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Majors for Aspiring Orthodontists

Higher Education Articles March 25, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs for those interested in becoming an orthodontist and their coursework, continuing education choices, and job and wage outlook.

Information for Aspiring Orthodontists

Schools don’t offer any major devised specifically to suit the needs of aspiring orthodontists; however, these individuals are required to complete some undergraduate-level science courses before they can join dental school. Those who major in a scientific field such as biomedical sciences, chemistry, or biology will be considered to have fulfilled these prerequisites. After they complete a bachelor’s degree program and meet the scientific requirements, students can complete programs in orthodontics and dentistry before they become certified orthodontists.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Biology

Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in biology engage in an examination of the developments, processes, functions, and physical structures of populations, environments, molecules, animals, and plants. They also involve themselves in the analysis of modern experimental methods and contemporary scientific concepts for their application to the numerous biological fields and areas.

Individuals who major in biology are provided essential training in the life sciences in order to continue on to professional schools in veterinary science, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. Admission criteria related to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. However, some schools offer the program in a degree completion format devised to benefit students that have already completed an associate’s degree program.


The primary focus of coursework is on courses in physics, chemistry, and biology. Students may also have to complete additional general education courses in areas such as social sciences, humanities, math, and English. A large amount of space is reserved for electives, thereby allowing students to tailor their coursework based on their continuing education goals or future career. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Evolutionary biology
•Plant biology
•Animal, physical, and cell physiology
•Foundations of biology
•Molecular and cellular biology

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Chemistry

Students enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program in Chemistry examine the uses, composition, and properties of man-made and natural materials occurring in the modern world. Some schools offer concentrations within the major; these include biochemistry and forensic science, among others. The biochemistry specialization may be available to those aspiring to move on to optometry, pharmacy, medicine, or dentistry school.

A chemistry pre-professional major is also available through select schools, which is required to fulfill the prerequisite requirements for admittance to these professional schools. Admission criteria related to a bachelor’s degree program in chemistry typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma.


Coursework includes the main chemistry sub-fields, such as physical and organic, in addition to courses in physics, calculus, and biology. A chemistry degree program entails extensive laboratory work. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Analytical chemistry
•Instrumental analysis
•Inorganic chemistry
•Introduction to chemistry
•Biological chemistry

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Biomedical Sciences

Students enrolled in biomedical sciences degree programs learn about the broad areas of natural and health sciences. Students can expect to become fluent at monitoring and improving every aspect of well-being and health for populations and individuals. Students may view biomedical science as a preparatory program before going on to more advanced degrees in public health, physical therapy, chiropractics, medicine, and dentistry.

Some schools present their Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) program as a degree completion course for individuals that have already completed two years of college, but admission criteria at most schools require incoming students to hold only a high school diploma.

Coursework in a bachelor’s degree program in biomedical sciences has a predominant component of physics, biology, and chemistry courses. Students are also required to complete general education courses in the humanities, history, math, and English. Core coursework may commonly include topic areas such as:

•Gross anatomy
•Science-based calculus

Continuing Education Choices

Upon completion of a bachelor’s degree, prospective orthodontists are required to enroll in dental school and earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree. Students usually complete these degree programs within four years; coursework combines clinical experiences, patient simulations, and classroom lectures.

A pre-doctoral program in orthodontics is available through some schools, which students can attend while completing a doctorate program. After they receive the DDS or DMD, students are required to complete an additional orthodontic program spanning two to three years, training that would culminate in a certificate or master’s degree in orthodontics.

The programs feature neck and head anatomy, dentofacial anomalies, craniofacial development and growth, and temporomandibular disorders, which prepares students for residencies in private practices. Those who complete an orthodontics program can pursue the American Board of Orthodontics administered certification that can be earned through passage of a series of oral and written examinations, in addition to submission of six case reports, they undertake under supervision during the learning program. Once they earn certification, students must ensure the re-certification once in ten years. All 50 states require this certification.

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2010, 8,300 individuals were employed as orthodontists in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2010, orthodontists brought in an average annual wage of $200,290 (BLS). A faster-than-average job growth rate of 21% was predicted for orthodontists over the 2010 – 2020 decade (BLS).

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