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Is the wage of dental hygienists enough to live on comfortably?

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records, the median annual pay for hygienists was $76,220. So, can this be considered a decent salary? And what are the aspects that would determine if a certain income is a decent salary or not?

Decent living definition 

According to Investopedia, a standard of living is defined as the level of wealth, material goods, comfort, and necessities available to a particular socio-economic class or a specific geographic area. 

A few months ago, the BLS published a report on the weekly earnings of American workers. Using data from the 4th fiscal quarter of 2019, the Bureau revealed that the median pay for full-time salary or wage workers was $936 per week. This translates to an average annual salary of about $48,672. As such, a $76,220 pay would be more than the national average and a pretty decent income, of course, depending on where one resides.  

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Now that you know the hygienists’ salary is $27,548 more than the national average salary, what factors can you employ to gauge how decent this amount is in the current economy? 

Location and cost of living

The cost of living varies considerably from state to state, city to city, and even from one county to another. So, ultimately, where you reside matters a lot. And dental practice owners are aware of that. Many will consider where their office is located and where you reside when offering you a compensation package.  

Comparing locations

For instance, according to USA Wage, Fairbanks, AK, has the highest median entry-level salary for hygienists at $94, 340 while Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA has the lowest entry-level salary at $25, 060.

When analyzing the salaries at the state level, Alaska takes first place with a median annual entry-level salary of $86, 080, and Alabama has the lowest salary at $33, 410.  Hygienists based in California and Louisiana earn an entry-level salary of $72,630 and 38, 870, respectively. As you can see, the discrepancy is quite evident.  

What variation in the cost of living means for you

Like we have already mentioned, the cost of living varies throughout the country; thus, the income differences you will notice for a hygienist position in different cities reflect that.

Food, transportation, and housing are usually one of the significant expenses in everyone’s budget. For example, it is possible to get by with a $50, 000 salary in New York, but you might have to share residence with a roommate, forego some social engagements, and live farther away from the office. Check out the other twelve best cities to work as an RDH/RDA.  

On the contrary, if you reside in a city or town that costs less, you would enjoy far more for your salary, and you wouldn’t have to restrict yourself as much. Hygienists’ median salary of $76, 220 will go much further in inexpensive cities, and you will probably have to make fewer compromises regarding transportation, housing, and food.  

What’s important is to prioritize what matters to you. For instance, there may be fewer attractions or opportunities in a more rural town, while the cost of living in a large city may require you to forfeit other comforts. There are likely to be advantages and disadvantages of whatever decisions you make; therefore, it comes down to your personal goals.  

Total compensation package

Your total compensation entails much more than just your salary. There are also benefits to take into consideration. That is why your compensation package is a decisive factor when gauging the decency of your income (in this case, $76,200 per year).

Some benefits to think about include:

Health insurance

Health insurance is expensive; therefore, if your employer covers a significant portion of your plan, the eventual savings can really add up. Besides, many people cannot afford hospitalization when they need it. It is virtually impossible to determine when health problems will hit your family. However, with a health insurance policy in place, you will find solutions to various issues, including costly medical expenses.

Retirement tools and planning

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), the average retirement account balance for American households is only $3000. The dental office you are working for may offer lots of job perks, which help with this and more.

For example, if the employer guarantees a matching 401(K), this can boost your retirement savings and benefit you in due course, thus raising your living standard.

Dental hygienists have an option to temp to earn more 

In today's buoyant market, temp hygienists are much in demand, and the majority of dental professionals find they can make more in temporary roles than in permanent ones. Thanks to cloud-based hiring platforms like Cloud Dentistry, building your own brand as a travelling hygienist and setting your own hourly rates is easier than ever. Basically, the autonomy associated with cloud dentistry and the sharing economy has allowed hygienists to be in total control of their income, thus improving their living standards significantly.

Is a hygienist’s salary decent? The bottom line 

Your definition of comfort determines if you are okay, living on a hygienist’s Salary.  You must first ask yourself what a decent life is to you. More so, you have to think about your priorities.

For example, some hygienists relish the idea of residing in New York City, to the extent that they are willing to stay in a small, closet-sized apartment, while others would be wretched with this kind of lifestyle change.

Of course, if you have kids or other family members who need assistance, you have to factor in costs related to their care. You wouldn’t want your family to lack the basic essentials of life.

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Also, remember that your entry-level salary will not remain stagnant for the rest of your career life. As it is the norm, entry-level positions do not attract high salaries. However, as you grow in your role, you will be given additional responsibilities, receive promotions, and more compensation. Therefore, as you decide what a decent salary is, consider how fast hygienists tend to get pay raises, and other associated opportunities. 

Making it work 

Ultimately, to accurately evaluate how much money you require to cover your daily expenses — and what amounts to a decent salary — it is advisable to map everything out.

But one of the most vital things dental hygienists need to do when deciding on how much of an income they need to live on is to prepare a budget. Your estimates don’t have to be precise, but you should have an idea of where your money goes. Without this, you will never know what is “decent to live on” means for you.