If you have decided on a career as a respiratory therapist, your next step is to find an accredited respiratory therapist school. The accreditation is important because you will have to sit for one of two certification exams. Both exams for Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) require graduation from respiratory therapist schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
There are three common paths to becoming a respiratory therapist:
Respiratory Therapist Associate Degree
This is the best option for people who may need to begin working within in a reasonable amount of time. Earning a two-year degree will allow you to work as a respiratory therapist technician or as a therapist depending on the state you live and work.
Many technicians will continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree. However, the two-year degree will afford you with a great career, benefits, and salary.
Respiratory Therapist Certificate
Certificate programs are used in two ways. First, if you have an associate degree in a field such as biology or chemistry, you can earn a certificate in respiratory therapist training. The certificate along with your degree can qualify you to sit for the Certified Respiratory Therapist Technician (CRTT) exam.
For those who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a field of science or other qualifying area of study, a certificate program allows you to qualify to sit for the CRT exam and may qualify you to sit for the RRT exam. The RRT exam is a higher professional designation than CRT. However, it is not required to be a therapist. Most healthcare facilities require the CRT professional designation to work as a respiratory therapist. The RRT professional designation does open the doors for advancement to managerial positions.
Respiratory Therapist Bachelor Degree
Attending a CoARC accredited four-year program will qualify you to sit for the CRT exam and may qualify you to sit for the RRT exam. The RRT certification process has additional requirements that must be satisfied to become eligible for this professional designation.
Once you determine which path you wish to pursue, you can begin selecting schools. Make sure you select schools that display the CoARC accreditation symbol.
Many schools offer online classes for general education credits such as English, Social Science, and Math. For those who have to work and attend school, this may be a viable alternative. Four-year institutions are more costly than community colleges. To save money, you can earn an Associate of Arts degree for general studies and transfer to an upper division school.
Virtually all CoARC accredited schools will have similar curriculum and clinical training programs. The factors to consider are cost of tuition and location. If you choose an out-of-state school, tuition will be higher. Most respiratory therapist programs admit a limited number of students into the program. The program class size will be relatively small if you have concerns with attending a large university.
It is best to choose at least three respiratory therapist schools since most programs accept a limited number of new students.