A lot of young people considering what future occupation they want to do when they grow up will put dentist at the top of the list. With a median salary of nearly $150,000 annually, that adds up to a lot of reasons to consider becoming a dentist.
The salary alone cannot be the motivator for pursuing dental school. There is great variation in the salary of a dentist. The bottom 10% of dentists make less than $72,000 a year.
Should You Own Your Own Practice?
Generally speaking, those who own their own practices tend to make more money. The average salary of a dentist who had some percentage of ownership in his practice was more than $190,000 a year.
However, running your own practice is incredibly expensive and has a lot of headaches. Plus, any perks enjoyed by those who work salaried positions in hospitals, etc. are not open to those in private practice.
The dentist in private practice may enjoy a higher salary, but he also endures more stress, more responsibility, and no perks or benefits. He has complete flexibility over his schedule and autonomy, but he also assumes a lot of risk.
Factors That Determine Your Dental Salary
However, averages don’t really mean much to individual. The salary of a dentist depends upon many factors. Some of it hinges upon where the dentist works. His experience, number of hours worked weekly, reputation of his university and credentials, region of the country he practices in and specialization.
States where the cost of living is higher also have higher annual salaries for their dentists—and everyone else. But just like everyone else, the salary of a dentist doesn’t go as far in an area with a high cost of living.
Location Is Very Important
Additionally, dentists in areas where there is a shortage of qualified dental health experts will enjoy higher salaries. Dentists who have just graduated from dental school, who are willing to go to a rural area and practice, are pulling down well over $100,000 a year.
Typically, newly graduated dentists do not enjoy that kind of money. Another upside of choosing to be a dentist in a rural area is that the $100K you’re making will buy a lot more there than it will in a crowded suburb in New Jersey.
Specialization makes a big difference as well. The average salary of a dental specialist is $315,000 a year.
Student Loans – Is the Payoff Worth It?
Another thing to consider is the cost of becoming a dentist. The average dental school graduate walks about with almost $200,000 dollars in student loans for dental school. The average graduate will carry approximately $30,000 in student loan debt if he attended a public school and closer to $40,000 if his undergrad institution was private. Those loans have to be repaid as well.
With student loan balances such as these, the salary of dentists needs to be high to enable him to make the nearly $2000 a month payment he will owe.
So while the salary aspect of being a dentist is attractive, one has to consider the costs, and the variables which impact the salary figure for the individual dentist. The bottom line is that the salary of a dentist shouldn’t be your number one reason for considering dental school.