Many dental professionals are drawn to a career in education. Some of the benefits are obvious: You get to give back to the profession by passing on your knowledge; you gain prestige from your participation in an academic program; and you can depend on a stable (though low!) income. In addition to those, there are other, more unexpected benefits that come with a career in dental education.
In addition to your teaching abilities, you will be evaluated based on your history of service and the publication of your research. As a dental professional, you can serve your community by taking part in outreach trips, and research results must be disseminated. Traveling for an outreach trip or to disseminate research results can hardly be called a vacation. A lot of hard work and preparation is required to properly represent your institution. However, any travel exposes you to new settings, experiences and cultures, and it gets you out of your routine. From a financial standpoint, most educational institutions, at a minimum, will subsidize your travel expenses for outreaches and dissemination of research results. And with some clever planning, depending on where you are, you may be able to extend the trip for personal exploration at little cost to you.
Continuing education/personal growth
Participating in outreach trips will also contribute to your personal growth, not only because you’re visiting new places but also because you’re stepping outside of your daily routine and diving into new and potentially uncomfortable experiences. When you return to your comfortable daily routine, you do so with a renewed and broader perspective.
A career in education also exposes you to ongoing research (that may not even be published yet), literature updates and, most importantly, endless opportunities to learn, both formally and through observation and participation. At a minimum, educational institutions often subsidize fees for continuing education courses.
Dental professionals are often isolated, professionally speaking. Solo practitioners do not have many opportunities to bounce ideas off of like-minded colleagues. But if you’re a dental educator, you will most likely interact with junior, contemporary and senior colleagues, and each of those interactions can be abundant with potential for collegiality. From a financial standpoint, you’re being paid to develop professional relationships. And with some work, those relationships might become meaningful and personal.
The thrill of it all
If you’re doing your job well as a dental educator, you will never be bored. You will find that you’re an actor in a big theater, and the cast of characters is always changing. The administration, faculty, staff, students and patients all contribute to an ongoing plot, and the daily twists and turns are enough to keep anyone’s head reeling. If you need excitement, this is the place. And if you’re really enthralled, you can always get involved in school politics.
Fountain of youth
As you progress further in your academic career, you’ll realize that there’s no better way to stay vibrant than to surround yourself with young people. The chronological age of your students is not important; their professional youth is quite enough. Their enthusiasm, vigor and thirst for knowledge are contagious, and if you allow yourself to see the world through their eyes, you will enjoy a personal and professional rejuvenation.
Best of all, a career in dental education will allow you to forge your own path. Along the way, we know that you will encounter your own unexpected benefits because, at its baseline, becoming a dental educator is inherently enriching. We know from experience.
~Drs. Ivy Peltz and Eric Studley, Doccupations