This health care job pays better than a CEO job
And the prospects for finding work in the field are also something to smile about.
Interested in working in a growing field for a salary higher than that of the average CEO? It helps if you really like teeth.
U.S. News and World Report ranked orthodontist No. 1 on its 2016 list of 100 best jobs. The ranking takes into account a variety of factors including median salary, employment rate, 10-year growth volume, job prospects and other criteria.
The path to becoming an orthodontist can be arduous, with more than 10 years of post-high school education: four years of college, followed by four years of dental school and two to three years in an orthodontic program. And, it’s for high achievers only: “Orthodontists are typically in the top 5% of their dental school class, and it's not easy to get into dental school,” says David Defay who runs a practice in Kaysville, Utah.
But, if you have what it takes, there are a lot of good reasons to sign on for a lifetime of applying braces.
Really high pay
So salary is just one reason to get into orthodontics. But it’s a pretty enticing one. The average U.S. orthodontist earns $196,270, in comparison to the CEO’s average $178,400, according to recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An expanding customer base
Demand for the profession is expected to remain strong, with the BLS predicting growth of 18% in the next decade, resulting in about 1,500 new job openings.
One reason is that a growing number of adults are also getting the metal-mouth treatment. According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), about 27% of members’ patients in 2014 were adults, a 16% increase from 2012.
Is this a product of vanity? Not at all, says DeWayne McCamish, president-elect of AAO. The goal of braces is not just to produce an aesthetic change, but rather to create a “functional bite relationship that affects the health of the bone, gum tissue and longevity of the teeth,” he says.
Advances in technology
Patients have more treatment options than ever before: Traditional braces are much smaller and more subtle than those of the past. Patients can choose clear (tooth-colored) ceramic braces, and even braces on the inside of the teeth. There are also a variety of appliances such as removable aligners and palate expanders now too, McCamish says.
Plus, “scanners, digital radiographs, 3D printers, paperless offices and electronic records have all changed the way orthodontists practice and deliver care,” says McCamish, who practices in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Additionally, treatment times continue to shrink, thanks to new materials and technology. “I expect a continuation of the trend of ‘kinder and gentler’ treatment,” he says.
Like many in the health care field, orthodontists’ work days can be long—and they start early. Many patients want appointments prior to work or school so practices typically open early and staff is often there an hour before the first patients arrive. They see patients all day, and many orthodontists do a working lunch, where they may contact their patients’ general dentists or other dental specialists involved in a patient’s care; catch up on paperwork for the practice; train staff; or tend to other duties necessary for a successful orthodontic practice.
The pressures of running a business and caring for patients has prompted a growing number of orthodontists to abandon the private practice model to join dental support organizations, which are multi-doctor and multi-location dental offices that perform all the non-clinical tasks, such as administration, marketing and billing. It was a great fit for Browne Peterson, who is affiliated with Permanente Dental Associates, which contracts with Kaiser Permanente. It allows her to focus on patient care, rather than worry about the non-clinical aspects, she says.
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