Some advice for a newbie please?

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Aug 5, 2014
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Hello everyone, I've been browsing this website for months and finally decided to make a formal introduction and ask some questions. My name is Mariah and I'm an United States Air Force active duty service member and a full time military dental technician that has worked in the Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program for over a year now. I have a good amount of experience in all specialties. The only thing that I have not had my hands in as of yet are dental forensics and a strong foundation of General Anesthesia used in Oral Surgery (Which I'm sure I'll be involved in within the next year or so). Saying all of this, I'm extremely busy at work, sometimes working 12 hour shifts with new residency doctors. So, of course, I'm going to fall under that 'non-traditional' student category. I'm pursuing a Liberal Arts - Associate of Science degree starting within the next two weeks. Here lies my first question, should I be starting out with an Associate Degree? I plan on transferring to complete my bachelor's degree and focusing on biology. And on top of that, I only have time to be taking two classes as of now; any more classes and I'd be getting nervous about keeping my grades excellent. I feel as if my experience in the dental field should make up for strange work load, and have been assured by a handful of dentists that I assist that all is fine with non-traditional students and taking only a few classes at a time. I'm interested in any advice that anyone would want to share with me and appreciate all responses.


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5+ Year Member
Jun 6, 2014
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Your dentists are right, there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking low amount of classes if you are working. It's understandable that as a non-trad, you have other commitments.

I think starting with an associates degree is fine but keep in mind that most schools have CC requirements, and some schools do not take prereqs from CC.


7+ Year Member
Oct 4, 2011
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Hi, Mariah. I was a Dental Tech for an AEGD Clinic at Camp Pendleton. I was active duty for from 2006 - 2011, but you know the first year is usually basic and dental tech school or whatever you air-kids do. Anyways, I got to my command in 2007 and talked to my Education and Training guy. I took online classes, 1-2 classes at a time like you, and eventually got my AA. I ended up taking more classes online and was a couple classes shy of my BS in Health Care Management from TUI. That was all before getting out. My plan was to get my BS, take the pre-reqs at a CC, and then apply for dental school.

The problem with my plan was SDN poisons your mind into thinking that you're not competitive. Haha. But it was probably true in my case. I thought that taking all online classes would make dental admission committees look unfavorably at me, so I decided to drop my degree with TUI and apply at a traditional brick and mortar institution. I had to take some CC courses to get into the four-year, but I made sure not to take any of my pre-reqs there. Finally got into the four-year and went hard on my degrees. I ended up applying this cycle and so far, so good.

Being in an AEGD clinic is great, but the issue that had when doing my application was that a lot of the stuff we're allowed to do in the military is beyond the scope of a typical dental assistant. What that means is - you can't really talk about it in your application... But that that mean you don't have great things to write about. In terms of your military stuff, create an "I love me" binder that holds your entire career. That way whenever you go up for evals or apply for dental school, you'll have everything ready to go to reference from. If possible, get some deployments under your belt so you have some stories, haha. I deployed three times, so it was easy to write about. Plus Dental Techs in the Navy are Corpsman, so you have a broad spectrum of healthcare opportunities. Go Navy!

Back to school stuff. Get your AA for sure. It makes it easier to transfer your credits to a state school or CC, BUT make sure that the classes you're taking are from a regionally accredited institution. Don't go to University of Pheonix or anything like that. I went to American Military University if you need ideas. After that, I would try to go to a four-year, but I know work doesn't make that easy. Or do what I did and just go to an online institution and a four-year lol. I am still finishing up that degree at TUI along with the double major at my state school. So I'll end up with three degrees that I won't use much.

Sorry if this is a bit much. I went on a bit of a tangent. I hope I can be of help to you because I had no one to relate to while I was getting my application together. My greatest mentor was one of my LTs that I worked with at my AEGD clinic. Let me know if you have more specific questions that I can help you with. Good luck!
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