as chairside subject matter experts. Having strong communication skills is also very valuable.

Dental Lab Technician fast facts
Projected Jobs Created-1,000
Projected Job Growth-1%
Average Salary$41,180
Low Salary$29,900
High Salary$66,070
Entry-Level EDU HS Diploma
Sourced from BLS 2024

Degree & Certificate Programs in Dental Laboratory Technology

No formal training is strictly required to become a dental lab technician, and many learn on the job. However, for those wanting to gain some experience in order to find the best jobs, a variety of certificate and associate degree programs are available to help provide training.

Dental lab tech programs provide education specifically about building crowns, dentures, and other prosthodontics, which are central to the professional role. 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.

According to the website O*NET OnLine (2024), 18 percent of surveyed dental lab technicians reported having some type of postsecondary education, while 52 percent have a high school degree or equivalent. Listed immediately below are four dental lab tech schools offering programs in the U.S.:

Bates Technical College

This Tacoma, Washington-based school offers a 115-credit program enabling students to become dental lab technicians. The program, which leads to an associate of applied science degree, includes general education requirements in communications, human relations, and math, with additional instruction focusing on dental lab technician education coursework.

In the dental lab tech portion, students explore topics such as introduction to dental lab technology; dental anatomy; dental materials; denture processes; introduction to orthodontics; removable partial dentures; fixed prosthodontics; understructure design; and ceramics. Students also complete learning experiences or seminars.

Bates Technical College also offers a 65-credit dental lab tech certificate for those looking for a shorter educational program.

  • Location: Tacoma WA
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS degree (eight quarters); certificate of competency (four quarters)

Pasadena City College

Students can complete a certificate in restorative dentistry over four semesters and two winter sessions at this Pasadena, California-based school. Despite the name, this program prepares students to work in a dental lab tech capacity. The program comprises 65 units and includes classes in orthodontics and pedodontics; partial dentures; digital dentistry; dental implants; prosthodontics; functional occlusion & articulator; and functional occlusion & biomechanics of masticatory systems.

A clinical experience is also required during the winter intersession of a student’s second year. An expanded associate degree in health sciences is also available, requiring completion of general education requirements. According to the school’s website, the best way to find out more is by speaking with an enrollment counselor.

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.

  • Location: Pasadena, CA
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters and two winter sessions

Durham Technical Community College

The associate’s of applied science in dental laboratory technology at Durham Tech can be completed in as little as two years. This degree is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and, upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to sit for the Recognized Graduate Examination administered by the National Board for Certification.

Students must complete 69 credits to earn this degree in courses such as dental anatomy and physiology; dental materials, complete dentures; crown & bridge; wrought-ortho appliances; ceramic techniques; and partial dentures. Durham Tech offers three certificates in dental laboratory technology for students looking for a shorter course of study. They are in cast partial dentures, crown and bridge techniques, and dental ceramic techniques. These certificates can be completed on their own or as part of the associate’s degree.

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Five semesters

McFatter Technical College

Located in Davies, Florida, McFatter Technical College offers a dental laboratory technician program. Enrollment is open twice a year, in August and January. Most students complete this program in 18 months.

With a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on skills classes, students will be ready for entry-level work upon completing this program. Credits completed as part of this program may be transferred to other Florida community colleges and count towards the completion of an associate’s degree. This program is accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Consisting of 2,040 classroom hours, the program includes courses such as denture technician; orientation to dental laboratory technology; crown and bridge technician; ceramic technician; implant, attachment & hybrid restoration technician; and master dental laboratory technician.

  • Location: Davie, FL
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months

Keep in mind that there may be other requirements necessary to complete a dental laboratory technology program. For example, at Pasadena City 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.

List of Dental Lab Technician Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website GRADS ('21)
YTI Career Institute-York York Pennsylvania https://yti.edu 51
CUNY New York City College of Technology Brooklyn New York https://www.citytech.cuny.edu 36
Durham Technical Community College Durham North Carolina https://www.durhamtech.edu 28
Portland Community College Portland Oregon https://www.pcc.edu 19
William T McFatter Technical College Davie Florida https://www.mcfattertechnicalcollege.edu 17
ICPR Junior College Hato Rey Puerto Rico https://www.icprjc.edu 16
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana https://www.iupui.edu 16
Los Angeles City College Los Angeles California https://www.lacitycollege.edu 13
Pasadena City College Pasadena California https://pasadena.edu 13
ICPR Junior College-Mayaguez Mayaguez Puerto Rico https://www.icprjc.edu 9
Columbia College Vienna Virginia https://www.ccdc.edu 8
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin https://www.matc.edu 8
Commonwealth Technical Institute Johnstown Pennsylvania https://www.dli.pa.gov 7
Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Memphis Memphis Tennessee https://tcatmemphis.edu 7
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona https://www.pima.edu 7
Middlesex Community College Bedford Massachusetts https://www.middlesex.mass.edu 7
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa https://www.kirkwood.edu 7
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans New Orleans Louisiana https://www.lsuhsc.edu 4
Florida National University-Main Campus Hialeah Florida https://www.fnu.edu 4
Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville Nashville Tennessee https://tcatnashville.edu 3
Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf Big Spring Texas https://howardcollege.edu/library/swcid-library 2
Santa Fe Community College Santa Fe New Mexico https://www.sfcc.edu 1
Erie Community College Buffalo New York https://www.ecc.edu 1
'20-'21 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

Hybrid & Online Programs in Dental Laboratory Technology

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 or electives through distance learning. Applicants should recognize that this is one healthcare field where on-campus attendance is required but that there are other related fields, such as dental assisting, where a broad range of online programs can be found. Work experiences may be part of these dental assisting programs, but 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.

School City State Website GRADS ('21)
Purdue University Fort Wayne Fort Wayne Indiana https://www.pfw.edu 3
'20-'21 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

Core & Elective Courses in Dental Laboratory Technology

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. However, the name of their classes or courses may vary. For example, some classes in dental lab tech school could include:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Dental materials
  • Dentures
  • 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 Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, requires students to complete clinicals at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.

Alternatively, the bachelor of science in dental technology available through Indiana University School of Dentistry requires students to complete up to six credits of practical laboratory experience as part of its program. Students may also need to do research projects or write papers summing up their learning.

Accreditation of Dental Laboratory Technology Programs

Choosing a dental lab tech program means evaluating several different factors, including accreditation. Ideally, students should look for programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Graduation from an approved school is needed to seek Registered Graduate (RG) status through the National Board for Certification (NBC) in Dental Laboratory Technology. However, Certified Dental Technician (CDT) candidates do not necessarily need to graduate from an approved program—they can apply with at least five years of experience (or a combination of school and experience). The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology has a list of approved schools.

Although accreditation is not synonymous with approval, all CODA-accredited programs are also approved. Further, accreditation provides assurance to students that their program has been assessed and thoroughly examined by an outside agency and found to meet specific standards. As of April 2024, the ADA accredited 13 dental lab technology programs in the U.S.

In addition to programmatic accreditation, applicants can look for a school's overall accreditation status. Regionally-based accrediting bodies such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) evaluate a school's overall facilities, faculty, and programs and provide accreditation based on that assessment.

Career Outlook

Jobs for dental lab technicians should grow by -1 percent from 2022 to 2032, according to the BLS (2024). This growth is slower than the average for all occupations over the same period (3 percent).

Indeed, there should 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 well as people’s aesthetic desires to improve their smile and dental features, the BLS indicates.

The National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) also paints a rosy job demand picture. According to a page on its website, the 21st century will be a time of promise and growth in dental lab work 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 Facts Dental Lab Technician
Related CareersMedical Appliance Technician, Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician, Medical Equipment Repairer
Common Job TitlesDental Lab Technologists
Technology & EquipmentDental Articulators, Dental Ovens, Porcelain Furnaces
Sourced from BLS 2024

Licensing & Certification for Dental Laboratory Technicians

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 school that has been approved by NBC. In order to be recognized as an approved school, a program may either be:

  • Accredited by CODA
  • Listed in the US Department of Education Database of Accredited Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs, or
  • Accredited through their state's Higher Education Executive Officers or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation

It should be noted that students must 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 specialized 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 exams, 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 in preparing for their examinations. A downloadable CDT handbook and a number of study clubs are listed on the NBC website to help people find others with whom to study.

Rachel Drummond, MEd
Rachel Drummond, MEd Writer

Rachel Drummond has contributed insightful articles to MedicalTechnologySchools.com since 2019, where she offers valuable advice and guidance for those pursuing careers in the healthcare field, combining her passion for education with her understanding of the critical role that healthcare professionals play in promoting physical and mental well-being.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.

Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson Writer

With her passion for uncovering the latest innovations and trends, Kimmy Gustafson has provided valuable insights and has interviewed experts to provide readers with the latest information in the rapidly evolving field of medical technology since 2019. Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.