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ADEA Educational Research and Analysis — March 2014

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The ADEA Educational Research and Analysis Portfolio is pleased to announce the results from the ADEA Survey of Dental School Seniors, 2012 Graduating Class Tables Report. There are many interesting findings about graduates’ dental school experiences, plans upon graduation and dental care and cultural competence. Several interesting findings are detailed below.

The top three reasons graduating seniors selected as “very important” in their decision to pursue dentistry as a career are: (1) the ability to control time for work in relation to family and personal interests, (2) to serve others and (3) the opportunity to be self-employed (Table 5).

Demonstrating the importance of mentors, the personal influences reported most often as “very important” by seniors as to why they chose dentistry is a family member or friend who is a dentist and a family dentist (Table 7). Additionally, 48% of seniors reported making the decision to pursue a career in dentistry at a young age, and near equal amounts (48%) reported making the decision before/during high school or during college. (Table 4)

Nearly 93% of graduating seniors said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their school environment promoted learning about students and patients from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds (Table 39). This sentiment was shared across most racial/ethnic groups. Overall, 20% said they thought it was “very important” for their career success to be able to speak another language other than English (Table 33). The largest percentages of students who indicated it was “very important” to speak another language other than English were Hispanic/Latino (54%), Black/African American (36%) and American Indian/Native American (34%) (Table 33).

In addition, more than 80% of graduating seniors said they think that providing care to all segments of society is an ethical as well as professional obligation, and that access to oral health care in the United States is a major problem (Table 40).

Nearly two-thirds of graduating seniors planned to either enter full- or part-time private practice immediately after graduation. Nine percent planned to enter government service immediately upon graduation (Tables 21–22).

When asked to what extent educational debt influenced their choice of primary professional activity immediately upon graduation, six out of 10 seniors with debt indicated that their debt had no or only a slight influence. However, another four out of 10 seniors with debt responded that their debt “moderately” to “completely” influenced their choice of primary professional activity (Table 26).

The report is available on the ADEA Surveys and Reports website.