How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

Written by

Ray Grant Walden


August 14, 2014


As our population ages and people begin to live longer, the healthcare system relies heavily on qualified medical personnel to provide essential patient care and services and keep costs to a minimum. Many of the functions once reserved for doctors are now performed by highly-trained, specialized caregivers, such as respiratory therapists, to ensure that patients receive the quality care they need at a more affordable cost.

What does a respiratory therapist do?

Respiratory therapists work with patients suffering from respiratory or cardiopulmonary ailments and disorders to provide evaluation, respiratory treatments and patient care. Most respiratory therapists work in a hospital setting as a member of the respiratory care team; however, many also work in nursing homes, private practices and home health care.

Respiratory therapists perform diagnostic tests and procedures, deliver breathing treatments and respiratory care to chronically ill patients, provide emergency and intensive care services, care for patients on life support, train patients on how to use respiratory equipment and sometimes supervise other staff, such as respiratory technicians.

What kind of training does a respiratory therapist need?

An associate or bachelor degree in respiratory therapy with knowledge of pulmonology and physiology is required for success in this field. A student respiratory therapist may become either a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), as required by most states. The NBRC requirements to become a certified respiratory therapist include completing an accredited respiratory care program and passing a respiratory therapy certification exam. Certified respiratory therapy graduates can continue their education and advance their career by completing advanced respiratory care programs and passing two National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) registration exams to become a registered respiratory therapist.

The completion of respiratory therapist training programs in most states (except for Alaska and Hawaii) require a respiratory therapist license. The requirements are closely aligned with the requirements set forth by the NBRC to become a certified respiratory therapist.

Registered respiratory therapists enjoy increased employment opportunities, including supervisory, intensive care and critical care positions.

What are the prospects for a career as a respiratory therapist?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an above average anticipated growth rate for the field of respiratory therapy. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook Current Edition, respiratory therapists can expect to enjoy a 19% increase in employment opportunities by 2016.

Respiratory Therapist Salary: How much do respiratory therapists make?

Respiratory therapy salary depends on level of education, geographical location, experience and the type of care setting they work in. The median registered respiratory therapist salary across the U.S. is $51,400 to $58,200 per year. Certified respiratory therapists have an annual median salary range of 43,400 to $48,800, depending on geographical location.

Respiratory therapy careers can enable caring individuals to provide essential, life-giving patient care. Anyone who enjoys working with people and helping to improve lives will find respiratory therapy a rewarding, gratifying career choice. Those interested in respiratory therapy may also be interested in learning how to become a Respiratory Nurse or a Pulmonologist.

Becoming a Respiratory Therapist Requires Training, Start Today 

Are you serious about becoming a Respiratory Therapist? Then you need to get the required skills and training to do it! To start your new career, first you must decide what school you want to enroll in, so you need to gather info about potential schools. Use the  College Mouse Degree Search tool  to find the right course and college for you, and get started towards your new dream job today! If you want more personalized assistance, call (888) 389-7996 TOLL FREE to speak with a college advisor, who will help you find the best college for you. After you sign up for your course, make sure you fill out and submit the FAFSA so you can take advantage of any financial aid currently available to you!

Written by:  Ray Grant Walden

Ray Grant Walden attended American University College and now lives in Houston. He has enjoyed a very exciting career and has experience in a wide variety of professions, including college counseling.

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