• Entry-level jobs in healthcare, like steritechs or dental administrators, offer better long-range prospects compared to retail and restaurant service roles.
  • Retail and restaurant jobs are often fast-paced, high-pressure, and labor-intensive, with less opportunity for professional growth.
  • Average earnings in service industry jobs are relatively low, with limited potential for financial advancement.
  • Healthcare roles provide clear pathways for career advancement, stable income, and opportunities for professional development.
  • Working in healthcare allows for a positive impact on people’s lives, better job security, and a more collaborative work environment. Risio’s Dental Aide program can help by providing foundational skills and knowledge for jobs in dental practices.

Many Canadians enter retail or restaurant service jobs after graduating from high school, and it’s not hard to see why. These jobs are plentiful—and while they certainly aren’t easy, they can seem more accessible for young people without years of specialized training or experience. But there’s also a significant demand for entry-level healthcare workers, and many of these roles provide much better long-range prospects.

Becoming a steritech or dental administrator can not only pave the way for a rewarding career in dental assisting, but can also help you make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and avoid many of the stressors that come with retail or restaurant work. Below, we compare these entry-level healthcare positions to common service industry jobs so you can see the difference for yourself.

Server in busy restaurant

Unexpected Challenges in Retail & Restaurant Work

While jobs in retail and food service are sometimes thought of as easy, the reality is that these environments can frequently be grueling. A quick look through Quora will yield endless accounts of frustrating (or downright gross) experiences that employees have had to deal with in malls and restaurants. But even under normal circumstances, service-industry jobs tend to be:

  • Fast-paced: These jobs take place in busy environments where employees must quickly adapt to changing customer demands and multitask effectively to keep up with demands.
  • High-pressure: Retail and service jobs can come with intense pressure to meet sales targets, handle large volumes of customers, and maintain high standards of customer service, all while working in a highly scrutinized public setting.
  • Labour-intensive: These roles typically involve long hours on one’s feet, managing heavy inventory, or performing repetitive tasks, which can be physically demanding and lead to exhaustion.

What About the Money?

Maybe you’ve heard urban legends about “six-figure servers” who make over $100,000 a year in tips—but it’s important to understand that such cases are extremely rare. The fact is, if it were easy to get rich carrying food and drinks to tables, these jobs would be a lot more competitive.

We’re not trying to throw shade at restaurant jobs—as we’ve just explained, these jobs are frequently difficult, and the people who do them deserve respect. But the numbers speak for themselves: the average restaurant server in Canada makes less than $30,000 per year.

And as for retail workers? It’s better, but not by much. You’re still only looking at an average annual salary of about $35k.

Young person working in retail store during difficult customer experience

The Glass Ceiling of Service Work

But perhaps the biggest risk to be aware of before you dedicate years of your life to working in a restaurant or retail setting is the limited opportunity for career advancement. Yes, you can get promoted from serving to bartending or managing a restaurant—but there are usually only a few of those jobs per establishment.

Even if you do reach those heights, there’s nowhere else to go—except to a different restaurant where you might make better tips. It’s possible to make a good living doing this, but it’s certainly not easy.

The outlook for retail jobs is similar. Some retail workers eventually move up to managing a store, but the law of averages says most won’t. For the few who do, it’s even possible for this to become a pipeline to working in the company’s corporate office—but again, this is the exception and not the rule. Most corporate positions for retail companies are filled with business school graduates, not former workers who clambered up the ladder from the sales floor.

Steritech taking instruments out of autoclave in dental practice

The Hidden Advantages of Entry-Level Healthcare Jobs

We’re not going to lie and say that healthcare work is easy. Like retail and restaurant jobs, many entry-level positions in healthcare settings are fast-paced and require a strong work ethic to succeed—not to mention an ability to think on your feet.

But the benefits and opportunities that come with these jobs can make a massive difference. Becoming a steritech or dental assistant sets you up with essential experience working in a dental practice, which helps when you’re training to become a dental assistant—especially if you’re training at Risio, since work-integrated learning is built into our curriculum.

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits these positions offer relative to service jobs:

  • Career Progression: Unlike in the service industry, entry-level healthcare jobs often provide clear pathways for career advancement, leading to more specialized and higher-paying roles.
  • Stable Income: Healthcare jobs typically offer more stable and predictable income than service jobs, where income often depends on factors like tips or seasonal business. And the average salary for a steritech is $40,000 a year—much higher than for serving or working in retail.
  • Professional Development: Healthcare roles often come with opportunities for professional development and continuous learning that enhance your skills and qualifications over time.
  • Healthcare Benefits: Employees in healthcare settings usually have access to better healthcare benefits than those available in retail—and restaurant jobs rarely come with benefits at all.
  • Positive Work Environment: While both sectors can be fast-paced, healthcare environments often foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration, focused on patient care, which can be more fulfilling and less stressful than customer service.
  • Making a Difference: Working in healthcare, even at the entry level, provides the opportunity to make a real and positive impact on people’s lives.
  • Job Security: The healthcare industry tends to offer greater job security, driven by consistent and growing demand for healthcare services.

Learn More: Plan for Life After High School with Dental Assistant Courses Online

Comparison Chart: What to Expect from Each Career

Based on the information we’ve covered above, here’s an overview of each career path:

Entry-Level Healthcare JobsRetail Service JobsRestaurant Service Jobs
Career ProgressionClear advancement pathways to specialized, higher-paying rolesLimited to roles within retail, few advancement opportunitiesMostly confined to the service sector, limited managerial positions
Income StabilityStable, predictable incomeCan depend on sales and season if commission-basedHighly dependent on tips and seasonal business
Professional DevelopmentOpportunities for continuous learning and enhancing skillsSome opportunities for skill development, but limited scopeLimited professional growth beyond basic service skills
Healthcare BenefitsUsually comprehensiveMore common in larger retail companiesRarely offered, especially in smaller establishments
Work EnvironmentTeamwork and patient-focused, potentially less stressfulCustomer service-oriented, can be high-pressureFast-paced, high-pressure, often physically demanding
Making a DifferenceDirect impact on people’s health and well-beingCustomer service impact, less personalService-focused, limited personal impact
Job SecurityHigh due to consistent healthcare demandSubject to retail market fluctuationsVulnerable to economic changes and seasonality
Young dental assistant smiling in practice after taking program through Risio

Explore a Rewarding Career in Healthcare with Risio

Risio Institute offers some of Canada’s best training for dental assistants, but we can also help you get your foot in the door if you’re looking for entry-level healthcare work. Our Dental Aide program provides essential skills and knowledge for early-career job seekers interested in working as a steritech, dental administrator, or basic chairside assistant.

Remember: investing your time in a job isn’t just about the money you’ll make today—it’s also about the opportunities you’ll have tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. With the right training and proper planning, you can set yourself up for a career you’ll love.

Frequently Asked Questions about Risio’s Dental Aide Program

Can the Dental Aide program give me credit towards Risio’s Diploma Program?

Absolutely. When you complete our Dental Aide Program, you’ll have the option to enroll in our Dental Assistant Distance Delivery Program and receive credit for Module 2 (Microbiology and Infection Prevention & Control).

How much does the Dental Aide program cost?

Tuition for the Dental Aide program is just $985.00 CAD, plus $222.00 for textbooks.

What will I learn in the Dental Aide program?

The Dental Aide program prepares students to work in dental practices by focusing on these essential areas:

  • Dental Basics: Terminology, Tooth Identification, Numbering Systems, Procedures, Radiography Overview and Treatment Planning
  • Clinical Basics: Delivering Dental Care, Suctioning, Dental Handpieces, Tray Setup
  • Sterilization: Microbiology, Disease Transmission and Prevention, Infection Prevention and Control, Disinfection and Sterilization