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 2017) estimates that there are currently 2,120 veterinary technologists and technicians employed in the state. Furthermore, the number of openings for these animal healthcare professionals is expected to grow 20 percent nationally between 2016 and 2026, nearly triple the growth anticipated for all occupations during that time period (7%) (BLS 2017).
So how does a Washingtonian, current or aspiring, join this high-growth specialty? 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.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Washington
|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 College||South 16th Ave. & Nob Hill Blvd., Yakima, Washington, 98907-2520||No||Yes|
AVMA-Accredited Veterinary Technician Programs 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—an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor— 78 percent of working vet techs have at least some college or a degree, with 22 percent having earned associate’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. Courses include veterinary nursing; medical dosages and calculations; animal anatomy and physiology; veterinary nutrition; laboratory sciences; and medical terminology. Students complete several labs and six mentorship lab courses. The program begins in the fall of each year. Bellingham graduates had a Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) first-time pass rate of 78 percent between 2014 and 2017, about 10% above the national average for that time period.
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 2014 and 2017, 96 percent of graduates passed the test on their first attempt. This associate’s degree in vet technology program typically takes 21 months to complete, with coursework such as animal nursing; medical dosage for vet techs; applied behavior techniques; large animal nursing; clinical microbiology and public health; veterinary 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 93 credit hours.
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 not only about the care of smaller animals, but 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 seven states, including these two accredited Washington locations. The VTNE first-time pass rates for graduates of the Renton Campus was an impressive 92% from 2015-2018. For that same time period, Seattle graduates achieved a still impressive 82% pass rate.
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. Courses include animal anatomy and physiology; veterinary medical dosages; safety & OSHA; small animal nutrition; surgical nursing; livestock and equine medicine; radiology; and more. Labs and a clinical experience offer hands-on skills practice for vet tech students. Yakima Valley vet tech graduates boast a 94% first-time pass rate on the VTNE (2014-2017).
For information on distance-based education programs, visit our online vet tech programs page.
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 VetMedTeam.
Strong Demand for Vet Techs in Washington
As discussed above, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) reports that Washington currently employs 2,120 vet techs in veterinary clinics, animal shelters, colleges, scientific research facilities, and other environments. Also, the number of openings for vet techs is expected to swell 20 percent nationally between 2016 and 2026 (BLS 2017).
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-Bellevue-Everett, WA: 970 employed
- Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division: 260
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA: 1,090
- Bremerton-Silverdale, WA: 90
- Olympia-Tumwater, WA: 110
- Yakima, WA: 60
It’s worthy to 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. This is good news, however vet techs should keep in mind that Washington falls 36th in affordability in the nation, with savings on utilities, but more expensive housing and health costs (MERIC, 2018)
Here are the annual salary ranges nationally for vet techs (BLS 2017): $34,710 average annual salary
- 10th percentile: $22,880
- 25th percentile: $27,430
- 50th percentile (median): $33,400
- 75th percentile: $39,860
- 90th percentile: $49,350
By comparison, here are the annual salary ranges for vet techs in Washington State (BLS 2017): $37,640 average annual salary
- 10th percentile: $29,7300
- 25th percentile: $33,070
- 50th percentile (median): $36,680
- 75th percentile: $41,110
- 90th percentile: $48,490
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 2017):
- Bellingham, WA: $39,370
- Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division: $39,490
- Southwest Washington nonmetropolitan area: $40,300
- Bremerton-Silverdale, WA: $37,130
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA: $36,740
- Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division: $38,600
- Olympia-Tumwater, WA: $36,410
- Yakima, WA: $35,760
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, 2017)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
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, 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|