How to Become a Respiratory Therapist: The Ultimate Career Guide

Monday, January 13, 2020 • American Fork, UT 84003

Are you interested in a highly in-demand medical career where you can make a good salary without needing to spend several years in medical school? If so, then becoming a respiratory therapist might work for you!

Respiratory therapists help diagnose, treat, and monitor people of all ages who suffer from breathing conditions. They can also handle emergencies for people with conditions like asthma and heart problems.

Read on to learn how to become a respiratory therapist.

1. Find a Respiratory Therapy Program

The minimum respiratory therapist education is often an associate's degree in respiratory care or respiratory therapy. Some colleges and universities will offer a bachelor's degree in this area that can provide more advanced studies. For either program, prepare to show that you've completed several science and math courses in high school.

When seeking a respiratory therapy program, look for one with approval from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. Many states require this accreditation for you to later get your licensure.

2. Complete Courses and Clinical Training

After you enroll in your respiratory therapist program, you'll get started with health, chemistry, biology, pharmacy, and anatomy science classes. You'll also begin to learn to use respiratory care equipment to perform tests and treatments and assess patients. You'll also get your CPR certification.

Besides learning in the classroom, you'll get hands-on experience doing respiratory therapist tasks. This often includes observations early on and then an externship or internship later in the program.

3. Take a Certification Exam

Based on your location, getting respiratory therapist certification will be required or preferred. All locations except for Alaska make certification part of the licensure process.

You'll usually get your credentials through the National Board for Respiratory Care. This organization has examination programs to become either a Certified or Registered Respiratory Therapist.

You'll need to pursue the certified option first. Then you can qualify for the hands-on component of the registered option.

You can use materials at Respiratory Therapy Zone to prepare for your certification. This site has many practice questions and helpful tips.

4. Fulfill Any Remaining State Licensure Requirements

After you get your certification, you've completed the most difficult state requirement. But you'll want to check with your state's board of health to find out what else you need to do.

You may need to complete a background check and submit a licensure or registration application. You may also need to pay a fee and stay on top of continuing education.

Now You Know How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

As you've learned, the path to becoming a respiratory therapist is straightforward. You can often complete these requirements in two to four years. Your course load and length of clinical training can impact your pace.

Once you've completed your requirements, you can find work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and nursing care centers. Job opportunities can vary by location. So, you may find traveling helpful during your job hunt.

Since you now know how to become a respiratory therapist, feel free to check out our other health posts!