Salary Survey

RDH eVillage hosted 2014 poll, noting job unease

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RDH eVillage hosted 2014 poll, noting job unease

BYMark Hartley

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is sticking to its 2012 forecasts that more than 60,000 jobs will be added to the dental hygiene workforce during the next seven years, prompting a number of websites to paint a rosy future for job security within the profession.

Forgive the dental hygiene profession for being skeptical, though. Almost three years into the BLS 10-year forecast of "much faster than average" growth in jobs, dental hygienists are still a little cynical.

Nationally, 86% of 1,814 dental hygienists surveyed for the annual RDH eVillage salary survey think jobs are "somewhat" or "very" difficult to find.

Texas seems to be the most indicative of potential job growth in the profession; 24% of Texas dental hygienists said finding a job is "relatively easy." Other states that said it was relatively easy to find employment are Maryland (19%) and Colorado (16%).

The percentages above are correct. In no state did a majority of dental hygienists say job hunting was easy - not even close to it. The states feeling the greatest pinch due to a shortage of jobs appear to be Missouri, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Michigan.

Dental Hygiene Salaries

The RDH eVillage 2014 salary survey did not intend to belabor the perceptions about the job market. The most common hourly rates were reported for many states, as well as information about jobe benefits and pay raises. In addition, selected comments from hygienists who participate in compensation plans involving commissions, bonuses, or other incentives are listed in the online reports..

For the record, the most common hourly rates for dental hygienists in the United States are $30, $35, and $40.

Pay Raises

The salary survey inquired about the frequency of pay raises awarded to dental hygienists.

Wisconsin wins the "raises within the last year" category hands-down as 52% received recent raises. Other states that appear to be more fair about raises are Indiana and Maryland.

The worst states for raises appear to be Georgia and Arizona, where almost 30% of dental hygienists reported never receiving a raise.

"So many hygienists looking for work in this area, and not enough jobs," said a Michigan hygienist. "I haven't had a raise in five years. I feel like the doctor knows he can find someone to replace me tomorrow, so he doesn't feel the need to give a raise. Have had a resume out, but no luck."

To view the entire reports at RDH eVillage (which often
offered more details, such as a state-by-state breakdown), visit these links at DentistryIQ.com:

Part 1: Hygienists still think jobs are scarce:http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2013/03/survey-dental-hygienists-scramble-for-health-insurance.html

Part 2: Job benefits for dental hygienists:http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2013/03/job-benefits-for-dental-hygienists-part-2.html

Part 3: Comparing urban vs. rural hygienists:
http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2014/10/rdh-evillage-salary-
survey-part-3-comparing-urban-vs-rural-hygienists.html

Part 4: Most common hourly rates for hygienists in 39 states: http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/slideshows/dental-
hygienist-salary-survey-2014/overview.html

An Atlanta hygienist added, "The Atlanta area is saturated with hygienists looking for work, and employers know it. Salary increases are rare. I got my last pay raise 3 1/2 years ago, and the office manager's attitude is that she can make you do whatever she wants because you have nowhere else to go."

Most common hourly rates in 39 states:

Alabama - $21, $25

Alaska - $45, $50

Arizona - $35, $38, $40

California - $40, $45, $46, $50

Colorado - $36, $39, $42

Connecticut - $35, $37, $40

Florida - $30, $32

Georgia - $28, $32, $35, $36, $40

Idaho - $36

Illinois - $35, $37, $38

Indiana - $29, $30

Iowa - $33, $35

Kansas - $38

Kentucky - $28, $30

Louisiana - $36, $40

Maryland - $40, $45

Massachusetts - $38, $39, $40

Michigan - $28, $30, $32

Minnesota - $34, $35, $36

Mississippi - $23, $24, $25

Missouri -$32, $34, $40

Nebraska - $32, $33, $35

Nevada - $40, $43, $45

New Hampshire - $32, $35, $36, $40

New Jersey - $40, $43

New Mexico - $35, $42, $47

New York - $26, $30, $31, $32, $35, $44, $45

North Carolina - $30, $32, $34, $35, $36

Ohio - $28, $30, $33

Oregon - $38, $40

Pennsylvania - $24, $35, $36, $37

Rhode Island - $34, $35, $40

South Carolina - $27, $30

Tennessee - $30, $35

Texas - $35, $37, $38

Virginia - $32, $39, $40

Washington - $42, $45

West Virginia - $25, $28

Wisconsin - $30, $31, $32

Urban vs. Rural

The 2014 RDH eVillage salary survey also compared statistics of the urban vs. rural dental hygienists.

Overall, 764 of the respondents to the survey indicate that they practice in a small town or rural area, and 55% work more than 30 hours a week. Only 18% indicated that they would "prefer" to work more hours than scheduled.

Rural hygienists say it is "very difficult" (48%) or "somewhat difficult" (40%) to find a dental hygiene position in their area. Seventy-eight percent say "too many graduates are looking for work" in rural areas, too, indicating that the oversupply of licensed dental hygienists filters out to less populated areas,.

"There are no hygiene jobs available in our area or surrounding areas. Resumes have been out for three years with no luck," a Mississippi hygienist noted.

A New Hampshire hygienist added, "Many hygienists in our area are sticking with their employer, even if we don't agree with office policies or pay because there are no alternatives, as opposed to five to 10 years ago when many dentists were competing in a limited market."

Nationally, 40% of rural hygienists projected their 2014 annual income to fall into the $40,000 to $60,000 range, and 78% earn income based on an hourly rate system provided by employer. Twenty-eight percent received a pay raise within the last year, and an additional 26% have received a raise within last two years.

Overall, 1,011 of the respondents to the survey said they practice in metropolitan areas, including suburbs, and 53% work more than 30 hours a week. Only 19% "prefer" to work more hours than "typically" scheduled.

Urban hygienists say it is "very difficult" (44%) or "somewhat difficult" (40%) to find employment as a dental hygienist. As with the rural hygienists above, 78% believe "too many graduates are looking for work."

A recent graduate in Madison, Wis., said, "It sucks! I feel like we aren't appreciated and seen as easily replaced [due] to saturation of hygienists. No paid holiday, vacation, or sick time is so wrong! If I knew than what I know now, I would have picked a different career path! Really disappointed!"

Nationally, 54% of urban hygienists projected earning $40,000 to $70,000 in their profession during 2014, and 78% earn income based on an hourly rate system provided by employer. The frequency of pay raises for urban hygienists is a little lower than for the rural hygienists above: 24% received a pay raise within the last year, and an additional 20% received a raise within last two years.

A Los Angeles hygienist added, "While it continues to be frustrating to not receive raises after being a hard-working, loyal employee, I am grateful that I work for two employers who are verbally appreciative and overall good people. Of course, I'd love to make more money, but there are economic issues affecting us.

"I hope they will consider giving us raises when we ask, but I agree with many other hygienists in saying that our bosses know that jobs are scarce, and pay rates are staying stagnant.

"So I feel that we're stuck until the economy really gets to a better place. And that may not happen for awhile. It is frustrating, but in the big picture, I'm definitely grateful for my job."

Job Benefits

Almost three-quarters of dental hygienists are offered paid holidays and paid vacations, which is the good news according to the 2014 RDH eVillage salary and benefits survey. The bad news is that less than half of dental hygienists are offered health insurance, dental insurance, or paid sick leave.

"Virtually impossible to find an office offering more than 24 hours a week, and benefits are scarce," a Massachusetts hygienist wrote.

More than 1,600 dental hygienists responded to the survey, which was initiated by RDH eVillage on Aug. 6, 2014.

Even hygienists who enjoy earning benefits from employers are wary of trends in the job market.

A North Carolina hygienist said, "I have fabulous benefits and have received a raise within the last year. However, I notice classmates and other hygienists who graduated from my university and surrounding community colleges struggle to find full-time jobs with benefits and raises, so they work several part time jobs or have been temping in offices since graduation!"

A Kansas hygienist, however, noted that a recent raise didn't help overcome the costs of health-care benefits available through the federal government. "Over eight years since last pay raise," she said. "I finally got a raise, but my raise covers some of my health insurance premiums due to my doctor dropping my insurance after Obamacare started. So I'm paying all of my premiums, and my quality of life is no better, such as having more money to save for retirement, and the cost of living going up."

Since some dental hygienists do rely on benefits earned by other family members, the question on the survey was, "What benefits are available at your primary employer, regardless of whether you utilize them as an employee?" The questionnaire gave dental hygienists the option of saying they were "unsure" if an employer offered a benefit.

Nationally, the breakdown of available benefits offered in dental practices were:

• CE tuition reimbursement 51.49%%

• Dental insurance 37.83%

• Disability insurance 19.24%

• Health insurance 46.13%

• Life insurance 16.12%

• Malpractice insurance 13.39%

• Paid holidays 70.23%

• Paid sick leave 42.46%

• Paid vacation 71.88%

• Profit sharing 21.75%

• Retirement plan (401K, for example) 58.38%

• Uniforms/operatory attire 58.90%

A Nevada dental hygienist appreciated other tangible benefits from working for her employer. "My boss may not give raises but he has been very generous with monthly bonuses and annual bonuses," she said. "He also pays for our CEs and pays for the hours we spend in class. During our weekly meeting, he sometimes buys us lunch and gives us at least a $50 gift card for our birthdays."

But a Pennsylvania dental hygienist said employers search for ways to boost profits. "Dentists in this area do not want to pay benefits for full-time employees because the bottom line profit is more important than the patient." RDH

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