Career changers

Are you a career changer?

Career changer: A person who has pursued a career other than dentistry and then decides to pursue a career in dentistry instead. Career changers make this decision later in life and some have been out of school for many years working in another profession before they realize that dentistry is their true calling.

If you are a career changer, the process you will follow to apply to dental school will be slightly different than it is for students still completing their undergraduate education.

Five important things to be aware of:

  1. Get advice before initiating an application. Your first stop should always be to speak directly with a health professions advisor (if you still have access to one from your undergraduate years) or a dental school admissions officer. While it would be helpful to speak with an admissions officer at a school where you think you might apply, the real value comes from meeting with any dental school admissions officer to get his or her feedback on where you stand as an applicant and how your unique situation fits into the application process. It would be helpful to meet with an admissions officer from more than one dental school so you can get a better idea of what schools are looking for in their career changing applicants across the board.

  2. You may have to take some undergraduate-level classes to fulfill the prerequisites required by the schools you wish to apply to. Even if you took the prerequisite classes in your undergraduate years, every school has a different length of time between completion of the prerequisite and the time of application to their program that they will accept as a valid prerequisite. To find out whether or not you need to retake courses, check with each school you are applying to.

  3. Even though you have been working in another career for some time, you will still have to fulfill the shadowing requirements that the schools you apply to request. Shadowing a dentist is a crucial part of confirming your decision to become a dentist and is just as important to you as it is to the undergraduates who wish to pursue dentistry. Shadowing a dentist will give you the opportunity to confirm and demonstrate your desire to pursue dentistry and also help you picture yourself as a practicing dental professional.

  4. Because you may have already been out of school for some time, it could be more challenging for you to get letters of evaluation. Typically, letters of evaluation come from science professors and your health professions advisor. If you are not required to go back and take classes to fulfill outdated prerequisites in order to apply to dental school, you will probably not have recent contact with your former professors. Most schools require at least four letters of evaluation, two of which typically come from professors and the health professions advisor and one that comes from a dentist you shadowed. In the case of career changers, it is possible that schools will suggest that your last letter of recommendation come from a current or past employer, as this will give them a good idea of your drive, work ethic and professional habits. As always, speak directly with the admissions department at the schools you are applying to and see what letter combinations they prefer. 

  5. This one is pretty simple: Do your research just like any other dental school applicant. Research is really important in the application process, as it is important that you not only research the schools that you want to apply to, but you understand what is involved in the dental profession as well as all of the details of the application process.