Choosing A Career: Dental Assistant Vs. Medical Assistant

16 June 2017
 Categories: Education & Development, Blog


Careers in the medical fields tend to be growing faster than average, making them a good choice for people who are looking for a new career field. Two such potential careers are dental assisting and medical assisting. Both can sometimes be started without any formal training, although it's usually best to complete at least a one to two year certificate program. The exact regulations as to what's required to start a career in these fields vary by state.

Job Responsibilities

Dental assisting responsibilities could include updating patient records, preparing equipment for the dentist, making impressions, and preparing x-rays for the dentist to look at. Medical assisting could involve mainly office work or it could include more clinical work depending on the setting a person is working in. Tasks could consist of updating medical records, preparing blood samples, giving injections or medications, measuring vital signs, taking patient histories, and scheduling appointments. The main difference in these two careers is that any clinical responsibilities involved with dental assisting focus on the mouth, while medical assisting responsibilities focus on the whole body.

Salary and Projected Growth

Medical assistants make an average of about $15.17 per hour or $31,540 per year as of 2016. Jobs in medical assisting are expected to grow at a much higher than average rate of 23 percent between 2014 and 2024, resulting in about 138,900 new jobs during this time period. Dental assistants make a bit more, averaging $17.76 per hour or $36,940 per year. While the salary may be a bit higher, the projected job growth is slightly lower at 18 percent, with an expected 58,600 new jobs between 2014 and 2024. Thus, you'll need to decide whether you want to aim for a slightly larger paycheck or a larger pool of jobs to apply for.


If you're interested in either of these careers, it's best to choose a certificate or associate's degree program that's accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program, or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, such as New Mexico Institute of Dental Assisting. At least 39 states require dental assistants to take a licensing exam before starting employment, and it can be easier to get a job as a medical assistant if you take the exam to get registered or certified once you've completed your training. This combination of education and certification will make it more likely you will get one of the highest paying entry level jobs available.