On-the-job CE: Most RDHs are not paid during continuing education

April 6, 2016
Approximately three-fourths of dental hygienists are not paid to attend continuing education programs, according to a survey of more than 600 dental hygienists that was conducted by RDH eVillage in March 2016.

Approximately three-fourths of dental hygienists are not paid to attend continuing education (CE) programs, according to a survey of more than 600 dental hygienists that was conducted by RDH eVillage in March 2016.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents work in clinical practice, but 74% stated that they are not paid to attend CE programs. Of those dental hygienists who do get paid, 60% receive their “regular” clinical salary while attending CE programs.

When asked if other members of their dental office team get paid, 33% of the respondents answered with a yes.

One hygienist commented, “I think it is vital to educate the entire team with the same information and pay them for their time and efforts to better themselves and the practice as a whole. Thankfully, my employer feels the same! In that same regard, I am happy to pay for my own CE and not expect assistance if it’s something I have an interest in. It is helpful to get compensated but wouldn't turn down an opportunity just for not getting it.”

Out of the hygienists who do get reimbursement, the responses were split regarding the type of course they can attend to receive reimburse:

  • 14% get paid to attend any CE course they choose
  • 12% get paid to attend only the CE program designated by the doctor/owner
  • 14% get paid for CE programs that are mandatory

A hygienist said, “My boss ‘requires’ us to go to Hinman. He pays for our courses, but that is all. Frustrating because we close our office during this time to go to a course he wants us to take, but does not pay us our salary.”

Why doctors should reimburse…

  • “The employer should pay. You are gaining knowledge to help their practice thrive.”
  • “For over 25 years I worked for a dentist who paid for the courses. He even took the whole office to out-of-state conferences and paid for the whole trip. He sold his practice, and the new young doctor didn't pay anything or even offer to pay for continuing education.
  • “CE programs that are mandatory should be paid by employer for the program as well as an hourly wage. The employer makes it mandatory because there is going to be a benefit to the practice’s profitability.”
  • “I believe it's fair to ask for reimbursement for CE I chose to attend on my own and I usually do get that. Our manual says it's at the discretion of the doctor. At one time, we were paid our normal wage while attending all courses. Newer policy states that all team members will be paid the same rate (closer to an entry level pay rate in our practice), plus mileage, and only for mandatory courses chosen by the doctor. That's acceptable to those who are accustomed to that rate, but difficult for those who would normally expect much more.”

Why they shouldn’t…

  • “I feel it is my responsibility to satisfy my requirements for CEs. If there is a CE or meeting my employer would like me to attend, he will pay for the cost. My employer will also pay for courses that I ask him to pay.”
  • “I make it a rule to do as many as possible online for a minimum fee, or for free. Why run around? Webinars are very interactive. I have always paid for my own classes. Considering they (dentists) want the best educated to hire, it would be nice to pay us accordingly and treat us with respect.”
  • “I don't feel it's my employers’ responsibility to pay for my CEs or pay me to attend, but I sure appreciate it.”


Employee motivation is the fuel that drives a healthy dental practice. Employees perceive their compensation package as symbolic of their value to the organization and hence tied to their self-esteem and self-worth. Well-paid employees interpret their salary and benefits as evidence that they are respected and appreciated. If CE reimbursement is a motivating factor for you, then the topic can be discussed during a one-on-one conversation or during your annual performance review.

Whether you are being reimbursed or not, before attending any CE program, consider speaking with your employer about the workshop, share the topics, and how you see attending will enhance your knowledge, skills, abilities, and ultimately your job performance. After the workshop, set up a meeting with the doctor/owner and review your notes, ideas for implementation, and, when applicable, tying the new information, products and or protocols learned to your current responsibilities, as well as to tangible statistical numbers so you begin to track the ROI of the CE program.

Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, MSEC
RDH eVillage, Director

Kristine Hodsdon RDH, MSEC, is the editorial director of PennWell’s RDH eVillage e-newsletter. She provides executive coaching and team training so busy professionals easily create profitable systems that serve more clients. Visit www.kristineahodsdon.com with inquiries regarding her “Get P.A.I.D.” coaching system and programs.