How to Become a Respiratory Therapist
The minimum educational requirement for a respiratory therapist is an associate's degree from an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Education Program.
But, many people, who pursue Respiratory Therapist Certification, go on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree before earning a Graduate Degree.
Graduates can voluntarily earn the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential by taking a certification exam. They can then take a National Voluntary Clinical Simulation Examination to earn the registered respiratory therapist Ccredential. All credentials are administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care.
1. Earn an Associates Degree (2 Years)
You can find a respiratory therapy program at many community colleges. Just make sure your school is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) so you can practice once you get your certification.
Some programs require you to undertake volunteer work, or hours of experience in a healthcare setting. Associates Degree coursework exposes students to theories and science behind Respiratory Therapy and teaches certain techniques to use with adults and kids.
You will get your foundation in these courses and be introduced to many specialty areas where you will begin to understand how to adapt and relate your knowledge to the field.
2. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (Optional)
A bachelor's degree is not necessary for you to practice and excel in respiratory sherapy. Many RTs say that there isn't a big pay difference (if any) for those with bachelor's and those with associate's.
If you want to go into management or other administration positions, you can get a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy or health management administration.
It's ultimately up to you to decide if the extra money and two years is worth it for your goals.
3. Take the Certified Respiratory Therapist Exam
The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) administers the CRT exam across the country. The name of the exam changed in January 2015 from the Entry Level CRT Examination to the Therapist Multiple-Choice Examination (TMC).
The test measures all the skills and abilities you learned through education to see if you're ready for the field and eligible for the Clinical Simulation Examination.
4. Earn the Required License
If you don't live in Alaska, you have to get a license for your state. Alaska is the only state that doesn't regulate licensure.
First you have to take the NBRC exam, stated above, and become certified, then you can be considered for licensure. Some states require higher level certification like the Registered Respiratory Therapy (RRT) certification.
5. Consider Additional Certifications
Among these certifications, all CRTs should consider basic life support and advanced cardiac life support certifications since you work with people who have issues with one of the main functions of living.
You could consider becoming a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) once you get your CRT certifications. Becoming a RRT makes you more competitive in the job field and some jobs demand it.
To become a RRT you must pass written and clinical exams and in some cases obtain it within 3 years of graduating from college.
6. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education
As a CRT or a RRT, you must renew your credentials through continuing education or testing. You can also submit a document showing that you are actively practicing respiratory therapy.
Some state require additional education classes and you must keep your Life Support certifications up-to-date as well.