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How to Become a Certified Respiratory Therapist

Posted By Staff Writer on October 27, 2016

Are you looking for a fast-growing career in the medical field? Consider becoming a respiratory therapist. These professionals help care for those who have trouble breathing because of a lung condition, including premature infants with underdeveloped lungs and adults who suffer from chronic breathing problems. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, this career field is projected to grow by 12 percent over the next several years, faster than the average growth for all occupations. This translates to more than 14,000 new jobs by 2024. The vast majority of respiratory therapists work in hospitals, but about 20 percent are employed by nursing care or long-term care facilities or at physicians' offices. If respiratory therapy sounds like the career for you, here are the steps to take to become certified.

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While it's possible to become a respiratory therapist with an associate's degree, many employers prefer to employ candidates who have completed a bachelor's degree. In most states, you'll need to complete an education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. Stevens-Henager College prides itself on being accredited by this distinguished group. Regardless of the education path you choose, you'll need both classroom and clinical training in therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). High school students who are interested in pursuing this career should aim for strong scores in math and science, as some education programs have competitive admissions standards. Visit to search for a program in your state, as well as by type of education.

Licensing and Certification

While respiratory therapists must be licensed to practice in every state except Alaska, each state has its own certification process and requirements. In most cases, you'll need to get certified through the National Board of Respiratory Care.* This organization offers two levels of certification. To become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT), you'll need to earn your degree from an accredited associate's degree program (or partial coursework in an accredited bachelor's program) and pass a certification exam. To become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), you'll first need to register as a CRT, then complete your bachelor's degree coursework and take a certification exam.

Doctor Holding Inhaler Mask For Kid Breathing

Continuing Education

In health professions, it's important to familiarize yourself with the latest research and techniques. To maintain your registration or certification through the National Board of Respiratory Care, both CRTs and RRTs must complete 30 hours of continuing education on general respiratory care subjects each year.

Specialty Credentials

Once you've become a certified respiratory therapist, you can choose to continue your education to earn specialization credentials. These allow you to work in specific areas within the field, and may make you more attractive to employers. Specialty credentials include:

  • Long-term care management (RRT and additional experience required)
  • Neonatal-Pediatric Specialist (CRT-NPS or RRT-NPS) credential
  • Adult Critical Care Specialty (RRT-ACCS) credential
  • Pulmonary Function Technologist (PFT) credential
  • Asthma Educator-Certified credential
  • Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) credential
  • Certified Case Manager (CCM) credential

Start Training for Your Career

Becoming a certified respiratory therapist can be a great career choice for you and provide you with many opportunities. At Stevens-Henager College, we want you to graduate with marketable skills so you can find the salary and security you deserve. To make sure you're ready for changing needs in healthcare, we elicit recommendations from our industry partners to improve our programs. Click here for more information on how you can get started today.