Quick disclaimer: What you are about to read is entirely my personal opinion based on my own personal set of experiences, which play a huge role as to why I made the choices that I made. With that being said, the items that I am going to discuss will still be relevant to you if you are considering a career in dentistry, or are already a dentist and looking to consider other options.
My background: I was a practicing dentist, BDS, for over a year until I decided one day that I was meant for something else. I have experience in many dental procedures and with many other dental clinic management related tasks such as insurance management, billing, marketing, etc. What you are about to read is my insight on how and why I left being a dentist or dentistry as a whole.
There is no such thing as a right decision, you have to make the decision right.
This quote is very important to keep in mind as I dive into each of the things below as this clearly states that there is no right way of doing anything, but working towards a goal is what will make it right for you.
If you are someone who is being driven to go into dental school, or any healthcare field for that matter, strictly for the pay that it offers, then you would definitely want to read this piece.
Back in 2015, when I was looking into applying for dental jobs, the entry-level or starting level compensation or salaries for dentists ranged from $80,000 to $120,000 per year (for United States). The number was about 30% less in Canada and about 50% less in UK.
Please keep in mind that taxes are not excluded from the numbers listed above. If you’re graduating with a student loan and hoping to pay it off soon, then good luck with that because it will take years, especially with the interest that you’re going to stack up over the years.
Naturally, I did what anyone would, I searched for other careers that were paying a similar starting salary. Here is what I found:
- Digital Marketing
- Product Management
- Software Engineer (web or app developer)
- Solutions Architect
- Data Scientist
- Creative Director
- Garbage collector
With the exception of garbage collector, which I only put in to help understand the perspective on salary, all other career options give you an equal chance at getting the same salary with minimal or no student loans as there are plenty of online and on-site institutes that will teach you these skills for less than $10,000 total within a few months and you can start making the salary that you want.
I went for product management as that was the closest to my heart, and the career change was not driven by salary, but it was considered.
The goal behind providing a few other options, but not limited to these, was so that you are aware that there are plenty of job opportunities in other fields that take less time to break into without breaking your bank.
The Work-Life Balance
Anyone who tells you that dentistry is a very 9-5 job is someone who either has no idea about a career as a dentist or just does not have bills to pay.
While in essence, you can have a 9 to 5 workday, but it takes time to get to that level. I have worked with dentists that have to start their day at 7 am in the morning and end it at 7 pm at night. And these dentists were not even entry-level, they just had loads of bills to pay so they worked enough hours to accommodate for that. Often at times, these dentists did not have an option because the organization or clinic that they worked for required them to stay 10 or 12 hours a day in order to get their annual income.
Once you are a senior dentist or have specialized in certain areas, then sure, you get to have a more stable 9 to 5 workday. But in comparison, there are many other career alternatives that provide a more promising 9 to 5-hour workday and do not require you to put in a few extra years before you get to that level, some of which have been mentioned above.
I equate a 9 to 5-hour workday to a good work-life balance as I feel it is important to be able to come home early so that you can go on enjoying and living your life the way you intend to. If you are coming home late around 8 pm or 9 pm, you do not have many hours left in the day before you have to go back to sleep to start the same cycle all over again.
The Paid Time Off or Vacation Days
The limited number of paid time off has been a concern with many industries but there is less wiggle room in dentistry as you are solely responsible for treating your patients and you have to work around your patient’s schedule rather than your patients working around your schedule, depends if you want to get paid or not. By not doing so, you risk retaining your clients/patients.
There are many other career options, equally rewarding in other areas, that offer more paid time off and vacation days so that you are not working around the clock and have an option to live and enjoy your life the way you deserve.
The Work From Home Option or Working Remotely
Good luck trying to do this as a dentist without having a lawsuit at your hands.
For those who are not familiar with what working from home or working remotely refers to, it basically refers to the flexibility of being able to do your job from the comfort of your own home or anywhere else in the world.
Since patients require a more clinical and sanitized setting, as a dentist you have no choice but to go to a clinic to operate unless you spend thousands of dollars turning your home into a clinic, in which case you are more likely to work extra hours because self-disciplining is a challenge.
Many of the alternative career options that I have listed above offer you the option of working from home or remotely thus giving you more time to enjoy life, its the little things that count.
The “Love” Factor
If you do what you love, you‘ll never work a day in your life. – Marc Anthony
Marc Anthony summarized it best in the quote above. It is very important to do what you enjoy, find meaningful, what makes you happy, or however you define “love”.
If your heart is in dentistry, then, by all means, go for it, but if you’re reading this so far then chances are that your heart is somewhere else. While I am no love guru, I can tell you this much, that you’ll know what you love when you simply fill in the blanks:
“By doing ___________, I am happy because _______________”
The first blank will tell you what you enjoy doing, the skill. The second blank will tell you why you enjoy doing it, the reason. Both of these are important to identify as they help guide you find the right career choice. Feel free to comment below or add me on Openiun and message me directly if you have trouble filling in the blanks for yourself.
The last thing that I want to mention here is that you do not have to have one single thing. It’s very possible that you enjoy multiple things, as it is for me. It’s what makes us human, the need to constantly do more and better. So feel free to ask yourself this question every few years and change your career option if the answer is not the same until you find something that you no longer want to change from or until you no longer need to work.
Most dentists do not think of how dependent they are on their hands. In life, many accidents can lead to injuries and if you somehow injure your hand as a dentist, that is the end of your career.
This thought always troubled me as I realized how dependent my future would be on just my 2 hands, or even 1. I decided to choose a career option that paid me and valued me for my thinking, as loosing that is the last resort for any person looking to have a career, to begin with. As funny as this sounds, this was a very strong point in helping me decide where I wanted to invest my future efforts.
I hope sharing my opinion with you here was insightful and helps you with your concerns. Definitely go back up and read the first quote if you have any doubts at all about your own questions and concerns.
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