For dental hygienists aspiring to the best salaries and positions the profession offers, completing a bachelor’s degree is an important step toward achieving their goals. By earning a four-year degree, dental hygienists boost their career outlook. They also expand their knowledge and skills, allowing them to serve patients better or seek a new career direction in public health, education, research, or management.

It’s especially impactful in Wisconsin. Since a law change in 2017, state regulations expanded the number of places where dental hygienists can work without the supervision of a dentist, giving hygienists the ability to practice their profession in rural areas and other locations where people have limited access to dental services.

Completing a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene allows dental hygienists to take advantage of that opportunity. A dental hygiene completion program also better prepares graduates to excel in one of the fastest-growing careers in healthcare.

The Need For Dental Hygiene Bachelor Completion Programs

A dental hygiene completion program provides a convenient path for dental hygienists to earn a bachelor’s degree. This is especially true with a 100% online program that allows students to schedule courses around their work hours.

Colleen M. Brickle, EdD, RDH, the Dental Hygiene Completion Program Director at Marian University, wrote about this issue for the Journal of Dental Hygiene. She noted that a dental hygiene completion program offers an answer for associate degree graduates “seeking seamless pathways to a bachelor degree.”

“However, most importantly, baccalaureate education is necessary for dental hygienists to meet the oral health care needs of all populations in the 21st century, especially for our vulnerable populations,” Brickle wrote. “In order to meet the needs of these populations, dental hygiene programs must prepare students to deliver care in community settings beyond clinical private practice.”

She wrote that oral health care professionals today need “higher-level order of problem-solving skills to be able to think critically while applying evidence to inform practice.”

“Meeting this challenge as well as the other competencies such as health literacy, cultural sensitivity, community-based or interprofessional practice, by simply adding more content to an already crowded associate degree curriculum, is not possible,” Brickle wrote.

Growth in the Dental Hygiene Field

In addition to the skills listed by Brickle, graduates from a dental hygienist bachelor’s program also learn advanced leadership and management skills. This skill combination makes them better candidates for promotions and higher salaries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental hygienists finishing a dental hygiene completion program also get the education required to earn jobs in research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. Some of those positions may also require a graduate degree.

The BLS projects 11 percent growth in the dental hygienist profession between 2020 and 2030. In May 2020, the average salary for dental hygienists reached $78,050, with the top 10 percent in the profession earning more than $104,000.

By earning a bachelor’s degree, dental hygienists may also choose to continue their education by enrolling in dental therapy or dental school. The average annual salary for a dental therapist is 110,000 and for dentists is $180,830.

Benefits of Marian’s Online Dental Hygiene Completion Program (Bachelor’s Degree)

Marian University offers its dental hygiene completion program 100% online, allowing dental hygienists to complete their bachelor’s degree from wherever they live. Marian offers its course in a seven-week, accelerated format, allowing most students to complete the program in as little as 16 months.

Students also can transfer up to 90 credits they’ve earned from other accredited universities and colleges, which further shortens the time and lowers the cost of completing their bachelor’s degree.

The Marian University program is Wisconsin’s first dental hygiene bachelor’s completion program. The university specifically designed the program to serve working professionals with an associate degree. The Marian program attracts those in Wisconsin and dental hygienists who work out of state.

For dental hygienists, finishing a dental hygiene bachelor degree completion program opens the door to higher pay, promotions, and the ability to do their job at the highest level. With the availability of quality online programs, the ability to earn a four-year degree in dental hygiene has never been more convenient.