Mentor Advice ForumAsking for Mentor-Advice career
Johanna Barcia asked 3 years ago

Hi, my name is Johanna Barcia. I am pursuing a Bachelor degree in Hygiene. I decided to continue my education because I wanted to have more options. I am not sure what I want to do after getting my degree. One of the things that I have in mind is a clinical instructor, and I want to try it and see if this is of my interest. Before I became a hygienist, I was a dental biller, so I also have in mind like working for an insurance company reviewing claims. I want to continue furthering my education getting a master degree, but I am not sure about what to do. Please if you can help me with advice should I further my education by obtaining a Master degree in Public Health or Business Administration, if I want to teach. Thank You in advance for your advice.

7 Answers
Alice M. Horowitz, RDH, MA, PhD Staff answered 3 years ago

First, kudos for continuing your education. You will be glad you did because that sets the foundation for earning a master’s degree. What with your interests, you could work on a master of public health…..and take business courses for some of your electives. Regarding positions, in connection with your experience with billing, you might consider state Medicaid positions. We would love to have someone in our state Medicaid program who has a dental background! We do need clinical instructors, so that is a good path to pursue as well. However, I must confess, I am biased toward public health………..we serve populations rather than one-on-one. It takes all of us! Best wishes.

Nancy Kiehl, RDH, MS Staff answered 3 years ago

Congrats to you for pursuing a higher degree! You certainly will open more career choices with a master’s degree. The field of dental hygiene education is in need of new members. You can have a master’s degree in any discipline to qualify to teach bachelor degree dental hygienists. My advice for you is to pick a degree area that interests you and one that will be useful in an academic role. My master’s degree is in education. Consider a PhD following your master’s since a doctorate degree will allow you to head programs and will give you more clout for research or other scholarly endeavors you pursue.
As far as working for an insurance company, I think that would be a very different atmosphere than academia. One that is behind the scenes and maybe not as social vs the out in front, exposed daily interaction with students and faculty as an educator. Both choices are good ones and perhaps you can dabble in both and work part-time for each discipline? I enjoyed teaching and clinical dental hygiene and maintained both for many years. You could do a three-way split by doing clinical one day a week with part-time insurance claims officer and adjunct faculty member the other days! I like to mix it up to keep things exciting (practiced in perio. and pedo. offices in the same week!)…never a dull moment!
Thanks for inquiring! Good luck.

Lucinda B. McKechnie, RDH, BS Staff answered 3 years ago

Please see below my response to another question from a dental hygienist that relates to your question. Furthering your education should be of paramount importance and open doors for you. My additional advice would be to maintain a job as a clinical dental hygienist in a quality private practice if only one day a week to supplement your income and to establish expertise in clinical practice. It is my opinion somewhat of a disconnect exists between what is taught clinically in dental hygiene schools and what can be gleaned by private practice and adding that to your clinical teaching. In summary, I think you can do all that you mentioned, together or one step at a time to enhance the hopefully life career path you have chosen.
Career options abound depending on your interests!  For example, I predominately focused on clinical dental hygiene and pursued a bachelor’s degree several years after receiving my associate’s degree in dental hygiene. While my hourly wage did not increase in clinical dental hygiene with a bachelor’s degree, I started an additional career in public speaking. The focus of my presentations was review of the current periodontal literature and evidenced based practice. Since I was still seeing patients, the wealth of information derived from the clinical experience relative to evidenced based practice was well received. The notoriety lead to requests to join corporate councils and review product lines for various companies, a nominal compensation but a wealth of payback in places I was sent and colleagues that have remained friends to this day.
As far as the most prestigious job title, one of my colleagues furthered her career by attending Wharton Business School. With a Master of Business Administration and background in dental hygiene and health sciences, she started working for a pharmaceutical company and has worked her way up to an executive position. Academia is, of course,  another strand for achievement, with PhD dental hygienists pursuing research and top positions in universities.
I have never regretted pursuing dental hygiene as a career. From clinical practice, to publishing, to corporate boards, to presentations, to traveling to Vietnam for Operation Smile, the options are endless and diverse if you just look for them.

Christine Nathe, RDH, MS Staff answered 3 years ago

If you are interested in staying in dental, most definitely pursue your Master of Science in Dental Hygiene degree. Many of these programs are available online too, so that should be helpful to you.

JoAnn R. Gurenlian, RDH, PhD Staff answered 3 years ago

It sounds as though you have a variety of interests: clinical teaching, public health, and business administration, all of which are areas that can be pursued in graduate education and throughout your dental hygiene career. One of the exciting aspects of the dental hygiene profession is that you have the opportunity to explore multiple roles and career paths within the profession. You do not need to give up or trade away—you continually evolve.
Because you have multiple interests, my advice is that you look at graduate programs in dental hygiene first and compare the curriculum of each program. Look to see what specialty areas are offered and then if elective courses are recommended so you can customize courses tailored to your particular interests.  If a practicum or independent study is available, you can customize that experience to suit your career goals as well. That way, you are getting the most from your educational experiences. Think of graduate education courses as puzzle pieces and you are fitting the pieces together to maximize your career interests and developing expertise in areas that will provide you with the greatest opportunities.
When you pursue a graduate degree in one area, eg, business administration, you are locked into that sole area and get no experience in clinical instruction or public health. Make sense?
As a graduate program director, one of the things I like to do is career counseling and evaluate the pros and cons of different programs. I am happy to meet with you by phone and talk about your options. Remember, you always have options and investing in your education brings career rewards.
Best of luck with your assignment, but more importantly, with the joy of a great career.