Graduation from Dental School is an exciting time, and there is a lot to do. We’ve put together a checklist and timeline of things to consider when working on your job search. We hope this can help you avoid any delays in kicking off your career as a new dentist.

Checklist for Graduating Dental Students and Residents

  • FIRST! Set your personal career goals by determining your ideal practice setting and financial needs. Try to plan for the first 2 to 5 years of your career. Trust me, this plan will look completely different in 1 to 3 years, but you need to set a path to get moving forward.
  • Resume: sample (contact us for more)
  • Cover Letter: sample
  • Proof Book or Look Book
    • Contains case presentations, before/after photos, letters of recommendations, testimonials, production date, etc.
  • References
    • Needs to be professional, academic, or any non-family member
    • Three is plenty
  • Interview Preparation: complete list of tips
  • License Applications
    • States vary so make sure to learn what they require, especially what Regional Board exams they recognize
  • Other permits: DEA, state controlled substance permit, sedation permits
  • Other helpful links:

Timeline for Graduating Dental Students and Residents

You will need to budget your time and understand factors that may delay your expected start date with a practice. Ideally you need to plan on not starting with a practice for at least six weeks after graduation. Here are some dates or blocks of time to consider.

  • Graduation Date
    • Late May or Early June
  • Board Scores
    • Take your regional exams as early as possible in order to have your scores prior to your graduation
    • Many employers won’t show interest unless you have passed your regional board
  • Job applications
  • Telephone Interview
    • Plan for this to take place within one to three weeks after you submit an application or resume
  • Face to Face Interview
    • Plan for this to take place within one to six weeks after your telephone interview
  • Licensing process
    • Takes 4 to 6 weeks in most states
    • Beware that some states may take 2-3 months, especially if you are moving there
    • Fingerprints: We recommend doing this as early as you can per the state boards’ rules. Sometimes it takes weeks to mail off your fingerprints and wait for your receipt that must accompany your license application
    • Background and credential verification: Some states (notably AK, NM, WY and several others) use a third party service for credentialing that will add 30 to 60 days to your license processing time.
    • It’s very important to learn which states require applicants to submit their licensing applications in conjunction with state board meeting dates. For example, AK only meets quarterly, and requires applications to be in the office 45 days before that meeting.
  • Insurance credentialing
    • Once you have the license, the job, and a start date, you may still be delayed on production if you must wait for insurance or medicaid credentialing processes. This could take a couple of weeks to several months depending on the state and the insurance companies

Typical Timeline for a New Doctor to Start Employment

Step Deadline  
Build resume, cover letter By February  
Start submitting applications to practices February Budget 1- 2 months
Telephone interviews February – April Budget 1-3 months
Face to Face interviews February – April Budget 1-3 months
Receive offers March – May  
Accept offers By May/June  
Graduation May/June  
License application process May/July Budget 3 to 6 weeks
Start employment July/August  
Insurance/Medicaid credentialing process June-October Budget 1 to 3 months

 It will take 5 to 6 months from starting your search to reaching full capacity as a newly employed associate

Other timeline factors to consider:

  • Job search is in rural areas or across the country: Add weeks or months to your search since timing of interviews will likely be determined by your ability to travel and breaks in your school schedule
  • Spouse or significant other’s schedule
  • Kids’ schedules
  • Delays in your clinical requirements completion


Written by Carl Guthrie, Regional Director of Recruiting at ETS Dental. For more information, contact Carl directly at 540-491-9104 or

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