Salary is a hot topic for dental assistants, both for those who are new to the profession and those who have many years of experience. And the truth is median dental assisting salaries can have a big range across the U.S. — anywhere from $13 to more than $25 per hour.

Your earning potential as a dental assistant is influenced by many factors, including where you live, how much experience you have, and what kind of practice you work in.

Because everyone wants to know how to earn more, we’ve combed through the data to find the top things you can do to maximize your earning potential.


1. Consider Moving

Where you live can really influence how much you earn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some salary data for all dental assistants across the country. Additionally, the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) publishes the DANB Salary Survey, which collects salary information from dental assistants who hold DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification. You can see which states pay the most (figures represent the median hourly wage):

4 ways to earn more_salary survey chart

Beyond what state you live in, whether you live in a small or large town can make a difference in your hourly wage. According to both surveys, dental assistants working in a metropolitan area earn the most. Of course, the cost of living may be higher there, so it’s worth taking a close look at other factors beyond salary to see if moving is worth it.


2. Find Your Specialty

Although general dental practices are the most common, consider exploring other types of practices. You may find that learning additional skills can lead to an increase in compensation. For example, looking for a position at a specialty practice may be a good move. In fact, DANB’s Salary Survey shows that CDA certificants who work in oral surgery and other specialties have the highest wages.


3. Earn certification

Earning and maintaining DANB certification is another way you can improve your bottom line. According to DANB’s Salary Survey, DANB CDA certificants earn nearly $2 more per hour compared to non-DANB certified dental assistants. For more about the career benefits of earning DANB certification, see Why DANB Certification Matters.


4. Be patient

It may take some time to earn the salary you are looking for. Experience pays and learning new skills can help you get a raise down the road. DANB’s Salary Survey shows that dental assistants with 16+ years of experience earn the most.