Dental Assistants prepare patients for dental examination and assist Dental Practitioners, Hygienists and Therapists in providing care and treatment.

A Certificate II or III, or at least 1 year of relevant experience, is usually needed to work in this job. Around two in five workers have a Certificate III or higher Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification. Sometimes experience or on-the-job training is needed in addition to a qualification.

Tasks

  • receiving and preparing patients
  • arranging and handing instruments, medication, and other dental requisites to Dental Practitioners
  • preparing dental materials and processing X-rays
  • using suction devices and water sprays
  • performing routine maintenance on equipment
  • sterilising and preventing cross infection of equipment
  • may advise patients on dental health education and post-operative care and procedures
  • may act as receptionist for Dental Practitioners
  • may perform billing and other clerical tasks

Job Titles

  • Dental Assistant, Dental Chairside Assistant, or Dental Nurse

    Fast Facts

    • Avg. Weekly Pay

      $893 Before Tax
    • Future Growth

      moderate
    • Skill Level

      Certificate II or III
    • Employment Size

      18,400
    • Unemployment

      average
    • Male Share

      2.2%
    • Female Share

      97.8%
    • Full-Time Share

      58.2%

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    This is a medium sized occupation employing 18,400 workers. Over the past 5 years the number of jobs has fallen slightly.
    Moderate growth is expected in the future. New jobs and turnover from workers leaving may create between 10,001 and 25,000 job openings over the 5 years to 2020.

    • Dental Assistants work in most parts of Australia.
    • They nearly all work in Health Care and Social Assistance.
    • Part-time work is fairly common, but more than half work full-time. Full-time workers, on average, work 35.5 hours per week (compared to the all jobs average of 40 hours).
    • Average earnings for full-time workers are around $893 per week (lower than the all jobs average of $1,230). Earnings tend to be lower when starting out and higher as experience grows.
    • The workforce is fairly young. The average age is 27 years (compared to the all jobs average of 40 years). Around 3 in 10 workers are young (aged 15 to 25 years).
    • More than 9 in 10 workers are female.
    • In 2016, the unemployment rate was similar to the average.

    Employment Outlook

    Number of Workers

    Source: ABS Labour Force Survey, Department of Employment trend data to November 2015 and Department of Employment projections to 2020.
    YearNumber of Workers
    200517300
    200617200
    200716200
    200817400
    200918500
    201020600
    201120600
    201220900
    201320300
    201419900
    201518400
    202019300

    Weekly Earnings

    Full-time Earnings

    All Jobs Average

    Weekly Earnings (before tax)

    Source: Based on ABS Characteristics of Employment survey, August 2015, Cat. No. 6333.0, Customised Report. Median earnings are before tax and do not include superannuation. Earnings can vary greatly depending on the skills and experience of the worker and the demands of the role. These figures should be used as a guide only, not to determine a wage rate.
    EarningsDental AssistantsAll Jobs Average
    Full-Time Earnings8931230

    Hours

    Weekly Hours Worked

    Source: Based on ABS Labour Force Survey, annual average 2016, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.003: Customised Report. Hours actually worked by people who usually work full-time, and share of employment by full-time and part-time status, for this job compared to the all jobs average.
    CategoryDental AssistantsAll Jobs Average
    Full-time58.268.4
    Part-time41.831.6
    Average Weekly Hours (full-time)35.540.0

    Main Industries

    Top Industries

    Main Employing Industries (% share)

    Source: Based on ABS Labour Force Survey, annual average 2016, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.003: Customised Report. Industries are based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC 06).
    Main Employing IndustriesIndustry (% share)
    Health Care and Social Assistance98.3
    Education and Training0.8
    Manufacturing0.6
    Public Administration and Safety0.4

    States and Territories

    • NSW

    • VIC

    • QLD

    • SA

    • TAS

    • NT

    • ACT

    Employment by State and Territory (% share)

    Source: Based on ABS Labour Force Survey, annual average 2016, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.003: Customised Report. Share of workers across Australian States and Territories, in this job compared to the all jobs average.
    StateDental AssistantsAll Jobs Average
    NSW24.531.8
    VIC24.625.5
    QLD25.319.8
    SA6.86.8
    WA13.311.2
    TAS4.32.0
    NT0.61.1
    ACT0.51.8

    Age Profile

    Age Profile (% share)

    Source: Based on ABS Labour Force Survey, annual average 2016, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.003: Customised Report. Age profile of workers in this job compared to the all jobs average.
    Age BracketDental AssistantsAll Jobs AverageAll Jobs Average
    15-198.2-5.45.4
    20-2426.5-9.99.9
    25-3434.2-23.423.4
    35-4416.6-21.721.7
    45-547.8-21.121.1
    55-595.8-8.78.7
    60-640.8-5.95.9
    65 and Over0.2-3.83.8

    Gender

    Male Share

    Female Share

    Gender (% share)

    Source: Based on ABS Labour Force Survey, annual average 2016, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.003: Customised Report. Male and female share of employment in this job compared to the all jobs average.
    CategoryDental AssistantsCategoryAll Jobs Average
    Males2.2Males53.6
    Females97.8Females46.4

    Education Level

    Top Education Levels

    Highest Level of Education (% share)

    Source: ABS, Education and Work (2016). Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data. Highest qualification completed by workers in this job (in any field of study). Skill level requirements can change over time, the qualifications needed by new workers might be different from the qualifications of workers already in the job.
    Type of QualificationDental AssistantsAll Jobs AverageAll Jobs Average
    Post Graduate/Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate0.0-8.68.6
    Bachelor degree10.3-17.917.9
    Advanced Diploma/Diploma10.3-10.110.1
    Certificate III/IV29.9-18.918.9
    Year 1245.5-18.718.7
    Years 11 & 104.0-17.717.7
    Below Year 100.0-8.18.1

    A Certificate II or III, or at least 1 year of relevant experience, is usually needed to work in this job.
    Around two in five workers have a Certificate III or higher Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification. Sometimes experience or on-the-job training is needed in addition to a qualification.

    If you are interested in this style of work, there are a wide range of training options available that could lead to this or a similar job.
    The pathway that is right for you will depend on your skills and interests.

    It is a good idea to speak to industry bodies, employers, and workers to learn more about the skills and qualifications you will need.

    Employers look for Dental Assistants who are hardworking and communicate well with others.

    Knowledge

    The topics, subjects, or knowledge areas workers rate as most important are shown below.

    1. Medicine and Dentistry

      89% Important

      Diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.

    2. English Language

      85% Important

      English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

    3. Customer and Personal Service

      81% Important

      Customer and personal services. This includes understanding customer needs, providing good quality service, and measuring customer satisfaction.

    4. Education and Training

      67% Important

      Teaching and course design.

    5. Psychology

      62% Important

      Human behaviour and performance; differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioural and affective disorders.

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    O*NET is a trademark of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. The information on this site is derived from the US Department of Labor O*NET Database Version 21.2

    Learn about the daily activities, and physical and social demands faced by workers. Explore the values and work styles that workers rate as most important.

    Activities

    The work activities workers rate as most important are shown below.

    1. Assisting and Caring for Others

      95% Important

      Providing personal assistance, medical attention, or emotional support to people such as co-workers, customers, or patients.

    2. Checking Compliance with Standards

      91% Important

      Deciding whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.

    3. Getting Information

      91% Important

      Looking for, getting and understanding different kinds of information.

    4. Building Good Relationships

      85% Important

      Building and keeping constructive and cooperative working relationships with others.

    5. Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge

      84% Important

      Keeping up-to-date with technology and new ideas.

    Occupational Information Network Dental Assistants Opens in a new window
    O*NET is a trademark of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. The information on this site is derived from the US Department of Labor O*NET Database Version 21.2

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