Dental Assisting

Dental Assisting - Certificate

Dental student and teacher working with patient

Take the right steps to launch your career as a dental assistant. The Dental Assisting Program at Bellingham Technical College will provide top job training so you’ll learn how to assist dentists in caring for patients and how to work effectively in a dental office.

Choose BTC’s Dental Assisting Program to train for a position as a dental assistant. Learn how to provide patient care, perform office duties and lab work.

Join us on Wednesday February 21, 2024 for an online Info Session. Info sessions are offered via Zoom, free, and open to the public. Family members of prospective students are also welcome to join. The session will provide information about BTC’s Dental Assisting program, including general program requirements and the admissions process. Participants can learn more about Allied Health education at BTC and hear about transfer options for those interested in earning a degree in Dental Assisting.

This certificate will introduce the student to the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) exam offered through the Dental Assisting National Board, should the student choose to take the exam. 

The NELDA exam is comprised of three component exams:

  1. Anatomy, Morphology and Physiology
  2. Infection Control
  3. Radiation Health and Safety

The certificate will be based on the Exam Outlines available through the Dental Assisting National Board website for each of the three components with additional content added to the Foundations of Clinical Procedures course.

The Dental Assisting Certificate Program is not a CODA Accredited Program. The BTC Dental Assisting program discontinued its accreditation through CODA in August 2020.

Note: BTC has not made a determination that the Dental Assisting curriculum meets educational requirements for licensure/certification outside of Washington State. We encourage students who plan to work out-of-state to check relevant local licensure/certification requirements.

Employment Information

Data are provided on a program (not credential) level

92% BTC graduate placement rate1

$37,586 starting annual wage2
$46,634 average annual wage2
$48,485 potential annual wage2

  • Employment and Wage Data Sources

    1Employment data come from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) and reflect WA/OR employment for students enrolled at BTC between 2017-18 and 2019-20. Students are included in the employment rate if they left with a credential. Rates are not shown for programs with fewer than 10 students meeting the above criteria.

    2Whatcom County and WA State wage data come from Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) 2021 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates and reflect 2018-21 employment. Wage data represent occupations that BTC faculty have identified as the most relevant career paths for program graduates. Note that these wages reflect employees with varying educational levels/credentials. For cases in which multiple occupations have been identified by faculty, a weighted percentile is calculated using each occupation’s percentile wage and employment size estimate. Wages are not shown for programs for which occupations do not meet the ESD’s minimum thresholds for publishing. If the program has wage data from the Washington SBCTC that involves shift work, these ESD wages reflect the same number of hours used in the annual wage calculation. Starting wage = 25th percentile, median wage = 50th percentile, wage potential = 75th percentile.

  • Estimated Program Costs

Tuition Fees and Rates overview page

Entry Information

When Can I Start?

Students interested in the Dental Assisting program should apply to the college and contact Admissions at 360.752.8345 or at for assistance with getting started at BTC. A college application and your score on assessment testing and/or previous transcripts will determine where you begin your course sequence.

There is NO application required for this program.

The student navigator will help you plan a course of study. This program will admit students into first quarter core courses in the fall, winter and spring.

What are the Minimum Entry Requirements?

Admissions application and assessment testing in Reading, Math and Writing is required. Your score on the test and/or your previous transcripts will determine where you begin your course sequence. Contact Admissions at 360.752.8345 or at for assistance with academic planning.

Early Program Course Requirements

Physical Requirements

What are My Next Steps?


Total Program Credits: 35

  • Current Students: Learn how to use this page to register for classes

  • Quarter 1

  • DEN 101Introduction to Dental Assisting3 CR
  • AENGL 100Applied English5 CR
  • Or higher
  • AMATH 100Applied Occupational Math5 CR
  • Or higher
  • CMST& 210Interpersonal Communication5 CR
  • Quarter 2

  • DEN 106Fundamentals of Dental Safety4 CR
  • DEN 107Dental Assisting Radiology3 CR
  • DEN 108Foundations of Clinical Procedures4 CR
  • DEN 109Dental Assisting Lab Practicum6 CR
  • View past class requirements for this program.

Program Outcomes

After successfully completing the Dental Assisting certificate, students will be able to:
  • Apply academic, technical, and professional skills to effectively contribute to the dental health team.
  • Apply cognitive retention of dental terminology, theory, and science.
  • Expose and evaluate intraoral and extraoral radiographs implementing radiation safety and processing skills.
  • Verify critical thinking, problem solving, and positive work ethics as they directly relate to the Dental Assistant profession.
  • Validate the importance of National Certification and participation in professional activities and education opportunities.

Employment Outlook

Employment opportunities for dental assistants in Washington State are expected to grow due to rapid employment growth and above average job turnover.

About 93% of BTC Dental Assisting students are employed within nine months of graduation. The average annual wage in this field is $42,682, with an earning potential of about $50,898 per year.

Criminal convictions may restrict or prevent student participation with internships and employment in this industry.

Most dental assistants are employed by private dental offices. Dental assistants may also be employed by orthodontists, periodontists, hospitals, dental schools, state and local public health departments, the military, or in clinics. Although most program graduates work as dental assistants, opportunities may also exist for employment as research assistants or sales representatives.

Faculty & Support

  • Degrees and Credentials

    Certified Dental Assistant

    Certificate, Dental Assisting, Bellingham Vocational Technical Institute

    BAS, Professional Technical Teacher Education, South Seattle College

    AAST, Professional Technical Education, Bellingham Technical College

    Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant

    Registered Dental Assistant, Washington State

    Certificate, Professional Technical Education, Washington State

Alisa began working as a dental assistant in 1989 and continued working as a dental assistant continuously until she started the dental hygiene program at Loma Linda University. She graduated with a BS in dental hygiene in 2002 and worked full time as a dental hygienist until she transitioned to education in 2010. As a full time dental assisting instructor, she taught every aspect of the dental assisting program and in 2014 became the program director of the dental assisting program while still teaching full time. In 2018 Alisa took over as program director for both the dental hygiene and dental assisting programs. She still teaches several courses in the dental hygiene program but spends the majority of her time on program administration including managing our on-campus dental clinic.

  • Degrees and Credentials

    Registered Dental Hygienist, Washington State

    Certified Dental Assistant, Dental Assisting National Board

    Registered Dental Assistant, Washington State

    BS, Dental Hygiene, Loma Linda University

    Certificate, Professional Technical Education, Washington State

    MBA, Healthcare Management, Western Governors University


If you have questions about this program or want help with the admissions steps to Bellingham Technical College, please email

Current students wanting academic planning and support, can connect with the program Instructor(s) or email