How Do You Become a Respiratory Therapist?

An interest in helping people with breathing issues could lead you to become a respiratory therapist.

Respiratory therapists are trained to assist patients who have breathing problems due to injuries or to diseases like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Many millions of people in the U.S. suffer from both of those diseases, and others suffer from breathing ailments such as bronchitis and emphysema. Therapists play an important role in providing patient care and in promoting good public health.

Educational Requirements

In order to become a respiratory therapist, you will need to attend an accredited training program. You can find a list of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) by going to their website and clicking on the map to find programs by location. You can also search by type of degree. Respiratory therapists can get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and there are also graduate programs for those those who stay on in the profession and want to get more schooling or specialization. In general, to enter the profession you will need at least an associate’s level degree, which takes about two years of study.

Licensing Requirements

Every state has different requirements for liscensing respiratory therapists, so it will be a good idea to research what your state asks you to do. The only state that currently does not require licensing for RTs is Alaska, but they still require education and training. Some states have licensing requirements that include passing a national exam. The CRT exam is the entry-level exam that you will likely take in order to initially get your license. If you continue to work in the field, and continue to work for certifications, you might go on to take the RRT exam, which tests more advanced knowledge.

Once you have completed your education and any further requirements your state may have, such as testing, you will probably need to apply for a state license through whatever governing board handles that for your state. Like other elements of the process, this can vary from state to state. For example, in Pennsylvania, you would apply to the State Board of Medicine or State Board of Osteopathic Medicine. In California, you would apply to the Respiratory Care Board of California. Wherever you end up sending your application, follow their directions closely to ensure you are providing all of the information and fees that are required. Different states also have difference procedures for renewing your license after a certain length of time. Many of them require that you do some continuing education. The specifics will vary in terms of what kinds of education you need to complete. Your licensing board can probably help point you in the direction of hospitals or rehabilitation centers where you can take the classes or seminars you need.

Occasional, chronic, or recurring breathing problems can affect people of all ages. Becoming a trained and licensed respiratory therapist gives you the opportunity to help those people to obtain a better quality of life.

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