How To Become a Veterinary Assistant in Washington
Do you love animals, and are you passionate about working with and caring for them? If so, you may want to consider a career as a veterinary assistant. Currently, the state of Washington does not have any educational requirements to work as a veterinary assistant. On the other hand, a lot of employers require that an employee have a high school diploma or GED, and they may prefer potential employees that have some training as well.
Veterinary assistants work with veterinary technicians and veterinarians to provide care for animals, as well as perform some administrative tasks. Since veterinary assistants do a lot of administrative work, they are often the ones who communicate directly with the pet owners. Some of the duties of veterinary assistants include but are not limited to scheduling appointments and answering calls, managing records, explaining procedures and treatments to pet owners, feeding, grooming and exercising animals, restraining animals, sterilizing and sanitizing equipment and rooms, and assisting with surgical procedures and the aftercare of animals.
Most of these skills can be learned through on-the-job training and hands-on experience. However, since having some educational training or experience under your belt may increase your chances of getting hired in the first place, or give you a higher earning potential, enrolling in a veterinary assistant program may be something for you to consider.
Veterinary Assistant Programs in Washington
If you are looking to enroll in a veterinary assistant program in Washington, there are several programs available, both on campus and online. Northwest Career and Technical Academy, located in Mount Vernon, Washington, offers a dual enrollment veterinary assistant program. This means that it is open to high school students to enroll while they are also still attending high school. This program includes guest speakers at classroom lectures as well as observational training in a clinical setting. Training includes exam room assisting, patient care, client education, and customer service skills. Basic life skills such as job searching, resumé building, and leadership are also taught. Students enrolling in this program will receive one science/lab science credit, one technical English credit, and one occupational education credit. These students can also earn a veterinary assistant certification through Skagit Valley College, also located in Mount Vernon. All they would have to do is successfully complete the essential coursework and provide proof of completing the college-articulated Office Tech program. Students may be required to purchase uniforms as well as pay a certification fee.
Renton Technical College in Renton also has a vet assistant program that can be taken on campus. This program consists of 27 credits over four quarters (about two years). Students must be at least 18 years old to enroll in this program, have a high school diploma or GED, complete an interview with a counselor and instructor, and take the Accuplacer test prior to entering. They must also have health insurance and pass a background check. The Renton program does include an internship. Tuition is approximately $2,800 for the entire program. This does not include books, supplies, and additional fees. Financial aid, grants, and scholarships are available.
If you are more interested in a flexible online program, then you might want to consider Penn Foster Career School. This program can be finished in seven months and includes an eight-week externship at the veterinary practice of your choice. The cost of tuition is $900 and can be paid in full or in monthly installments. Students who pay tuition in full will be able to pay a discounted rate. The following coursework is included in this program:
- Emergency Wound Care
- Small and Large Animal Nursing
- Animal Behavior, Handling, and Restraint
- Body Systems and Terminology, Parts 1 and 2
- Radiology and Surgical Preparation
- Veterinary Practice Administration and Procedures
- Nutrition, History, and Physical Examination
How to Obtain National Certification
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes colleges that have veterinary assistant programs that will qualify students to become nationally certified as Approved Vet Assistants (AVA). Being certified as an AVA is not a requirement for employment as a veterinary assistant in Washington, but it can improve your chances of being hired.
There are a few ways to become an Approved Veterinary Assistant in Washington. The first would be to complete a NAVTA-approved program. In Washington, this can be done both on campus and online. The veterinary assistant program at Renton Technical College, as well as the one at Penn Foster, are both NAVTA-approved. Once you have completed one of these programs, you can pay a $100 fee to take the certification exam. If you pass, you will be a nationally certified Approved Veterinary Assistant.
If you have taken or plan on taking a program that is not NAVTA-approved, you still have options as far as AVA certification is concerned. If the program you completed included an externship or internship, that experience will enable you to take the certification exam. Also, if you are already employed as a veterinary assistant and are working at least 20 hours a week you are qualified to take the certification test. Once you become certified as an AVA you will need to renew that certification every two years by paying a $10 renewal fee and taking at least 10 continuing education credits of your choice.
At present, there are approximately 3,200 veterinary assistants employed in the state of Washington. The average hourly wage for veterinary assistants in Washington is $14.69, and the mean annual wage is $30,560, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary will vary depending on your level of education and experience, as well as where in Washington you seek employment. The cities of Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Spokane, and Yakima reported average annual salaries of $29,000. In Bellingham, Lacey and Olympia veterinary assistants pull an average salary of over $30,000 yearly. Lastly, the cities of Auburn, Everett, Federal Way, Kent, Lakewood, Marysville, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Bremerton, Renton, and Seattle reported annual salaries between $31,000 and $32,000.
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA||70||$12.68||$26,370|
|Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA||220||$12.79||$26,610|
When looking for employment as a veterinary assistant in Washington, there are several hospitals and clinics to choose from. The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) have over 750 hospitals across the nation and are well-known in the field of veterinary medicine for their exceptional service. In Washington, you can find VCA hospitals in the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, and Burien.
Another nationally known chain of animal hospitals is the Banfield Pet Hospitals. There are over 900 Banfield Pet Hospitals across the United States and in Puerto Rico. In Washington, you can find Banfield locations in Seattle, Vancouver, and Spokane.
Finally, many PETCO stores across the United States have animal health and vaccination clinics inside them, which are called VETCO clinics. The following cities in Washington are home to VETCO clinics: Seattle, Redmond, Spokane, and Olympia.
In addition to these, you can also take into consideration the many privately-owned clinics and smaller animal hospitals, and even zoos located in Washington state. If you have no prior work experience, volunteer work or an internship may be something for you to consider while you are looking for work.
If you are considering pursuing a career as a veterinary assistant in Washington soon, there are many opportunities, especially in cities like Seattle and Spokane. Furthermore, the number of veterinary assistants employed in Washington is expected to increase by 25 percent in the next six years. In two years or less, you could complete a training program, obtain national certification and be prepared to seek employment anywhere in the state.
College and University Listings
Longview, WA Area
Lower Columbia College
1600 Maple Street, Longview, Washington 98632-0310
The Veterinary Assistant Certificate program at Lower Columbia College can be taken at their campus in the city of Longview, WA. This public college has around 3,208 students in total, with most students in 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for in-state students is about $4,131 and for students from other states in the order of $4,644 per year, while books and supplies may cost in the order of $1,155, although this varies from program to program.
Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA Area
Skagit Valley College
2405 E. College Way, Mount Vernon, Washington 98273
Skagit Valley College’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assistant program is offered at its campus in the city of Mount Vernon. This public college has around 4,993 students in total, with most students in 4-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually about $4,200 and for students from other states in the order of $4,700 per year, while books and supplies may cost in the order of $1,200, although this will depend on the program.
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division Area
Pima Medical Institute-Renton
555 South Renton Village Pl-Ste 400, Renton, Washington 98057
Pima Medical Institute’s Certificate program in Veterinary Assistant is offered at their Renton campus in the city of Renton. The college has around 777 students in total, with the majority of students in 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. The cost of tuition for the Vet Tech program is generally around $12,176 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $743. The typical program completion time is 8 months.
Pima Medical Institute-Seattle
9709 Third Ave NE Suite 400, Seattle, Washington 98115
The Certificate program at Pima Medical Institute can be taken at their Seattle campus in the city of Seattle, Washington. This private, for-profit college has around 760 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. The cost of tuition for the Vet Tech program is generally around $18,843 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,824. The typical program completion time is 20 months.
Renton Technical College
3000 NE Fourth St, Renton, Washington 98056-4123
Renton Technical College’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assistant program is offered at its campus in the city of Renton, Washington. This public college has around 3,359 students in total, with the majority of students in 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition fees are around $4,836 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,050, although this will depend on the program.
* Tuition fees and accreditation status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm with the college before applying.