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How to Become a Respiratory Therapist in California

Becoming a respiratory therapist has several advantages. This can include a fulfilling career, above average pay and a flexible work schedule, just to name a few of the most common benefits. However, there are some steps that must be taken in order to become a respiratory therapist in California. The state has specific guidelines and regulations that must be followed in order to obtain a license, which is necessary to legally work as a respiratory therapist, regardless of the employment setting. Despite popular belief though, the path to becoming a respiratory therapist in California can be made fairly simple.

Educational Requirements

To meet eligibility requirements, the student must successfully complete a respiratory therapy program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs. Minimum requirements include obtaining a minimum of an associate's degree in respiratory therapy or enrollment in a baccalaureate program with completion of the minimum defined courses. There are traditional colleges and universities, as well as online programs that will meet these criteria. Many of these programs have special admissions requirements in addition to the admission criteria to get accepted into the school.


Once the above educational requirements are met, the student is eligible to apply for testing administered by the National Board of Respiratory Care. There are fees associated with this testing, which is the responsibility of the applicant. In addition to paying the application fee, the person must also show evidence of eligibility which is accepted in the form of a copy of the degree which was awarded. In order to become certified and licensed by the state of California, it is necessary to earn satisfactory results on the examination.

Law and Ethics Course

Although many states may not require law and ethics courses outside of the respiratory therapy curriculum, California is one particular state that does. After the exam has been taken the individual needs to take an approved course which is offered by both the American Association for Respiratory Care and the California Society of Respiratory Care. Typically, these law and ethics courses are offered via the World Wide Web but may also be taken in person at approved locations, which is made available from time-to-time. The earliest that the person may register for the class is ninety days prior to graduation.

Verification of Credentials and Licensure

Only after all the above steps have been completed successfully can the graduate apply for licensure. In addition to academic records, the person must also submit the fingerprint clearance card, proof of citizenship and the application fee. The Respiratory Care Board in California must verify that all of the information is correct before issuing any type of license. Those that are currently certified or licensed in another state have to have these credentials sent directly to the board by the issuing agency. Providing all credentials have been met and the application is approved by the state of California, the person is officially a licensed respiratory therapist.