Budgeting for continuing education as a new dentist
Within a few months of graduation, I made a budgeting plan for continuing education.
I did this early on because apart from being able to serve patients better with specialized learning, I was inspired to attain a Fellowship at the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), like some of my faculty at the University of Washington. Attaining a Fellowship requires 500 hours of CE. Most states have an annual requirement of around 20. I was and still am working towards that number.
The budgeting plan I describe below was made after discussion with colleagues, dental school advisors and friends. This includes friends who just want to take good quality CE and perform excellent dentistry. This plan works for all of us, and I hope it works for you.
- Prioritize. Is learning implants your focus this year? Or do you want to add Invisalign to your repertoire? I would recommend sticking to only ONE SKILL per year. Each of these courses is at least a couple grand, not factoring travel, hotels, buying the necessary equipment or training your team. When you’re thinking of adding a skill set like implants to your office, “budgeting” becomes a secondary consideration.
- Maybe you don’t have the “one thing” you want to focus on, but still want to stay abreast on what is happening in dentistry. Five percent of your net pay is the higher end of what I recommend putting towards CE. This includes at least two national conferences of your choice.
- The best CE out there? Every dentist has different interests. Ask your mentors what courses they took and use those to make your decisions. Be wary of trends you see on Instagram or Facebook. I have learned to ask, “By what percent have you seen the Return on Investment (ROI) grow in your practice in the last six months?” It will take at least six months to a year for us to see any real movement in ROI.
- If you’ve joined a Study Club, factor that cost into your CE budget. Whether it is Spear Study Club, Seattle Study Club or a host of others, they all have benefits. For example, Spear Study Club offers a website full of self-paced CE and an annual conference that you can attend at their headquarters in Arizona. Personally, I love learning via Study Clubs. It is a great way to meet dentists and specialists in the area and learn from their experiences.
- Maintaining membership with the ADA and AGD is probably the most cost-effective way to go about getting CE. I’m lucky to be in Seattle which has an active AGD chapter and hosts a service like Master Track. Master Track brings local and national speakers, presents opportunities for networking with peers from neighboring states, and helps fulfill the requirement for a Masters or Fellowship with the AGD. I’m also fortunate that the Seattle King County Dental Society (part of the ADA) hosts popular lecturers throughout the year. As a bonus, they always have delicious dinner! WIN WIN! For more information on CE the ADA offers, which includes discounted rates for ADA members, click here.
- Lastly, I think it goes without saying, but unless you’re saving enough, you cannot afford good quality CE. Saving 30-35% of your paycheck every month will go a long way in maintaining liquidity in the bank.
Questions? Just ask!
Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist practicing in Seattle. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada completed her DDS equivalency from the University of Washington in 2018. She is a founding member of the New Dentist Business Study Club and a contributing member of her local Spear Study Club. Originally from Dubai, she looks forward to her weekly Bollywood dance class, hiking the beautiful PNW with her husband, and reading books on Finance & Management. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram.