The Evergreen State boasts a lush landscape for animal life from the forests of Olympic National Park to the living rooms of Seattle’s loving pet-owners. Luckily for those looking to work with animals, Washington also provides a fertile climate for educational and professional opportunities in the veterinary field. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) estimates that there are currently 1,680 veterinary technologists and technicians employed in the state. Furthermore, the number of openings for these animal healthcare professionals is expected to grow 19 percent nationally between 2014 and 2024, nearly triple the growth anticipated for all occupations during that time period (BLS 2015).
So how does a Washingtonian, current or aspiring, join this high-growth specialty? Read on below to learn how to become a veterinary technician in WA and the employment demand across the state, as well as what to expect from accredited college programs and the process of professional licensure.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Washington
|Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited||Grads|
|Pima Medical Institute-Seattle||9709 Third Ave NE Suite 400, Seattle, Washington, 98115||No||Yes||154|
|Pima Medical Institute-Renton||555 South Renton Village Pl-Ste 400, Renton, Washington, 98057||No||Yes||134|
|Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom||9401 Farwest Dr SW, Lakewood, Washington, 98498-1999||No||Yes||26|
|Renton Technical College||3000 NE Fourth St, Renton, Washington, 98056-4123||No||No||15|
|Bellingham Technical College||3028 Lindbergh Ave, Bellingham, Washington, 98225-1599||No||Yes||14|
|Yakima Valley Community College||South 16th Ave. & Nob Hill Blvd., Yakima, Washington, 98907-2520||No||Yes||14|
|Carrington College-Spokane||10102 E. Knox Ave., Suite 200, Spokane, Washington, 99206-4187||No||No||10|
|Lower Columbia College||1600 Maple Street, Longview, Washington, 98632-0310||No||No||1|
How to Become a Vet Tech in Washington State
In order to practice as a veterinary technician in WA, a person must have a license through the Washington State Department of Health. Here is one common path to joining this profession:
- Graduate from high school. In addition to a love of animals and empathy, vet techs typically have strong backgrounds in science with high marks in classes such as biology, physiology (if offered), and chemistry. Due to the hands-on lab work involved in many vet tech positions, students must be comfortable handing sensitive scientific instruments, conducting tests, and interpreting results. Some people at this stage may find it useful to volunteer in animal clinics, shelters, or other facilities handling furry, feathered, or scaly-skinned patients for experience.
- Complete an AVMA-accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree program (2-4 years). In order to qualify for licensure in Washington, students must graduate from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are currently five programs accredited in this state, all offering associate’s degrees with courses such as animal diseases, surgical nursing, and radiology. As the profession grows, however, some students may find the increased depth and scope of a bachelor’s program to give them an edge among employers or as a jumping off point to specialize in an area such as dentistry, anesthesia, or exotic animals.
- Take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). This test, offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), is a typical requirement for licensure, certification, or registration as a vet tech in most U.S. states.
- Secure licensure through the Washington State Department of Health. In order to become a vet tech in WA, a person must have completed an application with proof of graduation from an AVMA-accredited program, successful VTNE scores, AIDS training, as well as an open-book state examination with a score of at least 90 percent. These licenses are valid for one year.
- Renew license with the Washington State Department of Health (annually). This process involves an application and the completion of 30 hours of continued education (CE) every three years, 10 of which can be completed online through a system such as Online CE.
Strong Demand for Vet Techs in Washington
As discussed above, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) reports that Washington currently employs 1,680 vet techs in veterinary clinics, animal shelters, colleges, scientific research facilities, and other environments. Also, the number of openings for vet techs are expected to swell 19 percent nationally between 2014 and 2024 (BLS 2015).
So where do the bulk of these animal healthcare professionals work? Not surprisingly, urban areas employ most of the veterinary technicians in the state. Here is a breakdown of the top-employing areas for vet techs in Washington:
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: 1,070 employed
- Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division: 820
- Tacoma, WA Metropolitan Division: 250
- Bremerton-Silverdale, WA: 80
- Olympia, WA: 80
- Spokane, WA: 80
It’s worthy of note that in WA, these urban regions aren’t always the most lucrative areas for these workers compared to the more rural regions. Before discussing the highest-paying locales, however, a bit of good news for vet techs in WA: across the state, they make more money annually than national averages for the profession, particularly in the lower and middle ranges!
Here are the annual salary ranges nationally for vet techs (BLS 2014):
- 10th percentile: $21,390
- 50th percentile: $31,070
- 90th percentile: $45,710
By comparison, here are the annual salary ranges for vet techs in Washington State (BLS 2014):
- 10th percentile: $26,440
- 50th percentile: $34,600
- 90th percentile: $44,580
The lower and middle ranges pay 23.6 and 11.4 percent more, respectively.
Finally, what are the top-paying regions for vet techs in Washington? Interestingly, some of the less urbanized regions in Washington tend to pay vet techs more. Listed with the average annual salaries, here are the areas for these workers with the best earning potential (BLS 2014):
- Southwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area: $40,620
- Bremerton-Silverdale, WA: $37,310
- Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA: $37,030
- Northwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area: $36,470
- Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA: $35,410
Finally, there are some professional organizations that could be of interest to veterinary technicians in Washington. In addition to the national groups such as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NAVTA), the Washington State Association of Veterinary Technicians can help animal healthcare workers find a sense of community. This organization, established in 1975, offers continuing education opportunities, job postings, a monthly newsletter, mentorships, and scholarships.
|Veterinary Career||Washington Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2014)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
AVMA-Accredited Veterinary Technician Schools in WA
In order to qualify for practice as a vet tech in Washington, a person must be a graduate of a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). As of July 1, 2015, aspiring vet techs in WA can no longer pursue licensure based on their experience, but rather must graduate from an approved program. Also, according to CareerOneStop (2015)—an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor— 72.7 percent of working vet techs have at least some college, with 20 percent having earned associate’s degrees. Luckily, there are over 220 accredited associate’s and bachelor’s programs all over the country, including five in Washington:
Bellingham Technical College, located in the picturesque northwest corner of the state, has provisional accreditation from the AVMA for its associate of applied science (A.A.S.) program. With courses such as animal anatomy and physiology, laboratory sciences, and medical terminology, Bellingham boasts an impressive 95 percent job placement rate among its graduates.
Pierce College (Fort Steilacoom) of Lakewood—just outside of Tacoma—has enjoyed an astounding track record among its graduates on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Between 2013 and 2014, 100 percent of the 19 students in the program passed the test on their first attempt. This associate’s degree in vet technology program typically takes 21 months to complete, with coursework in areas such as radiology, hematology, and applied behavior techniques.
The Pima Medical Institute, with locations in Seattle and nearby Renton, has an estimable associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree program which takes 18 months to complete. With a mix of online and in-classroom experiences, students learn about not only about the care of smaller animals, but also skills pertaining to the needs of equine, exotic, and livestock patients. Pima offers its program across seven states, including these two accredited Washington locations.
Yakima Valley Community College in the heart of Washington state offers an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) program in veterinary technology imparting the range of skills necessary for the profession, including animal dentistry, inventory control, medical record-keeping, surgical assisting, veterinary ethics, and other cornerstones of the field.
Accreditation and Certification for Vet Techs in Washington
Prior to practicing as a vet tech in Washington, it’s imperative to graduate from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are over 220 programs approved across the country, including the five profiled in Washington. The AVMA weighs criteria such as admissions processes, comprehensiveness of curriculum, and student outcomes in order to gauge program effectiveness.
As mentioned above, as of July 1, 2015, simple experience no longer qualifies a candidate for licensure in WA. These days, prospective vet techs must complete an application to the Washington Department of Health which includes:
- Sending transcripts (proof of graduation from an AVMA-accredited program)
- Passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE)
- Passing the Washington State Jurisprudence Exam (open-book and taken at home)
- Completing four hours of AIDS/HIV training
Finally, these licenses must be renewed every year on (or before) a candidate’s birthday. Additionally, vet techs in Washington are required to complete 30 hours of continued education (CE) every three years, 10 of which can be completed online.
|Vet Techs Must Be Licensed to Practice||Licensed Vet Techs Are Called||Licensing Requirements||Additional Resources|
|Graduate from an AVMA-Accredited Program||Pass the VTNE||Additional Requirements|
|Yes||LVT||Yes||Yes||Washington requires four hours of AIDS training and a state jurisprudence exam.||Washington State Association of Veterinary Technicians|