Respiratory therapists need at least an associateís degree, but employers look favorably on applicants who have more education. Many colleges and universities, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces offer training. Most programs award an associateís or bachelorís degree.
All programs have clinical components that allow therapists to earn course credit and gain supervised, practical experience treating patients.
Respiratory therapy programs include courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and mathematics. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs should take courses in health, biology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska, although requirements vary by state. Licensure requirements in most states include completing a state or professional certification exam. For specific state requirements, contact your stateís health board.
Many employers prefer to hire respiratory therapists who have certification. Certification is not always required, but it is widely respected throughout the occupation. Certification usually requires graduating from an accredited program and passing a certification exam and is often required in order to get a state license.
The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body for respiratory therapists. The Board offers two levels of certification: the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
The first-level certification available from NBRC for respiratory therapists is the CRT certification. Applicants must have earned an associateís degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program, or completed the equivalent coursework in a bachelorís degree program, and pass an exam.
The second-level certification available from NBRC is the RRT
certification. Applicants must have a CRT certification, meet other
education or experience requirements, and pass an exam..
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
Respiratory Therapist Duties
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Respiratory Therapist Employment
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