With the rise of online learning, prospective students now have the choice between self-paced online classes, instructor-led online classes, or in-person classes. Before delving into the differences between online dental assisting and in-person programs, however, it’s important to know what a dental assisting program is and what skills you will learn.

What Is a Dental Assisting Program? 

What Is a Dental Assistant?

A dental assisting program teaches students how to assist dentists in a dental office. Students will get a full understanding of the dental industry as well as the skills needed to assist a general dentist. These skills include recognizing dental instruments, learning how to use dental equipment and instruments, taking diagnostic X-rays, knowing how to sterilize dental equipment, learning the best ways to disinfect treatment rooms, preparing patients for dental procedures, and helping dentists during dental procedures.

Besides the above skills, students will also learn dental anatomy as well as the different positions in a dental office, such as dental hygienists and dental lab technicians.

The length of a dental assistant program may vary depending on the institution you select as well as the kind of degree you hope to get. An associate’s degree is two years. However, you can earn your dental assisting certificate anywhere between 6-15 months. At Vancouver Dental Assisting School, we offer a 10-week intensive program.

Why Should You Consider Becoming a Dental Assistant?

Working as a dental assistant can be fulfilling professionally and personally. In fact, there are quite a few reasons why becoming a dental assistant is a good idea.

Growing Demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 8% between 2021 to 2031. This means that there will be many job opportunities for qualified dental assistants. General dental offices are not the only places qualified dental assistants can look for a job. For example, nursing care facilities need dental assistants as well.


One of the main factors that people look at when considering a career path is salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for dental assistants was $38,660 per year as of 2021. Your salary will, of course, depend on the city you live in and the type of office you work in as well. Other factors that will determine your salary are your education and your experience level. For example, dental assistants who work in large cities or specialized dental practices, such as nursing care facilities, may earn higher salaries than those who work in smaller towns or general dental offices.

Work Satisfaction

As dental assistants play a crucial role in helping dentists with dental procedures, they may feel a high sense of satisfaction from being of service. In fact, 66% of DANB Certified Dental Assistants and 59% of non-certified dental assistants report high or very high job satisfaction. These are encouraging statistics, as it demonstrates that helping patients improve their overall oral health can be a rewarding experience.

On-the-job satisfaction wasn’t the only reason cited for work satisfaction. Salary, feeling part of a team, work-life balance, and insurance benefits were some of the other reasons.

Career Growth

Although 78% of dental assistants believe dental assisting is their career, there is still room to go further. Dental assisting can be a stepping stone to other careers in the dental industry, such as dental hygienist or dental office management. Here are some career growth opportunities available to dental assistants:

Continuing Education

You may choose to further your education and pursue a similar career, such as a dental hygienist. You may also want to expand your knowledge and skills in specific areas of dentistry by taking additional courses. Dental assistants are typically on their feet all day, and this may not be an attractive idea as you get older. Pursuing similar career paths within dentistry is an option. Finally, you may have dreams of becoming a dentist with your own office.

Additional Certificates

Besides becoming a certified dental assistant, you may wish to acquire additional certificates. These include a certified orthodontic assistant, a certified restorative functions dental assistant, or a certified preventive functions dental assistant.


Once you become a dental assistant, you may wish to specialize and work in specific areas of dentistry, such as orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, or even oral surgery. You may need more training and more education, but choosing to specialize may lead to a higher-paying job.


If putting your hands in people’s mouths isn’t the way you’d like to spend the rest of your career, you can move into a management position, such as a dental office manager or practice administrator. You can oversee the day-to-day operations of a dental office and help with hiring and marketing.


As stated above, work-life balance is a big factor in why people choose a career. Dental assistants can work part-time, evening shifts, or full-time. This flexibility can be beneficial for those who have a family or for those who have other passions.

Online Versus In-Person Program Comparison

When you’re considering an in-person program versus one that is online, there are many factors to consider. There are differences and similarities between a self-paced online program, an instructor-led online program, and an in-person program, so it’s important to research all of them to decide which will best fit your schedule and your needs.


Course content

You will cover the same subjects in all programs. There will be no difference in the curriculum and courses offered. While you may receive more hands-on lab experience with in-person programs, your skill set should be the same whether you choose an online program or an in-person program.


Once you complete the requirements, you will get the same certification and licenses through the state that you reside in, whether you take self-paced, instructor-led, or in-person courses.


For both online and in-person programs, you will have access to all the resources you need. These include study materials, textbooks, and instructional videos.



When you sign on for self-paced classes, you can go through the course at your own pace, and you can turn in your assignments and exams upon completion. Instructor-led classes are more structured as there are specific class times that you must attend via Zoom or another video conferencing platform. Instructors may take attendance. In-person classes are the most traditional in structure. You must show up in person at a specific location and at the assigned date and time.


Instructor-led classes as well as in-person classes offer more opportunities to interact with your instructors and to ask questions about assignments and exams. With self-paced classes, you may be limited to emails and texts, and response times may not be immediate.

Lab experience

Instructor-led classes often provide students with lab kits that are sent to their homes for them to practice dental procedures. They can then practice these dental procedures during the instructor-led classes. In-person classes also have hands-on experience as you will be in a dental office, carrying out mock procedures. This kind of hands-on experience is missing in online self-paced programs.

Learning style

If you prefer to interact with your instructor and can free up your schedule during the times the online class is scheduled, an instructor-led class may be better for you. However, if work and family demands make it difficult to be available during lectures, you may need to work independently and at your own pace. In-person programs will demand most of your time, but if you prefer a traditional and structured school environment, an in-person program is ideal. With a self-paced class, you will be watching pre-recorded instructional videos and lectures that you can watch when it’s convenient for your schedule.

Technology requirements

When you take instructor-led classes, you will need a computer, an internet connection, a webcam, and a microphone. With self-paced classes, you will only need a computer and an internet connection to view any pre-recorded lectures and videos. In-person programs will only require a computer for assignments outside of class.

What Type of Program Is Right for You?

Now that you’re aware of the differences and similarities, you will need to decide what works for your needs and your budget. Each option has unique advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to consider if you prefer to learn online versus in person, your schedule, and your final goals before making a decision.

Self-Paced Online Classes

If you need a flexible learning schedule where you can accommodate a job and your family, self-paced online classes are a good option. This option will let you study at your own pace rather than at a set time online. You will have greater flexibility in balancing your work, family, or any other commitments you may have. You can access the program’s lectures, tests, and assignments at any time.

Self-paced online classes are good if you are disciplined and manage your time well. You won’t have the structure of a traditional classroom setting nor will there be deadlines. In addition, you may not receive as much interaction from staff. This could be a disadvantage if you have lots of questions.

Instructor-Led Online Classes

Instructor-led online classes offer a little more structure than a self-paced online program. The online classes are delivered at specific times and in real-time. This lets you ask questions and talk with your instructors via video conferencing software.

Although you will still need the discipline and time-management skills that you would need for self-paced online programs, you have more feedback and support. You will also be able to communicate with other students.

If you can attend instructor-led online classes, then this is an alternative option that you can consider. The disadvantage of this type of program is that the classes may be at a time when you need to be at work. Or you may have other pressing commitments.

In-Person Classes

When you sign up for an in-person program, you get the full benefit of a classroom experience as well as any hands-on training offered in a laboratory setting. If you have a fairly flexible schedule and you enjoy a structured, traditional learning environment, in-person classes are a good choice.

The downside of in-person programs is that they are at fixed times and do require a moderate time commitment, which makes them inconvenient for those who have very restrictive working schedules. This is not an issue at our school as we offer weekday and weekend classes to accommondate students who also have full time jobs. 

What Does Our School Offer?

Vancouver Dental Assisting School is a trade school that offers 10-week accelerated dental assisting programs in Vancouver, Washington. We are an accredited trade school as well as a certified and licensed post-secondary educational institution.

We offer in-person programs as well as online instructor-led programs, and we are the only school in Washington and Oregon that gives students the choice to choose between in-person programs or online programs. Our classes can accommodate up to 15 students.

Our facility is in a modern dental office. It is close to public transport and offers plenty parking spaces to both our students and staff.

In-Person Programs

When you apply for the dental assisting in-person program, you will attend lectures in the classroom on our upper floor. Clinicals will be in one of the fully equipped five patient rooms. There are 10 courses, which are listed below. In addition to these courses, AIDs/HIV and CPR training will be included in your coursework.

  • Course #1: Introduction to Dentistry and Dental
  • Course #2: Basic Dental Assisting Theory – Part 1
  • Course #3: Basic Dental Assisting Theory – Part 2
  • Course #4: Assisting for Operative Dentistry
  • Course #5: Radiology – Part 1
  • Course #6: Radiology – Part 2
  • Course #7: Assisting for Prosthodontics
  • Course #8: Dental Specialties
  • Course #9: Cosmetic Dentistry – Introduction to Administrative Techniques
  • Course #10: Administrative Techniques (cont.), Interview Techniques, CPR Certification, and Graduation

To graduate from the 10-week dental assisting program, you must pass a written exam and a clinical. You must also complete 100 hours of clinical externship hours.  The class is one day a week, from 9 am-5 pm each day. Lectures are in the morning, and clinical training is in the afternoon, after lunch.  

 Online Programs

If you choose the dental assisting online program, you will have the same courses as the in-person program. These are:

  • Course #1: Introduction to Dentistry and Dental
  • Course #2: Basic Dental Assisting Theory – Part 1
  • Course #3: Basic Dental Assisting Theory – Part 2
  • Course #4: Assisting for Operative Dentistry
  • Course #5: Radiology – Part 1
  • Course #6: Radiology – Part 2
  • Course #7: Assisting for Prosthodontics
  • Course #8: Dental Specialties
  • Course #9: Cosmetic Dentistry – Introduction to Administrative Techniques
  • Course #10: Administrative Techniques (cont.), Interview Techniques, CPR Certification, and Graduation

Like the in-person program, the AIDs/HIV and CPR training will be included in your coursework. However, these courses will all be offered online.

The online program lets students learn from home on either Sundays or Wednesdays. In addition to the online instructor-led lectures, you can choose in-person or virtual labs. The tuition cost is $2,295 for the 10-week program. Register a class for only $99.

Why Choose Vancouver Dental Assisting School?

Vancouver Dental Assisting School is an accredited institution with a 95% success rate. We also have 38+ years of combined staff experience and 800+ happy students. There are more reasons we stand out.

Accelerated 10-Week Course

With our 10-week course, you’ll be on an accelerated learning track. If you attend a year-long program, you will spend a lot more in tuition and other associated costs. In addition, one year is a long time to take off if you have other responsibilities, such as a job and a family. When you enroll in our program, you will get intensive hands-on training for 10 weeks. Plus, you will be performing clinical assignments in a fully equipped dental office.

Financial Assistance

Vancouver Dental Assisting School has not had a tuition increase since 2020! What’s more, our tuition is more affordable as we now have tier pricing and online programs. We even offer financial assistance and payment options for students.

WorkSource Washington

Our in-person and online programs are backed by WorkSource, which is a State Funded Program. If you need financial assistance, you can contact your local Worksource office to see what kinds of requirements you need.


If you are from a low-income family making $2,000 or lower per month, you may qualify for our scholarships that give up to $1,000 off.

In-house Payment Plans:

You can also divide your total tuition into weekly or monthly payments for as low as $250/m. Check out all available payment plans today!

2-for-1 special

We are currently offering a 2-for-1 special for our in-person classes. If you and your friend or a family member sign up for a dental assistant in-person class, the tuition for two is $5,895. There are 0% interest payment plans available, and payments can be as little as $250 a month. Call us to see if this offer is still valid! 

Ready to Reserve Your Spot?

When you’re ready to make a choice, contact us at Vancouver Dental Assisting School. We can help you answer any questions you have regarding our dental assistant program and what certifications you will graduate with. As we are on the border of Washington and Oregon, we also get many Oregon students. Their state requirements are a little different, and we can talk further about what those requirements are and how you can go about getting them.

Interested in becoming a dental assistant? Take advantage of either our in-person or online program by registering below!

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