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Training and Educational Requirements for Respiratory Therapists

While the field of respiratory therapy continues to offer new job opportunities and is growing faster than the national average, most of the positions will be given to those with the highest level of training.

To pursue a career in respiratory therapy, you will need formal training. Respiratory therapy technicians need at least an associate's degree, although a bachelor's degree is sometimes preferred by employers. You will need to take courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, and math. Then you can proceed to more detailed coursework on the specifics of respiratory therapy, such as the diagnostic tests, equipment, and therapies that respiratory therapy technicians use. You will also have to learn about proper recordkeeping and insurance reimbursement.

At the postsecondary level, there are 51 entry-level and 329 advanced respiratory therapy programs accredited in the United States. Most programs award associate’s or bachelor’s degrees and prepare graduates for jobs as advanced respiratory therapists. All States (except Alaska and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico require respiratory therapists to obtain a license to practice.

Respiratory Therapy Licensing and Certification Programs

After completing your education and training, you will need to apply for certification and registration to the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). To become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) you will need to pass an additional examination. Further study and an additional two exams will then let you advance to a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). However, respiratory therapist technicians only need to qualify at the CRT level. You will only need to obtain an RRT certification if you wish to become a supervisor or work in an intensive-care unit. A master's degree also helps with job advancement opportunities.

On the job itself, a respiratory therapist will usually start in general care and then move on to the critically ill, especially those with problems in other organ systems. Or you can move on to a teaching position and advance in that direction.

Additional Resources for Individuals Pursuing a Career in Respiratory Therapy
Bureau of Labor Statistics Information for Respiratory Therapists
The American Association for Respiratory Therapy
Respiratory Therapist Job Summary

 

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