While most dental hygienists work in private clinical practice, myriad career opportunities exist for those who wish to try something different. Working in industry is one of those options, and it is perfect for clinicians who enjoy educating others. A corporate educator typically instructs oral health professionals on his or her company’s product line and the research supporting it. This position frequently requires that dental hygienists first have experience in clinical practice in addition to earning a baccalaureate degree. Following are tips and suggestions from current corporate educators.
“Frequently attending educational courses and keeping up with scientific research are key components to preparing for a career in industry or to further a career in this field. The dental world is ever changing and even more so now in light of the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research will help guide us in adapting to this new dental world.
I would advise dental hygienists interested in a career in the corporate world to do your homework. There are many different paths to take in industry. Explore those that interest you and determine which opportunities offer the most flexibility. Networking with industry representatives prior to taking the leap will allow you to understand the roles, job functions, and prerequisites needed for your new career path. I met some wonderful people who took me under their wing and helped guide me into my current position. Many of these connections still serve as my sounding board and mentors.”
—Michele Lash, RDH, BA, clinical educator for Dentsply Sirona in York, Pennsylvania
“Commit time and energy to become the best dental hygienist you can be. Invest in yourself with education. Most corporations require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree along with a number of years of clinical experience. Earning my master’s degree in business opened a multitude of doors for me and moved my career internationally. Read voraciously—dentistry is continually evolving. Expand your reach by reading outside of the realm of dentistry. Finally, leading-edge networking is essential—develop the skills necessary to create, cultivate, and capitalize on relationships to make things happen and impact the bottom-line. Be willing to do the work to move the needle. Take calculated risks!”
—Leann Keefer, RDH, MSM, is director of corporate education and professional relations for Crosstex International, based in Hauppauge, New York
“I have two key pieces of advice. First, network! Talk to people in the positions you want. Find out what an average week is like. Look for the good and the not so good in the position. We often don’t realize what happens behind the scenes—there is much more to every position than what you see on the surface. Find out if this is a career move you really want. If it is, pursue it. Second, get both your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Most companies require a degree or advanced degree for employment. Find out from your network which degrees are most valued by companies.”
—Phyllis A. Martina, RDH, MBA, is the senior academic relations manager for Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals Inc, New York
“Changing my career path occurred in a series of small steps. After completing my bachelor’s degree 10 years after earning my associate’s degree in dental hygiene, I was working part time in private practice and part time as an adjunct faculty member in a dental hygiene program. While I enjoyed this schedule, I felt a strong desire to learn more about the business side of dentistry. For many years, I had worked for a dentist who was very progressive in practice management. He would take the entire staff to practice management courses regularly. I found this aspect of dentistry fascinating and wanted to learn more about it, so I responded to a newspaper employment advertisement for a dental practice management consultant. I was subsequently hired and trained and spent several years consulting in dental practices in the mid-Atlantic region—helping dental teams improve their efficiency, profitability, and overall job satisfaction. It was a great experience. The knowledge I gained in this position provided a foundation for my move into dental distribution, where I spent the next 10 years. Again, these opportunities prepared me for my subsequent position in the corporate side of dental manufacturing.”
—Gail Malone, RDH, BS, professional services senior manager for DENTSPLY Professional, York, Pennsylvania