Pursuing orthodontics can be an incredibly rewarding and high-paying career. Many people around the world rely on orthodontists to help them fix their dental issues — from installing braces for straightening teeth to aligning a jaw that’s causing bite problems.
But orthodontics is not a profession that is easily achieved. It takes a lot of time and effort to get into this field, but once you're there, orthodontics is a great place to be.
Check out the best colleges for orthodontics, so that you can get a great education that will set you up for this career.
What you need to know before going into orthodontics
Orthodontics, like most other medical professions, requires quite a bit of schooling prior to entering the profession. Experts in this field need to have an undergraduate degree in a related field before they can apply to dental school. Once they attend and graduate dental school — which can be three to four years — then they will become eligible to apply for orthodontics school, which can be two to three years of schooling.
The entire education process post-high school can be a decade or more, so before you enter into this profession, you’ll want to be absolutely sure that this is something that you want to spend your career on.
Another thing to keep in mind is that orthodontics is a very narrow profession. There is not much space for movement, so if you find yourself getting bored in the field, you might have to make a big career change if you decide to do something else.
But don’t let those aspects of the profession scare you. Beyond the fulfillment of helping people fix their dental problems, many students are attracted to this profession because of its job security and high pay. Orthodontists can expect to make well over six figures, which is a healthy salary in any area.
Still interested in pursuing the profession? Let’s look at the best schools for orthodontics.
What should you look for in an orthodontics program?
You’ll likely be bombarded with a lot of options when you first apply to an orthodontics program. Most colleges that offer this degree have similar programs, but the way that you’ll complete your degree will be different at each school. However, there are a few things you should keep an eye out for when you’re looking for programs to attend.
The first is the school’s accreditation. It’s important to find a school that is accredited by the American Dental Association. This is because accreditation can help standardize education and ensure that all students are receiving the most up-to-date information out there.
Something else students should be on the lookout for in their program is the hands-on element. Most, if not all orthodontics programs will have opportunities for students to practice in the field. And if a school doesn’t provide an adequate chance for work in the field, you might want to consider attending a different institution.
But what does fieldwork look like?
This is where it varies, and the perfect amount of fieldwork will be vastly different for each student. With that said, most programs offer students the chance to work with at least two dozen patients during the course of their time at university. But for the more ambitious students who might want to do more hands-on work, attending a college that allows students to work with upwards of fifty patients might be more suitable.
At the end of the day, the best college for orthodontics will depend on what you as a student are looking for. Keeping a few basic pieces of information in mind prior to applying will aid you greatly in finding the perfect school for you. But if you need a little bit more guidance, read on to see our recommendations for the best schools for orthodontics.
The best colleges for orthodontics
University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry
UCSF’s School of Dentistry is one of the best in the country. This college has so many programs within the dental field for students to pursue, and orthodontics is one of their best. UCSF offers students a full-time program that stretches just over two years for ambitious students.
The school also offers students the opportunity to participate in a preceptorship which can last as long as a year. A preceptorship is a training opportunity within the field of orthodontics that will help prepare students for life in the field.
But if the preceptorship isn’t for you, the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry also has fellowships on offer for students. Fellowships are a year long and give students the chance to conduct research in the field of orthodontics in addition to clinical experience.
University of Pennsylvania Dental Medicine
Heading over to the East Coast, students can find a great dental program at the University of Pennsylvania. UPenn’s dental school is one of the best colleges for orthodontics because of its rigorous academic standards and highly competitive program.
The school only accepts eight students for its orthodontics program. So you know the competition is steep. However, once admitted, students get access to some of the best training in the nation that they will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
One of the great aspects of UPenn’s program is that second-year students complete their rotation at The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania — which is a great way for students to gain hands-on knowledge.
The University of Pennsylvania also gives students the chance to earn another degree alongside their studies in orthodontics. Students can choose to get a degree in either oral biology or the science of dentistry, which complements their studies well and looks amazing to a potential employer.
In Jacksonville, Florida, students can get a world-class education in the field of orthodontics. Jacksonville University hosts an amazing orthodontics program for students looking to get into dentistry.
Their orthodontics program is a bit shorter than some other comparable programs, sitting at only 27 months long, but the program certainly packs a punch regardless of its shorter length.
One of the most interesting aspects of Jacksonville University’s orthodontics programs is the experience students get. Right off the bat, orthodontics students are thrust into hands-on work in the field. According to the university, students will be expected to have worked with fifty orthodontics patients at the end of their first year of schooling. That high number might be intimidating to some prospective students, but there really isn’t any better way to learn than in the field, and at Jacksonville University, students can certainly expect to learn a lot, and quickly too.
Another interesting element of the program at Jacksonville University is its orthodontics fellowship program. In this year-long program, students can conduct research while shadowing current university orthodontics residents and they will get to treat up to 25 of their own patients!
Not everyone may complete the fellowship, but for those who are interested, it’s definitely worth looking into. And even if you aren’t interested in the fellowship, Jacksonville University should still make it on your list of the best colleges for orthodontics.
For students who are looking to get their orthodontics education at a private university, Marquette University’s orthodontics program may just fit the bill.
Students who choose to study at this school can expect to treat a lot of patients during their stint of study, which clocks in at just over two years of full-time immersive involvement at the college. In their first year, Marquette students can expect to treat upwards of 40 patients. But in their second year, the number of patients doubles.
The intensive nature of patient care at Marquette University gives students the chance to be exposed to a wide variety of different conditions and patients during their time in school — something that will definitely help them once they go out to practice with their degree in hand.
Marquette University also has many opportunities for students to get involved while they are studying. They have organizations like the American Student Dental Association on their campus, which provides a great chance to meet and hang out with fellow dental students on campus.
When you get to the point of pursuing higher education, the number of schools that offer specialized programs in your area of interest will get smaller. This is definitely the case for orthodontics.
However, there are still a number of amazing schools out there that will help eager students enter into the field of dentistry. The four schools on this list are just a handful of those schools, but they are some of the best colleges for orthodontics in the country.
If you choose to pursue your advanced studies at one of these institutions, you’ll definitely get the training and education you need to succeed in the field of orthodontics.