Dentists are responsible for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. In addition to general dentistry, there are nine types of certified dental specialties. Training to become a dentist requires four years of dental school after undergrad. General practice residency is optional and usually lasts one year. Residencies of 2-6 years are required for the 20% of dental school graduates who pursue a specialty. These specialty residencies may result in a certificate, a master’s degree, a Ph.D. or an M.D. (for oral/facial surgery).

Job Market: The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8 percent.

Base Salary: The median annual wage for dentists was $164,010 in May 2020.


Prerequisites vary slightly from school to school; this list will cover the requirements at many schools.

  • Chemistry 4 semesters
  • General Biology 2 semesters
  • May require Anatomy or Physiology
  • Physics 2 semesters
  • English 1-2 semesters
  • May require Statistics or Microbiology
  • Psychology and Sociology/Anthropology

Preparation Outside the Classroom

A knowledge of the field is vital in the application process. Shadowing can help you understand the role of the dentist. Health care is a life of service and dental programs expect to see a consistent interest in the well-being of others, particularly vulnerable groups like those in poverty, members of underserved groups, asylum seekers, those with disabilities, etc.


The application process for Notre Dame students starts with information sessions that begin during freshman orientation; there are additional sessions at the end of freshman year and during the sophomore year. If you are planning to begin dental school a few weeks after graduating, then you will attend an organizational meeting in November of your junior year and then attend weekly sessions throughout the spring semester. If you are taking one or more gap years, you will attend these during your senior year.

The Pre-Dental Society provides active advising on the application process, information about dental schools, and insights into dental practice.

The DAT is the standardized test required for application, and applicants typically take the test between March and June. Applications are submitted through AADSAS, the central application service. You should apply to 6-10 programs.

The optimal application timeline is June.

Committee letters are valued by dental schools. The Center for Health Sciences Advising will provide a letter for current students and alumni who participate in our letter process in a timely manner. In November the year before they apply (and two years before they start dental school), students will contact the office and get on the applicant list. They will receive the Intent to Apply Form and the questionnaire to prepare before the end of January. Applicants turn these into the office and can schedule an hour-long, one-on-one interview with Fr. Foster for the committee letter. Interviews occur from December through April. Students must apply before July 15 to obtain a full committee letter.