Dentist Majors: College Majors for Aspiring Dentists
While any major may be acceptable when applying to dental schools, students have to complete a set amount of classes in the sciences and the liberal arts. Some universities offer pre-dentistry tracks, but students still have to select a major in a broader scientific subject. Some common degree programs that meet dental school requirements are in biology, chemistry or physics.
Bachelor of Science in Biology
Biology primarily studies life and its processes. In many cases, these programs will include coursework that satisfies dental school prerequisites. In addition to core biology and mathematics courses, students have the opportunity to choose electives that focuses on zoology, ecology or genetics. Some programs may also specialize in a field like cell or molecular biology, which focuses on how cells interact with diseases or organisms. A high school diploma or the equivalent is typically the only educational requirement for admission.
Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in biology can focus on the comprehensive study and research of life. In addition to biology courses, students can study subjects like:
- Cell biology
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
A bachelor's degree in chemistry may also be useful to aspiring dentists, as these programs fulfill dental school prerequisites in chemistry and mathematics. Chemistry programs typically include laboratory work and focus on how elements react to one another in the environment. Students learn about chemical compounds, synthetic reactions, chemical bonds and lab safety. A high school diploma or the equivalent is typically required for admission.
In these programs, students learn about chemical principles of the elements and of molecules. In addition to classroom lectures, students learn how to use laboratory equipment and perform experiments in order to understand chemical theories. Some common courses may include:
- General chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- Inorganic chemistry
- Analytical chemistry
- Analytical chemistry
Bachelor of Science in Physics
Students in a physics degree program study advanced mathematics, computational techniques and physics theories. Students can easily fulfill the common dental school prerequisites of physics and math. Applicants must hold a high school diploma in order to enroll.
Students are expected to complete foundational physics courses and choose electives, such as optics to nuclear physics. Some common courses in these programs may include:
- Thermal physics
- Modern physics
- Quantum mechanics
- Applied physics
Continuing Education Information and Licensure
After earning a degree in an appropriate undergraduate field of study, students can apply to an accredited dental school. They are required to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) for admissions. A Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree program provides courses like microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. Students also participate in labs and clinical rounds in which they treat actual patients under the supervision of dentists.
In addition to the four years of dental school, aspiring dentists must be licensed by their individual states. Licensure includes both a practical and written exam. In order to be eligible for the licensing exam, future dentists may have to complete postgraduate residencies and education.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of dentists is expected to grow 16% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). This growth may be attributed to an increasing elderly population needing more dental care. Dentists are responsible for the preventative care of teeth, oral surgery and the administration of anesthetics. The BLS states that the median annual income for general dentists was $141,040 in May 2010.
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