Dentistry is a career that has the power to transform lives.
That’s incredible in itself, but it’s also in demand and offers fantastic stability. The stumbling block for many is the high barrier to entry. University courses are extremely competitive and getting in takes total commitment.
Still interested? Read on to get a full run through a career in dentistry.
In short, yes. There are only ten dental schools in Australia and New Zealand, with thousands of applicants eyeing a spot each year.
As a result, you need to think about your application holistically and prepare diligently to maximise your chances of success.
First, you will need strong academic credentials, such as an ATAR above 99 (for undergraduate courses) or a competitive GPA (for graduate courses). Prepare for your exams throughout the year to maintain high grades.
Second, you will need to perform well in an admissions test. Know how these tests are run, find out the best resources to use and start your preparation early.
If you’re applying as a school leaver or for undergraduate dentistry, it’s likely you’ll have to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT ANZ). The UCAT ANZ is a 2 hour, multiple choice, computer-based exam. It’s known for being extremely time pressured.
If you’re applying as a graduate student, you may have to take the Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT). Find out more about the GAMSAT
Third, most universities require an interview. Your interview will be in one of two formats:
You’ll be interviewed by a panel of interviewers. Interviewers will ask you a series of questions. They may also ask you follow up questions. Semi-structured interviews have a less rigid format and are more likely to ask you questions specific to you.
You’ll rotate around stations, and at each station you’ll have a new interviewer and a new interview question or task. This format is much more structured, you’ll have a set amount of time at each station and all students will be asked the same questions.
Reflect on your motivations for dentistry, do readings around common dental topics and issues, and find out what dental school and dental career looks like.
Ask friends or family to help you out with mock interviews. This will help you become better at giving smooth, coherent answers. Interviews are always nerve racking. It’s important that you stay calm and make your answer relevant to the question.
Becoming a dentist can take 5 or more years depending on the path you choose. A standard 5 year undergraduate degree in dentistry will allow you to practise once you’ve graduated.
Graduate entry degrees are 4 years long, but you need to already hold at least a bachelor's degree to take this path. This means that doing a graduate entry pathway would take you at least 7 years, and if you chose to do a masters or any other degree after your bachelor’s it can take even longer.
The Australian Dental Association suggests that dentistry is an ideal career for people that enjoy specific activities. This would mean that dental schools will want students skilled in those areas as they will most likely be able to become good dentists. These skills include:
Although there may be slight variations in subject prerequisites, generally you’ll be required to study Chemistry, Biology and English. Subjects that are often mentioned include:
Although work experience is not compulsory, having work experience will give you an advantage at interviews. It’s likely that you may be asked some questions about your understanding of what a career in dentistry entails.
Work experience in a dental setting will enable you to show that you have a realistic understanding of what a doctor does. It’ll help you prove your point rather than make empty claims.
This question is central to most interviews. Dentistry is challenging but also rewarding. Interviewers want to make sure you’re doing dentistry for the right reasons. Here are the do’s and don’t to acing this question.
Dental application deadlines vary based on where you’re applying to. Different TACs have different deadlines. The deadline is usually around the end of September. Make sure you check each TAC’s site for information on deadlines.
In Australia, dental degrees cost around $300,000 for full-fee paying students and $55,000 for commonwealth supported place (CSP) students. You’ll also need to pay for the UCAT ($305) and some tertiary application centres have a fee for submitting applications ($35-$70)
On top of that, if you’re moving away from home, you’ll have accommodation and living costs to pay for. Accommodation and living costs can vary based on where you’ll be studying.
For example, accommodation and living costs tend to be more expensive in Sydney compared to Adelaide.
Use this handy calculator to work out how much your living costs and accommodation will be.
If you’re doing a 5-year dental degree it could end up costing up to $440,000.
In New Zealand, tuition fee for dentistry is $16,187 per year for years 2-5.
There are no universities that currently offer part-time dentistry. However, you can study some postgraduate courses part-time.
Dentistry requires a lot of patient contact. You’ll also have to attend placements at hospitals and other dental settings to learn all the skills you need to be a safe and competent dentist.
This means that it’s not possible to study all of dentistry online. Although the pandemic has brought a temporary change to teaching styles, it’s likely that the majority of your dentistry course will take place in a physical setting.
You can still get into Dentistry, even if your ATAR isn’t that high. You have two main options before you:
The following universities have certain pathways that can result in you achieving additional points, this could compensate for a slightly lower ATAR. You need to check each university's requirements in detail and how to apply to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.
Charles Sturt has a range of pathways including:
The university has a rural priority access scheme for students living in RA 2-5. Students who have lived RA 2-5 for a minimum of 5 consecutive years or 10 cumulative years, will have priority access to the course. You’ll need to apply for this via QTAC.
La Trobe has a range of pathways. If you’re eligible for more than 1, the maximum possible adjustment you can get is 20. One of the pathways at La Trobe is the Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS). There are 4 categories for which you can be eligible for:
You’ll be able to find the details of all of the above on the SEAS site.
La Trobe also has a Rural and Regional Student Access Scheme (RRSAS). If you live in an RA 2 or 3 area, you’ll have 10 points added. For a postcode in RA 4, this will be 12.5 and 15 points for an area in RA 5.
La Trobe also has a priority access program for students going to certain schools.
To find out more information about any of the following pathways, you need to contact the university:
The University of Queensland has a rural access scheme. You need to have lived in an RA 2-5 postcode, for at least 5 consecutive years or 10 cumulative years. They also have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Admission Pathway. Click on the links for more details on eligibility and how to apply.
You can apply to the following bachelor programs after completing a degree:
If you’re enrolled on a course at CSU and you have a GPA above 5.5 you can apply for the 5 year Bachelor of Dental Science, If you don’t meet the criteria to apply as a current CSU student, you can apply as a regular domestic student or (if you’re eligible) as a rural or indgneous applicant.
If you are successful on the 3 year Bachelor of Dental Health Science, you’ll seamlessly be moved to the 2 year Master of Dentistry program, which will allow registration with the General Dental Council.
You can apply as a graduate to the 5 year Bachelor of Dental Surgery program. Your most recent GPA will be used to assess your application. In 2021, a GPA of 5.75 on a 7 point scale was needed to be considered for an offer. This doesn't guarantee a place on the course however. If your course doesn't generate a GPA, you will be unable to apply.
You can apply with your GPA for the 5 year Bachelor of Dental Surgery. You need to have a minimum GPA of 5.0 to be eligible to apply. You’ll also need to meet the subject prerequisites which are as follows:
One subject chosen from:
And one subject chosen from:
You can apply as a graduate for the 5-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree. You’ll be ranked based on a score calculated from the score you achieved in the first degree you took at university. There isn’t any preference given to the subject or degree qualification.
You could also apply to the following postgraduate degrees:
You can apply for the 4 year Doctor of Dental Surgery. You will need to have completed a bachelor's degree within 10 years of commencing your Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. You’ll need to take an admissions test, this will vary depending on where you are based, but if you’re in Australia it will be the GAMSAT. You’ll be ranked based on your GPA and your admissions test score. You can find full details of requirements at Doctor of Dental Surgery : Entry requirements.
You can apply for a 4 year Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Your GPA and admissions test result will be used to select candidates. The admission test will vary depending on where you are based, but if you’re in Australia it will be the GAMSAT. You also need to meet the biology prerequisites.
To study the 4 year Doctor of Dental Medicine, you’ll need a minimum GPA of 5.5 and a minimum overall GAMSAT score of 50 and no section score less than 50 for domestic applicants.
Most universities offer scholarships to help cover the cost of study. Check the websites of the dental schools you’re applying to, to see what scholarships you’re eligible for.
You can also check scholarship databases like:
There are also scholarship databases specifically for healthcare professionals:
There are also Dentistry specific scholarships:
You can find lots more information on scholarships on the my health career page.
Several Eastern European countries, including Georgia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Armenia, and Romania, offer dental courses for foreigners. Studying abroad is becoming more and more popular, as the costs of living are lower and the competition less intense in these countries than in the UK. Tuition, too, is usually lower and starts from as little as $5,500 per year.
Most of the above courses are taught in English and degrees from these countries are recognised internationally. Most of these countries also offer graduate-entry dentistry courses.
It’s likely that you’ll have to take a university-specific admissions test as part of their selection process, as there is no internationally accepted test.
Another option is to study dentistry in the UK. As the main language in the UK is English, you’ll have less trouble interacting with locals and settling in. However, tuition fees can be very expensive for international students: they range anywhere from $64,000 to $90,000 a year. Accommodation, living costs and utilities can cost you over $100,000 over the five years.
Once you’ve graduated, you’ll need to register with the Dental Board of Australia or the Dental Council of New Zealand. Once registered you can work as a registered dentist. If you want to specialise, you’ll need to do further courses. These courses tend to be around 3 years but some may be longer and shorter depending on the specialty.