Respiratory therapy is an exciting career opportunity in healthcare. A career as a respiratory therapist is rewarding and challenging. It is currently the fastest growing job in healthcare. The number of respiratory therapist graduates is at an all-time low. For several years, nursing careers have taken center stage in the healthcare field due to critical shortages. Now, respiratory therapy is on the forefront due to critical shortages and the increasing number of patients who require therapy. According to the Department of Labor and Statistics, the projected job growth for respiratory therapists exceeds the potential job growth of ALL occupations. You can take advantage of the critical shortage and experience a secure and lucrative career in this growing field.
How to Become a Respiratory Therapist
There is some ambiguity regarding the required education to become a therapist. In many states where there is a significant shortage of therapists, an individual can become a respiratory technician with a two-year degree or technical certificate. The pay is lower for technicians and technicians work under the direction of a therapist.
The general standard to become a respiratory therapist is a four-year degree. The advantage of a four-year degree is increased potential for job advancement and salary. Many technicians will continue their education to become therapists. Both career paths have tremendous potential in job growth and job security.
Regardless of the chosen career path, the education for respiratory therapy is concentrated in extensive knowledge of physics, chemistry, mathematics, pathophysiology, human anatomy and physiology. Generally, once the core requirements are satisfied, students will study diagnostic and therapeutic procedures along with professional courses related to clinical practice.
Once an individual has graduated, he or she will need to become registered or certified in respiratory therapy. This requires an individual to pass an examination of knowledge and skills. The majority of healthcare providers require certification or registration as a condition of employment. Whether you can become a certified or registered therapist will depend on the level of education you earn.
Certified Respiratory Therapist
To qualify to sit for the certification exam, you must earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program. All but two states require therapists to be licensed. The condition of obtaining a license in most states requires the therapist pass the CRT exam offered by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC).
It is important to mention prior to 2009, individuals who earned an associate degree were able to sit for the CRT exam. Currently, there is a Certified Respiratory Therapy Technician (CRTT) certification exam for those who have earned a two-year degree.
Registered Respiratory Therapist
The NBRC offers this designation to therapists who have advanced education such as a master’s degree. Therapists must pass two separate exams to earn the RRT designation. This designation is required in many healthcare institutions for therapists in the supervisory capacity and therapists who wish to work in intensive-care specialties. The NBRC has extensive requirements an individual must satisfy before becoming eligible for the RRT.
Respiratory therapists enjoy a rewarding career working with other medical professionals to achieve the primary goal of meeting the healthcare needs of patients.