Thursday, August 5, 2010

Advice to 3rd & Rising 4th Year Dental Students

For me, the end of the summer is always marked by three things- the start of college football practice, back to school sales, and daily calls and emails from Dental Students wanting to get the jump on their job search. As one who always waited until the last minute to do projects or write papers in school, I admire those dental students that are acting so far in advance. Unfortunately, there is rarely anything that I can do except tell them to keep in touch until practices are ready to start interviewing, which is usually in the fall or spring of the year they graduate.

In the meantime, there are several things that D3s and D4s can do to better position themselves to get their dream jobs. I recently traded emails with a very proactive rising D3 who had some well thought out questions:

What can a D3 do to better position himself/herself to get a job after graduation?

Be active. Take part in activities that allow you to form relationships with doctors who live and work in the area where you want to settle after dental school. If possible, sit in on the local dental meetings. If your dental school allows you to work in outreach programs or to spend summers working in private practices, do so. Dental clubs and fraternities are also a good source to expand your network. Often the best opportunities are not those that are advertised in the local association newsletter. To get in on the best positions you have to know people or know people who know people. The larger your network, the better your chances of having the right contact. Of course, if you are not careful and you get a bad reputation, this will work against you. You should be careful to consider this when posting to Facebook or other social media outlets.

In competitive interviews, what distinguishes those who are offered the best positions?

Personality is very important but the most successful candidates are those who have done the most. That is to say, these dental students exceeded their minimum graduation requirements. Those that extracted hundreds of teeth on a mission trip or who finished their requirements early and took on additional training or who used their assigned patients to ask for referrals to additional patients are those that truly stood out and who had no problem lining up a good job after school. If you are a go-getter who takes your training seriously and who is willing to go above and beyond to land the implant or veneer case, you are exactly who a successful practice owner wants to hire.

How difficult is it to get financing these days?

Luckily, there are a few lenders who have programs designed specifically for dental practices. They know what to look for and so are in a position to loan money when a local back wouldn't understand the risks involved. Matsco (owned by Wells Fargo) and Bank of America are two that come to mind. I have had the best results with Matsco, but I understand that Bank of America is sometimes more flexible. A benefit of going through a dental-specific lender is that they have a support network in place. They offer business coaching, help you develop a business plan, and provide other resources. The funds available to you right out of school are not likely to be sufficient to allow you to open your own practice, but after 1-2 years of experience, you will have a much larger pool of funds to draw from.

What should I consider when deciding where to practice?

One of the biggest mistakes dental students make is trying to stick around in their dental school city. It is a matter of supply and demand. Dental school cities have far more competitive job markets and generally offer far lower long-term income potential as there are fewer patients per doctor. To a lesser extent, going to the big cities is also a bad idea. For instance, The Washington DC area attracts graduates from Howard, UMBC and VCU but is also a hot spot for dental school grads from all over the country. Atlanta, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle are all very difficult job markets. With a bit of experience, these areas can be rewarding, but most dentists will always struggle to earn as much in the big cities as their classmates in other areas. When you factor in the cost of living, the disparity increases. Consider looking at second tier cities that often provide a high quality of life at a lower cost and with greater income potential.

Here are some other blogs with useful information to a dental student:

Joining a private practice vs. a group:

Words of wisdom from the Indianapolis Dental Society:

Job seeker tips for new graduates and residents:

What hiring practices are looking for:

Cover letters:

Landing the best associate position:

Interview Tips:

Resources for those entering the dental job market:

If you are a third of fourth year dental student or a recent graduate, I welcome your questions or insights.

Written by Morgan Pace, Recruiter/ Account Executive at ETS Dental. You can reach Morgan at (540)491-9102 or Find out more at