As a dental school graduate, there are many potential directions you can take as a newly minted dentist. But finding one that is compatible with your personal priorities, desires, and goals is what matters. Take into consideration the following factors when deciding a path in dentistry:
- Work/Life Balance: Are you willing to forego your free time in order to complete a residency or start up a new practice? Or is creating balance between your personal and professional worlds in the short term more important? There is no right or wrong answer. What is most important to you?
- Financial Goals: Would you be content making an average dentist income (which is still well above the average American income), or is the accumulation of wealth a major priority? Dental specialists can often make more income than general dentists, but is the additional investment of time and money worth it to you?
- Student Loan Debt: Many newly graduated dentists are eager to begin paying down their student debt as soon as possible. As a result, more new dentists are choosing to become employee dentists at Dental Service Organizations or dental health clinics, rather than risk possible financial uncertainty in a private practice.
- Freedom and Autonomy: Some dentists are fiercely independent and have very strong ideas about how a practice should be run. Other dentists would rather focus on dentistry, and leave the responsibility of running a business to others. If you prefer the former, opening a private practice could be an ideal route. If you prefer the latter, a career at a Dental Service Organization might be right for you.
- Location: Where do you want to live and work? Are you intent on working in a large metropolitan area? If so, be ready for a highly saturated job market where the competition is fierce. In contrast, many underserved rural and urban areas are experiencing dentist shortages. Finding employment as a dentist in these locations is usually easier, and can be quite lucrative.
- Gaining Experience: As a newly graduated dentist, there is still so much to learn. For most dental school grads, it is crucial to have continued hands-on-training and access to mentorship from seasoned colleagues at their place of work. Does your new job offer this?
The possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing a direction in dentistry. What matters most is finding a path that is right for you.