What to Major in to Become a Dentist

Image of dentist for our FAQ on What to Major in to Become a Dentist

Dentistry can be a rewarding profession. It offers good wages and and job satisfaction. You also get to work with your hands and help others restore their health.

If you have dreams of going to dental school to become a dentist, you have to start your planning early. You need to know what undergraduate degree is best for dental school. You also need to figure out which majors to become a dentist fit you and your interests.

Read on to learn what to major in to become a dentist and the best majors for dental school.

Best Degree Path to Becoming a Dentist

What should I major in to become a dentist?

Wondering what do dentists major in? There are many different majors to choose from when it comes to admission to dental school. The major you choose should line up with your interests.

As long as you complete dental school requirements, you can major in anything. Sure, most dentists have degrees in sciences, but some major in humanities. Below are popular majors for dental school.


Most dental schools look for students with a strong background in science. While you don’t have to major in a science, you must complete many science courses. Biochemistry is a good choice for dental school.

Why is this major a top choice for dental school? You get to learn two sciences at once. Biochemistry is the intersection of biology and chemistry. You explore life at the molecular level.

A biochem major serves your career in dentistry. You take foundational science classes. You can use this knowledge in dental school and beyond.


Pre dental students need biology classes. Because most dental schools look for students with a strong science background, biology is a good major. In fact, it is a best major for dental school.

In a biology program, you take many foundational biology and chemistry courses. You also study human anatomy and physiology. These courses are great for dental school. They help you learn anatomy basics that you will use later on when you study dental health and oral and maxillofacial surgery.


According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), most dental students major in biology and chemistry. If you wonder what major should I choose to be a dentist, chemistry is a good choice.

As a chemistry major, you take many biology, chemistry, and physics classes. You spend much of your day doing lab work. You get a strong science background that can serve you well in dental school.


Aspiring dentists must take prerequisite courses for dental school. A pre-dental major helps you focus on the must-have classes for dental school. They prepare you with a strong science foundation. They also give you exposure to the rigor you will find in dental school.

Like medical school, you need prerequisite courses to get accepted to dental school. These courses include many science classes. Plan on taking calculus, organic chemistry, and physics. You will also take courses in biology, general and organic chemistry, and English.


Non Science Majors for Dental School

Wondering what to major in to be a dentist that isn’t science? Dental schools don’t only want science majors. If you have the prerequisites, you can get into dental schools without a science degree.


A specific undergraduate degree is not required for dental school. You can major in anything as long as you complete your prerequisites. If you love to study literature, you can still be a dentist.

As an English major, you won’t study dental medicine. But you will take science prerequisites while majoring in a subject you enjoy. And when it comes time for your dental admissions test and application, you will ace the essay. Dental schools will appreciate your personal statement because you know how to write.


A good dental school program needs a major and prerequisite courses. But you don’t have to major in a science to get accepted to dental schools.

If you’re interested in psychology, why not major in it? Psychology is a soft science. But you use mathematical models and conduct lab work. Psych programs at some colleges are quantitative. As a result, you get exposure to graphs and scientific writing.

Best Degree Path to Becoming a Dentist

Can you go to dental school with a history degree?

Admission to dental school is tough. Dental schools won’t accept a history degree on its own. But you can get into dental school with this degree as long as you supplement it with science courses.

To get into dental school, you need prerequisites. These include classes in biology, organic chemistry, and physics. But if you’re interested in history, you can major in it. You will also need to take science classes that meet your prerequisites.

In the end, you might earn a degree in history and pick up a minor in biology or another science. But make sure your degree meets dental accreditation standards. And get a good grade point average while earning it.

Read on to learn which classes you must take to pass the dental admissions test.

What courses do I need to take for dental school?

Your career in dentistry starts with the prerequisites you take in college. The ADEA reports that dental school admission hinges on the courses you take. Dental schools select applicants with the following:

  • Two semesters of biology with lab
  • Two semesters of chemistry with lab
  • Two semesters of organic chemistry with lab
  • Two semesters of physics with lab

Some schools also want candidates to complete additional science courses in anatomy and physiology and biochemistry. To stand out, you can also take microbiology and other upper-level biology classes.

Most dental schools also want you to complete English composition courses. While these aren’t dental health classes, they teach you how to write. Writing is a useful tool when you apply to your own dental school.

Qualities to Have for Aspiring Dentists

You’ve answered the question: What should I major in to be a dentist? Now look at the qualities successful dentists have. Do you have these?

If so, you might be a good fit. But not having them doesn’t prevent you from developing them. You can develop many of these skills over time. As you study dental health or open a dental practice. You have time to get these skills that make you a success.

  • Detail-oriented

Dentists must pay careful attention to a tooth’s shape, color, and fit. They note the minute space between the teeth. The job itself is detailed.

  • Dexterity

You need manual dexterity to do the job of a dentist. Dentists work with their hands using tools in tight, compact spaces. You use your hands to ensure patient safety during dental surgery and oral health care.

  • Effective communication skills

One of the key qualities for dentists is the ability to communicate with staff and patients. When you work on a patient, you must instruct a dental assistant or dental hygienist. You also work with dental lab technicians. Having effective communication skills helps you reduce your risk of errors.

  • Entrepreneurship and management skills

Many dentists launch their own dental practice following graduation from dental school. Having entrepreneurship and management skills improves the likelihood of success in dental medicine.

  • Leadership skills

Aspiring dentists need leadership skills. If you want to launch your own business, these skills help. Dentists manage, mentor, and lead. They also oversee patient care. Having strong and effective leadership skills helps.

  • Patience

In any role serving the public, patience helps things run smoother. Dentists work for long stretches at a time. They care for patients with oral health needs.

In pediatric dentistry, dentists work to eliminate fear while performing dental work. Patience is one of the most important qualities a dentist can have.

  • Problem-solving skills

Not all dental cases are straightforward. Dentists face challenges when performing dental care. They must choose appropriate treatment plans. They use problem-solving skills to carry out their day-to-day tasks.

Best Degree Path to Becoming a Dentist

Pay for Dentists

Now that you know the best major for dental school, you should learn more about a career in dentistry. Read on to learn how much dentists make.

It’s no secret that licensed dentists make good money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dentists earn $163,220/year. The lowest 10% earn less than $80,000/year, but the highest 10% earn over $208,000/year.

But wages vary by dental specialty and industry. You can earn high wages if you work in a top-paying specialty.

Three top-paying dental specialties include:

  • Orthodontists
  • Prosthodontists
  • Surgeons – oral and maxillofacial surgery

Professionals in these three dental specialties earn an average of $208,000/year.

Other dental specialties offer above-average pay, such as dental anesthesiology. But general dentists earn around $159,000/year. Many dentists earn specialty training to make higher wages.

Other Factors that Impact Wages

Industry type impacts wages for dentists. But there are other factors that can increase or decrease your pay. These include:

  • Geographic location
  • Number of hours worked
  • Number of years in practice
  • Office type

If you are a general dentist working for the government, you can find higher than average wages. Government dentists earn about $178,000/year. But other practices also pay good wages.

Dentists in private dental offices earn about $165,000/year. Outpatient care dentists earn about $155,000/year.

Dentists work varied schedules. Some dentists work weekends. Others structure their work-week as Monday through Thursday. Those with three-day weekends often work 10- and 12-hour shifts. But most dentists work around 40 hours/week.

Best Degree Path to Becoming a Dentist

Job Outlook for Dentists

Job prospects for dentists look favorable for the next several years. The BLS reports an 8% job growth for this occupation. But you see higher growth for dentists willing to work in underserved areas or in dental public health.

What’s creating more jobs? Demand for dental services corresponds with an aging population. As people grow older, they demand more dental services.

Improved technology and modern advances in dentistry also creates job growth. Current generations keep their teeth longer than past generations. This results in an increased demand for dental services.

These services include:

  • Dental implants
  • Bridge work
  • Other complicated dental procedures

And as the risk for oral cancers increases with age, other surgery types are in demand. This includes dental reconstruction.

The American Dental Association (ADA) reports demand in dental services rising as dentists educate patients. Dentists teach patients how to improve oral hygiene. They also focus more on preventive care. This focus will drive demand for services.

Dental specialists can also expect a good job outlook over the next decade. Dentists in pediatric dentistry and other dental specialist roles will see the best job prospects.

What Dentists Do

You’ve answered the question: What should you major in to become a dentist? Now it’s time to learn what a dentist does on a typical day.

A typical day involves diagnosing and treating problems with patient’s teeth. Dentists also educate patients. They provide instruction on how to care for their teeth. Dentists teach patients about diet choices, flossing, and good dental hygiene.

Dentists use dental tools and equipment to do most of their work. In dental school, students learn how to operate equipment and use the proper tools. Dental schools teach you how to use:

  • Brushes
  • Drills
  • Forceps
  • Mirrors
  • Probes
  • Scalpels

Dentists also operate x-ray machines. They use digital scanners and lasers. They also learn about oral and maxillofacial radiology and oral and maxillofacial pathology.

Dentists also administer anesthetics to prevent patients from feeling pain during a procedure. They also prescribe medications, such as pain relievers and antibiotics. In dental school, students learn how to examine, diagnose, and treat damaged teeth and gums.

Dentists, especially those in practice for themselves, oversee administrative tasks. Daily office tasks might include:

  • Bookkeeping tasks
  • Equipment & supply purchases
  • Making schedules
  • Overseeing staff

Dentists work with:

  • Dental assistants
  • Dental hygienists
  • Dental lab technicians
  • Receptionists

General practitioner dentists handle many different tasks to meet patient needs. A typical day might include routine cleanings and cavity fillings. But unusual cases come up. Emergency visits can present unique problems. You never know what your day will be like as a dentist. The job can be as exciting as it is rewarding.

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By BDP Staff

This concludes our article on what do you major in to become a dentist.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris