Becoming a dentist involves a marathon of training and testing. Ideally, the pathway starts as early as high school, when you focus on Advanced Placement courses in chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics. As an undergrad, aspiring dentists will need to take a host of pre-med courses in mathematics, chemistry and biology, particularly because most dentists take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) by their junior year. Getting into dental school is competitive, and scoring well on the acceptance test is only one of the hurdles. Aspiring dentists will also need to acquire top marks in undergrad and glowing letters of recommendation to get into dental school.
Dental school itself is a rigorous mix of practical and technical training, and the time spent in a program is determined by specialty. The residency program is usually one to two years. To practice, dentists will need to obtain a state-specific license. And while practicing, each state will require dentists to keep up with changes in ethics, technology and more by taking continuing dental education courses.