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.
One way to become involved in promoting animal wellbeing is to become a veterinary technician. Interestingly, Washington has several laws regarding the scope of practice in this profession. In its regional chart, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2022) defines a vet tech in WA as a person who has received a degree in animal health technology from an AVMA-accredited program and has received licensure to practice in the state.
Vet techs in WA must be supervised by a licensed veterinarian while providing surgical assistance. They must also have direct supervision while administering vaccines, euthanasia, or anesthesia; undertaking dental procedures; doing basic first aid; performing catheterizations; or giving blood transfusions.
WA veterinary technicians also perform several duties under indirect supervision, such as giving medication; performing diagnostic imaging; preparing tissue samples; collecting urine or blood samples; managing the handling of hazardous wastes; and doing basic laboratory tests. Finally, under emergency conditions when a licensed vet may not be present, veterinary technicians may perform several duties with indirect supervision such as applying tourniquets, bandages, or temporary splints; and resuscitating animal patients.
In addition, vet techs in WA can also expect to maintain veterinary medical records; restrain animals during common procedures; manage animal clinic offices and drug inventories; monitor the health status of animal patients; educate animal owners on proper care; and keep examination and surgical rooms sterile.
Finally, some professional organizations 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.
So how does a Washingtonian, current or aspiring, join this high-growth profession? Read below to learn how to become a veterinary technician in Washington (WA) and the employment demand across the state, as well as what to expect from accredited college programs and the process of professional licensure.
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|Bellingham Technical College||3028 Lindbergh Ave, Bellingham, Washington, 98225-1599||No||Yes|
|Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom||9401 Farwest Dr SW, Lakewood, Washington, 98498-1999||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Renton||555 South Renton Village Pl-Ste 400, Renton, Washington, 98057||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Seattle||9709 Third Ave NE Suite 400, Seattle, Washington, 98115||No||Yes|
|Yakima Valley Community College||South 16th Ave. & Nob Hill Blvd., Yakima, Washington, 98907-2520||No||Yes|
Strong Demand for Vet Techs in Washington
Without any doubt, Washinton is a hot state for vet tech job openings. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) projected that opportunities nationwide for vet techs will increase 15 percent between 2020 and 2030. This figure is much higher than the average growth anticipated across all occupations during that period (8 percent).
Projections Central (2022) also offers data on the future of vet techs in Washington specifically. It found that openings for veterinary technicians and technologists are expected to increase 25 percent between 2018 to 2028.
Where Do Vet Techs in Washington Work?
Washington’s vet techs are employed in a range of facilities such as specialty animal clinics, veterinary hospitals, kennels, research organizations, farms, labs, public policy groups, zoos, pharmaceutical companies, state and federal regulatory agencies, universities, aquariums, and food inspection groups. Some WA veterinary technicians work regular business hours whereas others may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays to monitor the health of their animal patients.
If the traditional job-seeking websites are any indication, there should be plenty of opportunities in this field in the coming years. By illustration, Indeed (2022) posted job openings for vet techs at places such as Spanaway Veterinary Clinic, BluePearl Specialty + Emergency Pet Hospital, Banfield Pet Hospital, and People, Pets & Vets. Monster (2022) had additional postings in WA at Cascade Veterinary Clinic, Value Pet Clinic Puyallup, Altasciences, and Woodside Animal Hospital.
One way in which a WA veterinary technician can stand out from the crowd of job applicants is by becoming a veterinary technician specialist (VTS). The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes many subfields of veterinary technology, including equine science, dermatology, laboratory animals, dentistry, clinical pathology, zoological medicine, and anesthesia.
To learn in-depth about how to become a VTS, please check out the veterinary technician careers page.
Vet Tech Salary in Washington
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) reports that Washington currently employs 2,230 vet techs in veterinary clinics, animal shelters, colleges, scientific research facilities, and other environments. Nationally, BLS found an average annual salary of $37,860 among the 109,490 vet techs employed nationwide. Vet techs in Washington earned an annual average salary of $42,190.
The table below is a comparison of national and state salaries of veterinary technicians.
|Number of Veterinary Technicians Employed||109,490||2,230|
|Average annual salary||$37,860||$42,190|
|50th percentile (median)||$36,260||$41,150|
It’s important to note that these figures also varied based on the source of data. By illustration, Indeed (2022) found an average annual salary of $37,255 among Washington veterinary technicians.
Payscale (2022)—a data aggregator of self-reported salaries – found the following percentiles nationally:
- 10th percentile: $28,000
- 50th percentile (median): $37,922
- 90th percentile: $54,000
It is important to note that while the wages in Washington are higher than national wages, so too is the cost of living. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) reported that WA is the 13th most expensive state in the country, particularly for housing and health. A high cost of living means that even higher than average salaries will not go as far as they would in other states, so prospective vet techs should keep that in mind while evaluating the state’s salary data.
How to Become a Vet Tech in Washington State
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 handling 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 gaining experience.
- Complete an AVMA-accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree program (two to four years). 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 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. 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—ten of which can be completed online through a system such as VetMedTeam.
AVMA-Accredited Veterinary Technician Programs in Washington (WA)
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). 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 (2022)—an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor— 33 percent of working vet techs have earned an associate’s degree, while 23 percent had bachelor’s degrees. Luckily, there are five AVMA-accredited associate degree programs in veterinary technology in Washington:
Bellingham Technical College, located in the picturesque northwest corner of the state, has full accreditation from the AVMA for its associate of applied science (AAS) program. The college also offers a veterinary assistant certificate program. These programs provide students with hands-on training and high-quality education, helping them gain the valuable knowledge and skills needed by surgery centers, veterinary hospitals, zoos, wildlife facilities, and specialty care providers.
The AAS-T program is made up of 145 credits, while the certificate requires completion of 62 credits. Courses include veterinary nursing; medical dosages and calculations; veterinary anatomy and physiology; veterinary nutrition; laboratory sciences; and medical terminology.
Students complete several labs and mentorship lab courses. Bellingham graduates had a Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) first-time pass rate of 76.5 percent between 2018 and 2021.
- Location: Bellingham, WA
- Accreditation: AVMA-CVTEA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Expected Time to Completion: AAS-T (24 months); certificate (within a year)
- Estimated Tuition: AAS-T (WA state resident – $1,670 per quarter; non-resident – $3,555 per quarter); certificate (WA state resident – $1,735 per quarter; non-resident – $3,625 per quarter)
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 2018 and 2021, 97 percent of graduates passed the test on their first attempt.
This associate degree in vet technology program typically takes 21 months to complete, with coursework in animal nursing; medical dosage for vet techs; applied behavior techniques; large animal nursing; clinical microbiology and public health; animal hospital office procedures; hematology for vet techs; and more. The program begins in September and continues through June, with a summer break in July and August. In addition, students complete 14 credits of veterinary clinical practice for a total of 90 credits. The program consists of 115 credits after including prerequisites.
- Location: Lakewood, WA
- Accreditation: AVMA-CVTEA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
- Estimated Tuition: WA state resident ($134.30 per credit); non-resident US citizen ($149.52 per credit); non-resident ($317.37 per credit)
Pima Medical Institute offers two accredited associate of applied science (AAS) degree programs in veterinary technology: one based in Seattle and the other in nearby Renton. Both programs take 18 months to complete.
With a mix of online and in-classroom experiences, students learn about the care of smaller animals, and also skills pertaining to the needs of equine, exotic, and livestock patients. Courses include laboratory animal science; small animal nursing for veterinary technicians; food and fiber animal; anatomy and physiology for vet techs; dentistry techniques; exotic animal medicine and nursing; emergency procedures; and more. Students also complete an externship for a program total of 78.5 credits. Some courses are offered online, hybrid, or fully on-campus.
Pima offers its program across eight states, including these two accredited Washington locations. The VTNE first-time pass rate for graduates of the Renton Campus was an impressive 92 percent between 2018 and 2021. For that same period, Seattle graduates achieved an 82 percent pass rate.
- Location: Renton and Seattle, WA
- Accreditation: AVMA-CVTEA; Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
- Estimated Tuition: $19,885
Yakima Valley College, in the heart of Washington state, offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree 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. Facilities for the vet tech program include small animal wards for birds, rodents, dogs, and cats. Work with large animals takes place at local farms.
Consisting of 107 credits, the program includes courses in animal anatomy and physiology; veterinary medical dosages; safety and OSHA; small animal nutrition; surgical nursing; livestock and equine medicine; radiology; and more. Labs and clinical experience offer hands-on skills practice for vet tech students.
Yakima Valley vet tech graduates boasted a 93 percent first-time pass rate on the VTNE (2018 to 2021).
- Location: Yakima, WA
- Accreditation: AVMA-CVTEA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
- Estimated Tuition: WA Resident ($129.55 per credit); WA non-resident ($144.77 per credit); international ($312.62 per credit)
For information on distance-based education programs, visit our online vet tech programs page.
Before 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 to gauge program effectiveness.
As mentioned above, professional 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, ten of which can be completed online.