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Online Education (dental Office Management Degree)

By Expert Author: John Srob

Associate of Science in Dental Office Management
Associate's degree programs in dental office management are most typically offered through 2-year community colleges and vocational schools. Such programs are traditionally designed for individuals who have already earned a certificate or diploma in dental assisting and who are interested in advancing to management positions within a dentist's office.
Students enrolled in a dental office management degree program learn how to oversee the day-to-day business operations of a dentist's office. They learn how to communicate with patients, manage electronic records systems, supervise a staff of dental assistants and handle basic administrative tasks. Students enrolled in such a program are also often required to complete a clinical externship at an actual dentist's office.
Education Prerequisites
Before applying to enroll in an associate's degree program for aspiring dental office managers, students should first complete a dental assisting certificate or diploma program accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. Some schools do offer dental assisting diploma programs within the curriculum of dental office management associate's degree programs. Either type of program is acceptable, although students should have a background in dental assisting techniques, dental procedures and dental anatomy before advancing to office management courses.
Program Coursework
Many of the courses found within an associate's degree program in dental office management focus on management skills and business principles. Some specific examples of subject matter include:

Business law
Medical billing and coding
Dental insurance principles
Medical ethics
Human relations and communication
Organizational management
Microcomputer applications

Certification Information
Dental office managers are not typically required to hold additional certification to gain a position in the field. However, since all dental office managers are also required to be trained dental assistants, they must hold certification for that position. Many states require dental assistants to gain licensure by passing an examination.
Dental offices are projected to add nearly 820,000 new jobs from 2008 to 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, and dentists aren't the only professionals who stand to benefit from that growth.
A growing demand for dental care due to increased public awareness and a greater ability to pay for services should create more work for dentists in coming years, and dentists in turn are expected to rely on support staff to meet that demand, the BLS reports.
Technology is another driver of demand for dental services, a 2011 survey from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports. Innovations ranging from smartphone applications to computer-aided dentistry are decreasing the amount of time spent on procedures and increasing patient comfort and safety. The survey found 63 percent of responding cosmetic dentists predicted at least moderate growth for their business in 2011.
As dental offices become more reliant on technology to chart, manage dental records and set appointments, dental office managers stand to play an increasingly important role in the industry.
Job duties for a dental office manager can include coordinating interactions between patients and staff, ensuring the accuracy of patient histories or taking on small-scale human resources responsibilities. Educational and experience requirements vary from one employer to the next, but if you already have a job as a dental assistant or hygienist, a short-term certificate or associate degree in dental office management could be all it takes to launch your career. It's important to consider the pros and cons of the job to decide if this field is for you. What Is a Dental Office Manager?
A dental office manager is an administrative support professional who oversees and coordinates all non-medical activities in a dental practice. Their duties include budgeting and billing; processing payrolls and insurance forms; scheduling appointments, meetings and evaluations; hiring and training clerical staff, responding to patient inquiries and complaints; ensuring compliance with regulations; and serving as a liaison between administrative staff and dental professionals.
Step 1: Prepare in High School
High school courses can develop your oral and written communication skills and provide background knowledge in science that prepares you for further dental office related training. English, speech, biology, chemistry and algebra are potentially helpful topics. Your school may also offer classes that teach basic office skills. Regardless of your class choices, you will most likely need a diploma or GED (General Educational Development) diploma to enroll in a college program.
Step 2: Earn a Certificate
Many community colleges and vocational schools offer dental office administration certificate programs designed to prepare you for entry-level office positions. Programs may incorporate some technical content related to dentistry, but they primarily emphasize the development of office management skills. Possible course topics include scheduling, billing, insurance claims processing, records management, dental terminology and dental procedures. Associate's degree programs are available as well, but are more common at private-for-profit schools.
Step 3: Find a Job
Specific figures for dental office managers weren't available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 141,900 dentists were employed as of 2008 (www.bls.gov). Employment of dentists is projected to increase 16% to around 164,000 by 2018. This provides a rough indication of the size of your market opportunity.
The number of existing positions, however, is likely to be smaller. Not all dentists use an office manager; others may be part of a group practice that shares its support staff, and improved technology is reducing the need for administrative personnel. According to Payscale.com as of July 2011, you could potentially earn a salary in the middle range of $29,140-$53,289.
Step 4: Receive On-The-Job Training
You will need on-the-job training even if you complete a certificate program. Although common business productivity applications are widely used in all offices, you are also likely to encounter dedicated billing and practice management software such as Dentrix. In addition, you need time to gain familiarity with the practices and preferences of your employer.
Step 5: Consider Advancement Opportunities
Your advancement opportunities may be limited unless you're willing to pursue further education. One possibility would be to extend your skill set and versatility by earning a dental assistant certificate or a dental hygienist associate's degree, thereby qualifying you for two jobs. Another possibility would be a transition to medical information and health records management, which typically requires an associate's degree. In either instance, you might be able to transfer some of your certificate credits toward the new credential.

You May Qualify For Financial Aid.

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