Posted October 10, 2019 12:32:56Auburn, Alabama — Dentists are often asked if they are prepared for a new career.
In Alabama, dentists can earn $45,000 to $50,000 a year, but in many places, they earn far less.
For example, in the state of Mississippi, dentist salaries can range from $23,000 in West Memphis to $36,000 elsewhere.
Some dentists are also offered a stipend of at least $50 a day in some areas, but many aren’t.
“I can’t really say I’m prepared,” said Dentist Dr. Robert Linn of Linn, Mississippi.
“But I’m glad to be working.
If I don’t make it to that level, I’m not going to have a career.”
Dr. Linn says many dentists have never had a job that offered them the same level of salary that he does.
Dentists earn an average of $37,500 a year in Alabama, where they are paid $16.15 an hour, and about $24,000 nationwide, according to a survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Dr. Thomas Soto, a dental hygienist at St. Francis Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, said he earns $35,000 per year, including bonuses, but his salary is low because he doesn’t have a full-time position.
Even though he is not employed full- time, he said he is still concerned about the state minimum wage, which he estimates is about $14 an hour and is about half the federal minimum.
Soto said he has had dental students ask him, “What is your job?” and he has even heard patients say, “I don’t have one, so I’m stuck in a dentist’s chair.”
“If I’m lucky enough to have some money, I could afford to buy my own equipment and go to the dentist, but I think I’ll stay home for the time being,” he said.
His wife, a pediatrician, said she’s grateful for the job she has, but she doesn’t think she will be able to retire anytime soon.
She said the minimum wage increase is great for her, but that she still doesn’t know what she will do with her remaining savings.
With her children in school, she said she is focusing on them and not her family.
We all need to be able pay our bills, she told Mashable.
I’m hoping the next two years will be the one where we have a better future than I do right now.
Dr. Scott Schafer, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Community Health, said the increase in the minimum salary will help dentists, especially dentists of color, as well as students and adults with disabilities.
Schafer said the state’s minimum wage should be higher than $15 an day.
It’s been going up steadily for decades, he added, and he’s not sure if the federal government can raise the minimum any further.
Although it’s true that Alabama’s minimum is $15.65 an hour for most workers, some states, like New York, have set higher minimums.
For example, California’s minimum has been set at $15 for more than 25 years, and Washington state’s is $13.25.
While there are some states that have set a lower minimum, including New York and Washington, they are not a perfect comparison because there are no minimum wage requirements for some employers.
A spokesperson for the National Conference of State Legislatures told Mashability that there are currently more than 8,000 states with a minimum wage law.
The minimum wage in each state is determined by the local jurisdiction.
In the end, many dentist say they are thankful for the paycheck, but it’s not enough.
Linn said he wants to stay in Alabama and continue working for the family.
He hopes to earn another $50 per day and that he’ll be able afford to go back to work.
And while it’s great to see the minimum raised, he’s worried about the future of his dental practice.
He said he can’t foresee a time when he will retire.
“I have a long-term goal of being a dentist in a community that’s going to care for my kids, and I want to be the best dentist I can be,” he told Mashables.
This story originally appeared on Mashable and was republished with permission.