Is Becoming a Dentist Worth $261,149 in Dental School Debt?

Dentistry might appeal to you if you want to improve people’s wellness and oral health. It’s a hands-on profession that often calls for creative problem-solving. Dentistry can also be an ideal path to owning your own practice, setting your own schedule, and earning a six-figure income.

But there’s one big drawback to a career in dentistry: dental school debt. Here’s what you need to consider before taking out loans for school.

Average dental school debt and ROI

For many considering dental school, a dentist’s high earning potential is a big draw.

“I think the costs of dental school are worth the benefits — you can make a very good living of it,” said Jason Cabler, DDS, a dentist who’s been practicing for 24 years and oversees the personal finance blog Celebrating Financial Freedom.

The median pay for dentists is $153,900, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. New dental school graduates won’t be earning this much right away. But they will start with relatively high pay, with a median entry-level salary of $118,800, according to PayScale.

The biggest reasons to think twice about dental school, however, are the costs and dental school debt. Still, you’re looking forward to big earnings.

Before deciding to attend dental school, research the costs and project your financial outcomes. “Get serious about repaying [your debt] — dentistry can be a stressful profession, and debt will just add to that stress,” said Cabler.

Lost earnings while in dental school: $220,000

Dental school isn’t just an investment of your time. You’re also missing out on potential income. A typical graduate with a bachelor’s of science in chemistry (a common major for pre-dental undergraduates) can expect a typical salary of $55,000 annually, per PayScale.

But a graduate who chooses to use her time attending dental school will lose out on those earnings. Typical lost earnings would be around $220,000 over the four years it takes to earn a Doctor of…

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