California Dental Laboratory Technology Careers

Dental laboratory technicians make and repair crowns, dentures, orthodontic appliances, and bridges. Commonly called “dental technicians” or “dental lab techs,” these professionals may also make and repair other types of dental prosthetics based on dentists’ prescriptions. Most dental lab techs work in medical equipment and supplies manufacturing labs, followed by offices of dentists, federal government, equipment wholesalers, and academic institutions.

Dental laboratory technicians work in all states across the U.S., but the largest population can be found in the State of California.

Dental Laboratory Technology Education and Training Programs

In today’s competitive career world, a high school diploma is rarely enough to grab an employer’s attention. Many career guides state that a high school diploma and on-the-job training is the path to employment for aspiring dental techs, but scroll any job board and you will find that many employers and laboratories prefer applicant’s with a formal education and certification. In fact, in some states, dental laboratories are required to have at least one certified dental technician on staff.

In addition to helping you stand out from the crowd, a formal education, training, and experience may also ensure that you earn the highest possible salary for your expertise.

Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited training programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, career colleges, and at some universities. In general, an accredited dental laboratory technology program takes 2 to 4 years to complete. Additional time may be required if a student chooses one or more specialty areas. Specialty areas include ceramics, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, implants, orthodontic appliances, or partial dentures.

After graduating from a dental technology program, you will become eligible to take the practical and written exams administered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC) to become a certified lab technician. Otherwise,  you will have to obtain at least five years of experience as a dental laboratory technician to sit for the exams.

Dental Laboratory Technology Schools and Training Programs in California

The U.S. is home to dozens of accredited dental laboratory technology training programs. At least four top programs can be found in California. They include:

Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA
ICDC College, Culver City, CA
Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles, CA (CODA Accredited)
Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA (CODA Accredited)

Employment and Earnings Outlook for California Dental Laboratory Technicians

Although California has experienced a decrease in the number of dental laboratory technicians over the past four years or so, the state is still home to the largest number of professionals in this field. In 2008, California was home to 4,350 technicians, averaging $42,520 per year. Today, the state is home to 4,170 technicians, averaging $43,730 per year.

In addition to having the largest population of dental laboratory technicians in the U.S., California-based technicians fetch higher salaries than technicians based in the other four states with the highest employment level for this occupation including Florida, Texas, New York, and Michigan. In addition, three California Metro areas made the Top 10 list of Highest Paying Metro Areas for Dental Laboratory Technicians. They are:

#7: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, $50,450 per year
#9: Santa Barbara-Santa Monica-Goleta, $50,090 per year
#10: Modesto, $49,920 per year

Among the top paying metro areas in the U.S., the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale Metro Area also has the highest employment level for dental laboratory technicians. The Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine area has the 10th highest employment level.

The U.S. is home to 36,790 dental laboratory technicians, down from 42,640 in 2008. They average $39,320 up from $36,990 per year in 2008. Although “medical and diagnostic labs” is not listed among the top five industries for dental techs, it is the top paying industry for these professionals. The average salary for technicians working in this industry was $61,920 in 2012.  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports has reported employment growth details for  “Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians” as a single group. For the 2012-2022 decade, employment growth for this group is expected to average 7 percent, adding 5,600 new technicians to the talent pool.