Respiratory Therapist Training
An associate degree is the minimum educational requirement, but a bachelor's
or master's degree may be important for advancement. All States, except Alaska
and Hawaii, require respiratory therapists to be licensed.
Education and training. An associate
degree is required to become a respiratory therapist. Training is offered at the
postsecondary level by colleges and universities, medical schools,
vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. Most programs award
associate or bachelor's degree and prepare graduates for jobs as advanced
respiratory therapists. A limited number of associate degree programs lead to
jobs as entry-level respiratory therapists. According to the Commission on
Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), 31 entry-level and
346 advanced respiratory therapy programs were accredited in the United States
Among the areas of study in respiratory therapy programs are human anatomy
and physiology, pathophysiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology,
and mathematics. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures
and tests, equipment, patient assessment, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the
application of clinical practice guidelines, patient care outside of hospitals,
cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, respiratory health promotion and disease
prevention, and medical recordkeeping and reimbursement.
High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs
should take courses in health, biology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
Respiratory care involves basic mathematical problem solving and an
understanding of chemical and physical principles. For example, respiratory care
workers must be able to compute dosages of medication and calculate gas
Licensure and certification. A license is
required to practice as a respiratory therapist, except in Alaska and Hawaii.
Also, most employers require respiratory therapists to maintain a
cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.
Licensure is usually based, in large part, on meeting the requirements for
certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The board
offers the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential to those who
graduate from entry-level or advanced programs accredited by CAAHEP or the
Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and who also pass an
The board also awards the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) to CRTs who
have graduated from advanced programs and pass two separate examinations.
Supervisory positions and intensive-care specialties usually require the RRT.
Other qualifications. Therapists should be
sensitive to a patient's physical and psychological needs. Respiratory care
practitioners must pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and work as
part of a team. In addition, operating advanced equipment requires proficiency
Advancement. Respiratory therapists
advance in clinical practice by moving from general care to the care of
critically ill patients who have significant problems in other organ systems,
such as the heart or kidneys. Respiratory therapists, especially those with a
bachelor's or master's degree, also may advance to supervisory or managerial
positions in a respiratory therapy department. Respiratory therapists in home
healthcare and equipment rental firms may become branch managers. Some
respiratory therapists advance by moving into teaching positions. Some others
use the knowledge gained as a respiratory therapist to work in another industry,
such as developing, marketing, or selling pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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Respiratory Therapist Employment
Respiratory Therapist Training
Respiratory Therapist Job Outlook
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