Orthodontist Careers








$70,530 /yr

$33.91 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in treating both cosmetic and health-threatening issues that include crooked teeth, underbites and overbites, misaligned jaws, and other abnormalities in the face, jaw, and teeth.

Orthodontist Job Description

Orthodontists may use tools such as braces and retainers, and some may perform oral surgery as well. Usually, an orthodontist’s goal is both cosmetic and health-related—to help patients look better, but also improve the function of the teeth and jaw area.

How to Become an Orthodontist

Start with a Bachelor’s degree. You’ll need a four-year degree before you can get accepted to a postgraduate training program.

A specific degree subject is not required. However, all students wishing to go on to dental school must pass the Dental Admissions Test, which includes questions on biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and math. Students who take classes in these areas will definitely have an advantage.

Go to dental school. Orthodontists generally receive training in basic dental expertise before they specialize in orthodontics. Dental school involves four years of training, both in the classroom and in the lab. The last two years usually includes hands-on experience working in dental clinics.

Attend an orthodontics graduate program. These programs will generally require an additional two to four years of study, including a postgraduate residency period.  Bear in mind that, if you want to earn board certification, you will need to choose an orthodontics program that has been accredited by the American Dental Association.

Earn your license. Once you graduate, you will need to get licensed in your state to practice as an orthodontist. Every licensing procedure is different; however, it generally involves passing both written and practical exams. Some states will grant you licensure after passing the national board examination, rather than requiring you to sit for another state-administered test.

Earn board certification. The American Board of Orthodontics’ board certification program is not mandatory in this profession. However, it can significantly add to your credentials—and serves as a replacement for licensure in some states. The certification requires graduation from an ABA-certified orthodontics program, and passing of a written exam. The certification must be renewed once every ten years.

Becoming an Orthodontist with an Online Degree

Like medical school, orthodontics is not a field that translates well into accredited online degree programs—because of the importance of hands-on clinical training. However, there are a few dental schools that administer some classroom-based instruction in online form—such as Boston University. Once you’ve achieved board certification, it’s more common to find continuing education programs online. The American Dental Association, for example, administers its own catalog of online education options for those maintaining their certification.

Orthodontist Salary Information and Job Outlook

Orthodontists are among the higher-paid of those who work in dentistry. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, they made a median of more than $166,400—compared with $161,020 for other dental specialists and $141,040 for general dentists.

This career is expected to grow by 21% within the next ten years—a healthy growth number that exceeds average national growth in all industries. As the baby-boom generation grows older, it’s likely the need for complicated dental services will rise.

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Orthodontist

It takes a considerable investment of time and money to become an orthodontist—as many as ten to twelve years, from a Bachelor’s degree to an orthodontics program. However, the payoff can be worth it—the job pays very well and is projected to have steady, consistent growth. In addition, many orthodontists find great personal satisfaction in helping people both look and feel better.

For Further Research:

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Orthodontists
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dentists


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