Mentor Advice ForumCategory: QuestionsWhat is the best way to move into academia?
Guest User asked 5 years ago

I have been working as a dental hygienist for 7 years in Canada. I have a Bachelor of Science degree as well as a dental hygiene certificate. Unfortunately, for the past 2 years, I have only been able to work between 4 and 5 hours per day due to pain in my neck (trapezius myalgia) and carpel tunnel syndrome. I would like to change my career path by entering dental hygiene education but I do not have any prior teaching experience. What is the best way to move into academia? I would be happy to earn a master’s degree via an online program but I’m unsure of which schools are reputable and what subject matter would be best. Thank you for you advice! I want to stay connected to this profession.

3 Answers
Ann Eshenaur Spolarich, RDH, PhD Staff answered 5 years ago

You may be able to begin your teaching career by working part-time as an instructor in the clinic at a local community college program. Most university-based programs require a minimum of a baccalaureate degree for teaching, so you might be eligible for these programs; however, others require a graduate degree. You would need to reach out to the program directors to see if there are openings as well as to learn the academic requirements for hiring. All of the online graduate programs in dental hygiene education that are offered in the United States are reputable. I would suggest the program at Idaho State University or the program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Jacquelyn L. Fried, RDH, MS Staff answered 5 years ago

First, I’m sorry to hear about your physical issues. Earning a master’s degree is a wise move but I am unfamiliar with Canadian laws and whether an advanced degree is required. More education, however, is always a good thing. If I were you, I would shadow at a local dental hygiene program that you like just to get your foot in the door. Volunteerism is a good inroad. Also, teaching to other groups in your community provides some experience. Remember, you are teaching your patients every day!

Pamela Overman, EdD, RDH Staff answered 5 years ago

I loved practicing dental hygiene, but I was asked by the leadership of a newly formed dental hygiene program if I wanted to take on the challenge of becoming a faculty member. I waffled a bit, but made the leap. I have never regretted becoming a dental hygiene educator. Dental hygiene education is a wonderful career path. I would suggest you check for dental hygiene programs near you and offer to teach part-time. Programs are often looking for part-time instructors. Also, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) has a listing of Master of Science programs on its Website. Go to to find out about the programs. Many, if not all, are available online. There is a track for educators at the ADHA Annual Session. If you are going to attend, check that out. And, finally, if you have any friends who are educators, ask if they will serve as your mentor as you begin this journey.