Students concerned about the lengthy training to become physicians or dentists might consider nursing or dental hygiene careers. Dental hygienists clean teeth and teach oral hygiene; nurses treat patients and develop care plans. Dental hygienists earned an average of $70,700 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Licensed practical and vocational nurses made $42,400, while registered nurses made $67,930 and advanced practice registered nurses earned between $91,070 and $154,390.

Nursing Education Options

Pre-nursing students have a wide range of training and degree programs to choose from. LPNs and LVNs need to complete an accredited one-year training program. RNs, who hold more responsibility, can complete either a two- or three-year diploma program or associate degree, or a four-year bachelor's degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is required for advancement to either master's programs or doctoral programs, including the practice-focused Doctor of Nursing Practice and the research-focused Ph.D. RNs who hold less than a bachelor's degree can complete bridge programs to earn either a bachelor's or master's degree, and accelerated B.S.N.-to-D.N.P. programs also exist.

Dental Hygiene Education Options

Dental hygienists also have many educational programs to choose from; however, an associate degree in dental hygiene is the most common, with 290 programs accredited by the American Dental Hygienists' Association in 2013. Students can also complete one of eight certificate programs or 53 bachelor's degree programs. The field also offers 22 master's programs for dental hygienists who want to pursue research, education or positions in specific health programs. Though the bachelor's degree is considered entry-level, it can also lead to similar work as with a master's degree.

Nursing Coursework

Nursing coursework at all levels combines class time with clinical work. Entry-level RN programs cover basic science topics and introductory nursing issues, with additional courses in bachelor's programs devoted to critical thinking and leadership. M.S.N. programs delve into advanced general nursing topics and specialized practice, such as mental health, pediatrics and nurse anesthesia. Doctoral level programs provide further training in nursing leadership, as well as a focus on research methods and teaching, depending on the type of program.

Dental Hygiene Coursework

Entry-level dental hygiene coursework, found in certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs, includes general education courses and basic science classes, such as anatomy and chemistry. Students also take dental science courses, such as radiography and dental materials, as well as dental hygiene science classes, in addition to clinical work. Entry-level programs require an average of 2,910 instructional hours. Master's-level programs cover research methods, leadership development, educational theories and statistics, among other topics.

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