Dental Laboratory Technician Schools - Accredited Degree & Certificate Programs
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), 30,800 people were employed as dental lab technicians in the U.S. as of 2020. While working on fabricated dental materials is a critical part of the career, it also requires a variety of other skills such as good time management, manual dexterity, and an ability to discern various shades of color.
Dental lab technicians actually work in laboratories, not dental offices, where they help to create restorative devices for individuals’ teeth. According to the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL), each of the restorations that they do is unique, 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 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.
|Dental Lab Technician fast facts|
|Projected Jobs Created||3,400|
|Projected Job Growth||9%|
|Entry-Level EDU||HS Diploma|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2021|
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 (2021), 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 five dental lab tech schools offering programs in the U.S.:
Bates Technical College: This Tacoma, Washington-based school offers a 120-quarter-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 ranging from dental anatomy to denture repair and fixed orthodontic appliances and also complete learning experiences or seminars. Bates Technical College also offers a 63-quarter-credit dental lab tech certificate for those looking for a shorter educational program.
Pasadena City College: Students can complete a certificate in restorative dentistry over four semesters and two winter intersessions at this Pasadena, California-based school. Despite the name, this program prepares students to work in a dental lab tech capacity. The program is comprised of 61 units and includes classes in orthodontics and pedodontics, 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. 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.
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 73 credits to earn this degree in courses such as dental anatomy and physiology, dental materials, and complete 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.
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.
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
|CUNY New York City College of Technology||Brooklyn||New York||www.citytech.cuny.edu||41|
|Florida National University-Main Campus||Hialeah||Florida||www.fnu.edu||41|
|Durham Technical Community College||Durham||North Carolina||www.durhamtech.edu||32|
|Purdue University Fort Wayne||Fort Wayne||Indiana||www.pfw.edu||21|
|Pasadena City College||Pasadena||California||pasadena.edu||18|
|ICPR Junior College-General Institutional||Hato Rey||Puerto Rico||www.icprjc.edu||15|
|Erie Community College||Buffalo||New York||www.ecc.edu||11|
|Los Angeles City College||Los Angeles||California||www.lacitycollege.edu||11|
|Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville||Nashville||Tennessee||www.tcatnashville.edu||9|
|Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Memphis||Memphis||Tennessee||www.tcatmemphis.edu||9|
|William T McFatter Technical College||Davie||Florida||www.mcfattertechnicalcollege.edu||9|
|Portland Community College||Portland||Oregon||www.pcc.edu||8|
|Moraine Park Technical College||Fond du Lac||Wisconsin||www.morainepark.edu||7|
|Bates Technical College||Tacoma||Washington||www.batestech.edu||5|
|Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf||Big Spring||Texas||www.howardcollege.edu/swcd||5|
|Kirkwood Community College||Cedar Rapids||Iowa||www.kirkwood.edu||5|
|Milwaukee Area Technical College||Milwaukee||Wisconsin||matc.edu||4|
|Putnam Career and Technical Center||Eleanor||West Virginia||pctc.edu||3|
|Santa Fe Community College||Santa Fe||New Mexico||www.sfcc.edu||3|
|J Sargeant Reynolds Community College||Richmond||Virginia||www.reynolds.edu||2|
|Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans||New Orleans||Louisiana||www.lsuhsc.edu||2|
|Pima Community College||Tucson||Arizona||www.pima.edu||2|
|Commonwealth Technical Institute||Johnstown||Pennsylvania||www.dli.pa.gov||1|
|ICPR Junior College-Mayaguez||Mayaguez||Puerto Rico||www.icprjc.edu||1|
|Mountwest Community and Technical College||Huntington||West Virginia||www.mctc.edu||1|
|Pamlico Community College||Grantsboro||North Carolina||www.pamlicocc.edu||1|
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 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.
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:
Refractory cast production
Gold crown waxing
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’s 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 a number of 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 or Certified Dental Technician (CDT) status through the National Board for Certification (NBC) in Dental Laboratory Technology.
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 June 2021, the ADA accredited 14 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.
Jobs for dental lab technicians should grow by 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS (2021). This growth is more than twice the average for all occupations over the same period (4 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 will 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 Careers||Medical Appliance Technician, Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician, Medical Equipment Repairer|
|Common Job Titles||Dental Lab Technologists|
|Technology & Equipment||Dental Articulators, Dental Ovens, Porcelain Furnaces|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2021|
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 the 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.