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How to become a Respiratory Therapist

As the U.S. population ages, our healthcare system relies more and more on qualified medical professionals to provide care and services to individuals who need medical treatments assistance. Medical careers, as a result, are growing in demand throughout the United States. A healthcare career in respiratory therapy is also in high demand. If you're interested in becoming a respiratory therapist and working in an in-demand job in a hospital or clinic setting, nursing home, home health care, private practice, etc.

A respiratory therapist provides intensive and emergency care services, performs diagnostic procedures and testing, delivers respiratory care and breathing treatments to patients and helps to train staff and patients in using respiratory equipment.

Respiratory therapists are responsible for several different duties including:

• Administering medications

• Applying chest physiotherapy

• Analyzing pH levels in the blood

• Administering ventilator therapy

• Performing patient diagnosis, evaluation and examination

• Maintaining equipment (e.g. - ventilators)

• Measuring CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and O2 (Oxygen) levels in the blood

An RT may work on various patients including, accident victims, trauma patients, neonates, IRDS/Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome, ARDS/Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, COPD/Chronic Obstructive Distress Syndrome, sleep disorder sufferers (sleep apnea), bee sting or serious food allergy sufferers and lung disease suffers.


An RT needs at least an Associate's or Bachelor's degree in the field in order to be eligible to work as a Respiratory care practitioner. A student who is training to become a respiratory therapist has the option to become either a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) or a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT). The requirements to become a CRT include passing a respiratory therapy certification exam and completing an accredited RT program. CRTs can further their education and their career by passing two NBRC registration exams and completing an advanced respiratory care program in order to become an RRT. RRTs have access to better employment opportunities including, critical and intensive care positions, as well as, supervisory positions.


High school students who are interested in starting a career in respiratory therapy can get an early start on their career and prepare for their education by taking courses such as, chemistry, biology, math, health and science. Students must complete a two-year minimum accredited training program in respiratory therapy. The two-year Associate's degree in Respiratory Therapy should include both coursework and clinical fieldwork to provide students with a better overall understanding of the field.

Students can further their career and increase their salary by obtaining an advanced degree in the field of respiratory therapy. A CRT or LRT can study to earn their Bachelor's degree, Master's degree or Doctoral degree

Examination & License

An Associate's degree is the minimum requirement, in order to take the NBRC (National Board for Respiratory Care) to become an LRT or Licensed Respiratory Therapist. A license is required in all except ten states in the U.S. and it is strongly preferred in all states.

Respiratory therapists can earn an impressive salary, have a rewarding career with plenty of job opportunities and advance their career. If you're interested in a career in physical therapy – you can experience these benefits and more in less than two years.