Becoming a Dental Ceramist: Careers, Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career in dental ceramics? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a dental ceramist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Dental Ceramist

Dental ceramists work as specialized dental laboratory technicians and make porcelain or acrylic replicas of teeth. Read on to discover more about dental lab technicians.

PROS of Becoming a Dental Ceramist
Pay is good relative to education requirements (median annual wage of around $36,000 as of May 2014)*
Minimal education requirements (high school diploma required by most employers)*
On-the-job training*
Regular work hours**

CONS of Becoming a Dental Ceramist
Little job growth expected (three percent from 2012-2022)*
Physically demanding (walking and standing for long periods, using arms and legs to control machinery)**
Potential exposure to chemicals, dust, pollutants and gases**
Potential exposure to disease and infection**

*Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **I Have a Plan Iowa

Career Information

Job Description

Dental ceramists work in a laboratory mixing and applying porcelain or acrylic over metal framework to form a natural-looking tooth replica. This must be performed according to exact specifications. Working as a dental ceramist requires good dexterity and an ability to match colors very closely. The ability to work with precision and small tools is important. As a ceramist, you'll specialize mostly in creating veneers and bridges.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the BLS, employment growth for dental lab technicians was expected to be three percent with about 1,000 jobs added to the field in the 2012-2022 decade. However, due to the aging population, ceramists may continue to see an increased job growth due to the need for veneers and crowns as well as the decreasing expense of such appliances. The median annual salary for dental lab technicians was around $36,000 and ranged from a low of $22,000 or less to a high of around $61,000 or more as of May 2014.

What are the Requirements?

Skills and Education

Science, math and art are valuable subjects for aspiring dental ceramists, because of the nature of the work. Formal education isn't required for most jobs, but an associate's degree in dental laboratory technology or a 1-year certificate can be beneficial. Some skills and qualifications that are useful for a career in dental ceramics are:

  • Artistic aptitude
  • Good dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • Good vision

Job Postings

Most dental ceramics jobs only require work experience as a condition for employment, but some require certification and/or an associate's degree. The following job postings, advertised in March 2012, may give you an idea of what type of experience employers look for:

  • A dental lab in New Hampshire looked for a part-time experienced dental ceramist to provide high-quality work making crowns and bridges. No degree requirement was listed.
  • A Maryland dental lab seeks a dental ceramist with at least five years of experience in the field to work full-time. The posting didn't list a degree requirement.
  • A California company advertised for an experienced dental ceramist with an associate's degree and certification in dental technology. This job requires candidates to make high-quality crowns.

How to Stand out in the Field

Since most jobs in dental lab technology don't have set education requirements, an associate's degree in dental lab technology or Certified Dental Technician credential (CDT) can make you stand out among the competition. To quality for certification, you'll need to have graduated from an accredited dental lab technician program or have at least five years of experience on the job. Additionally, you'll be required to pass several exams. Up-to-date computer and software skills are also an advantage in this field.

Other Careers to Consider

If you're looking for a career with a better employment growth rate and salary, the field of biomedical equipment technology may be right for you. Biomedical equipment technicians repair and maintain many types of medical equipment, from hospital beds to ultrasound equipment. Employment was expected to grow much faster than the average (31% from 2010-2020), according to the BLS. The median annual wage was around $45,000 as of May 2011. Most employers require an associate's degree, but some offer on-the-job training. However, some jobs require you to work on-call, overtime or irregular hours.

If you like the idea of working with your hands and using precision instruments, but the dental field doesn't appeal to you, perhaps you'd enjoy a career designing and adjusting jewelry and gemstones. The job requires good dexterity, vision, artistic ability and patience. A good personality and character are important qualities to have when working as a jeweler because of direct client contact and working with valuable items. However, the BLS predicted that employment growth in this field would decline moderately at negative-five percent from 2010-2020. The median annual wage as of May 2011 was around $34,000. The education typically consists of 1-2 years in trade school or a lengthy period of on-the-job training.

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