A career as a Respiratory Therapist can give you several opportunities in the healthcare industry. As you WILL learn in this guide, a Respiratory Therapist can transition into vast progressive roles offering greater responsibilities and challenges with a higher salary and benefits. Not to mention, it’s a career choice that’s HIGHLY in demand. In fact, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics the –

“Employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. “

With that said,

To help you along your journey, our Respiratory Therapist career guide explores areas such as educational requirements, roles, and duties of a CRT/RRT, career paths to salaries, a breakdown of the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination and the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE) for those looking to become a “Registered” Respiratory Therapist. We also explore the differences between a “Certified” Respiratory Therapist vs. a “Registered” Respiratory Therapist and how each can play a pivotal role in your career advancement.


Table of Contents

What Does A Respiratory Therapist Do?
Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) vs. Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)
Overview Of The Steps To Become A Respiratory Therapist (CHART)
Respiratory Therapist Educational Requirements And Prerequisites
Respiratory Therapist Continuing Education (CE) Requirements
Renewing Your Respiratory Therapist Certification
Understanding The Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) Exam
How to Transfer Your Respiratory Therapist License to Another State
Respiratory Therapists Boards By State
Respiratory Therapists Career Paths
Respiratory Therapists Salary
Respiratory Therapists Industry Statistics
Respiratory Therapists Industry Earning Potential by State
Respiratory Therapists Highest Paying US Cities
Choosing The BEST Respiratory Therapist Program For You
Search Respiratory Therapists Jobs In Your Area
Additional Resources


What Does A Respiratory Therapist Do?

As a Respiratory Therapist, you will be working with patients who have difficulty breathing or have other illnesses that affect the lungs. Your skills and training will give you the foundation you need to assess, diagnose, and treat patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. As a Respiratory Therapist, you will also be working closely with doctors to develop the BEST treatment plans for patients suffering from lung problems. It’s essential to note, depending on your CREDENTIALS (Certified or Registered) Respiratory Therapist, your duties/responsibilities MAY vary. With that said,

Some of your duties MAY include:

Taking time to meet with patients, asking them questions related to their lungs. You will also PERFORM and ANALYZE function tests as related to lung capacity and capability

Working closely with nurses and physicians to report finding and develop treatment plans for patients

Administering aerosol medications

Assess the effectiveness of the treatment plan and make adjustments to the plan if required.

Updating patient charts and records

Operating ventilators and other machines

Providing training to patients on how to use the equipment and administer treatments on their own

Completing discharge paperwork

Recommending and assessing the effectiveness of outpatient or home health treatments and equipment

Ensuring all protocols are followed by other members of the healthcare team when treating patients.


Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) vs. Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)

Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRT) are GRADUATES from a one (1)-year or two (2)-year program. Certified Respiratory Therapist’s (CRT) are typically clinically trained at the entry-level of respiratory care.

Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) are recognized as having advanced clinical and decision-making skills. RRT’s are also trained to ACT as consultants in matters concerning patient care planning and treatment. Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) also have a higher level of education since they GRADUATE from a two (2)-year or four (4)-year degree program in a college or university.


Overview Of The Steps To Become A Respiratory Therapist (CHART)

 





Respiratory Therapist Educational Requirements And Prerequisites

Below we have listed the ELIGIBILITY PATHWAYS for both Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT). Both credentials require the candidate to FIRST SUCCESSFULLY pass the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination before upgrading your credential. However, before you CAN become ELIGIBLE for this examination, you need to ENSURE all the educational requirements and/or prerequisites are met. With that said,

More information on the admission requirements can be found here – the National Board of Respiratory Care:

Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRT)

The following is the ELIGIBILITY criteria for those looking to become an entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) –

ROUTE 1

You MUST be eighteen (18) years of age or older,

AND,

MUST be a graduate from a Respiratory Therapy Associate Degree (AS) education program. This training program MUST be supported or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).

ROUTE 2

Hold the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (CSRT) RRT credential.

Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)

The following is the ELIGIBILITY criteria for those looking to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) –

ROUTE 1

Candidates interested in becoming a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) MUST have been a  Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) for at least four (4) years before applying for the examinations associated with the RRT credential. And,

The applicant SHOULD have at least 62 semester hours of college credit in the following courses: anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology, and mathematics. The college that was attended by the applicant MUST be accredited by its regional association or its equivalent.

ROUTE 2

The candidate MUST be a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) for at least two (2) years BEFORE applying for the Registered Respiratory Therapist examination. And,

The candidate MUST be a graduate from a Respiratory Therapy Associate Degree (AS) education program. This training program MUST be supported or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).

ROUTE 3

The candidate MUST be a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) for at least two (2) years BEFORE applying for the Registered Respiratory Therapist examination. And,

The candidate has a baccalaureate degree in an area other than respiratory care with 62 semester hours of college credit in the following courses: anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology, and mathematics. The college that was attended by the applicant MUST be accredited by its regional association or its equivalent.

ROUTE 4

Hold the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (CSRT) RRT credential.


Respiratory Therapist Continuing Education (CE) Requirements

Once you have SUCCESSFULLY obtained your Respiratory Therapist license, you WILL need to complete the continuing education (CE) requirements to maintain your license. As a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), you MUST RENEW your license every five (5) years as per the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC)

“All credentials issued by the NBRC are awarded for a term of five years, calculated from the end of the calendar month in which the credential was issued. An exact expiration date will be contained on credentialing certificates.”

With that said, you CAN RENEW your license by completing any of the three (3) continuing education (CE) requirements:

OPTION 1

By completing the assessments and/or by submitting the continuing education units (CE).

For more information, please view the NBRC Credential Maintenance Program Brochure (PAGE 3).

OPTION 2

SUCCESSFULLY passing the respective examination for the highest credential held that is subject to the Credential Maintenance Program.

For more information, please view the NBRC Credential Maintenance Program Brochure (PAGE 4).

OPTION 3

Pass an NBRC credentialing examination not previously completed.

For more information, please view the NBRC Credential Maintenance Program Brochure (PAGE 5).


Renewing Your Respiratory Therapist Certification

As just mentioned above, you can RENEW your license by completing any of the three (3) continuing education (CE) requirements.

Please read section – Respiratory Therapist Continuing Education (CE) Requirements





Understanding The Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) Exam

After you have fulfilled the Respiratory Therapist Educational Requirements And Prerequisites, you will NOW be ELIGIBLE to sit for the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination. The purpose of the (TMC) examination is to measure if the candidate has the ESSENTIAL knowledge, skills, and abilities required to SUCCESSFULLY perform their job/duties.

If you PLAN on upgrading your license to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), you MUST first PASS the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination before you CAN be ELIGIBLE for the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE).

In this section, we will explore the examination structure, registration, scoring, etc

THERAPIST MULTIPLE-CHOICE (TMC) EXAM

FEE

New Applicant: $190.00 | Repeat Applicant: $150.00

STRUCTURE

The Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination consists of 160 multiple-choice questions. Out of the 160-multiple choice questions, 140 questions will be SCORED, while the other 20 questions will be pretest items.

The candidate will be allowed three (3) hours to complete the TMC Examination.

You can view the TMC exam outline here – TMC Detailed Content Outline – effective 1-2020

SCORING

The Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination is scored using a HIGH and LOW cut score system. The cut score for the TMC exam has been determined by relying on DATA collected from a panel of respiratory therapists.

Each item on the TMC exam equates to one (1) point. The total questions answered CORRECTLY will be added together to give you a FINAL SCORE. Your FINAL SCORE determines whether you pass or fail the examination after comparison to the cut score.

With that said,

A low cut score WILL EARN you a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential.

A high cut score will make your ELIGIBLE for the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE) (ADD LINK) (See Below), and PASSING the CSE EXAM will earn you a Registered Respiratory Credential (RRT) credential

For more information on the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) scoring system, view the Respiratory Candidate Handbook. (PAGE 12).

CLINICAL SIMULATION EXAM (CSE)

FEE

New Applicant: $200.00 | Repeat Applicant: $200.00

STRUCTURE

The Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE) consists of 22 problems. Out of the 22-problem questions, 20-questions will be SCORED, while the other 2-questions will be pretest items. With that said,

The Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE) exam has been designed to simulate a clinical setting with a patient situation relevant to what a Respiratory Therapist would face in a healthcare facility.

The candidate will be allowed four (4) hours to complete the CSE Examination.

You can view the TMC exam outline here – CSE Detailed Content Outline – effective 1-2020

SCORING

The Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE) is scored using a CUT SCORING system. This CUT score is pre-determined by the examination committee. All the questions answered CORRECTLY in each section will be summed up, providing a SINGLE TOTAL score. The comparison of your score to the cut score will determine whether you pass or fail.

For more information on the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE) scoring system, view the Respiratory Candidate Handbook (PAGE 12).


How to Transfer Your Respiratory Therapist License to Another State

Both the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentials are NATIONALLY recognized qualifications, and therefore can be used across any STATE. With that said,  if you decide to relocate to another STATE at any point, your certification will remain valid.

Please visit your STATE Board of Respiratory Care for more information


Respiratory Therapists Boards By State

Alaska | Alabama | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado Connecticut District of Columbia | Delaware Florida| Georgia | Hawaii | Iowa | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Kansas | KentuckyLouisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | MontanaNebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Puerto Rico | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virgin Islands | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming |


Respiratory Therapists Career Paths

Once you have become a Respiratory Therapist and have GAINED relevant experience, you CAN transition into other jobs in the healthcare industry. The educational training you have completed when becoming a Respiratory Therapist will play a significant role in your career advancement. For example, as mentioned above, you can transition from a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) to a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), which will provide you with more job opportunities, a higher SALARY, and GREATER benefits. Not only that, but you can use your CRT and/or RRT credential to specialize in other areas within the profession i.e., Adult Critical Care Specialist, Neonatal/Pediatric Specialist, and Sleep Disorders Specialist.

Let’s explore each OPPORTUNITY with more detail –

Registered Respiratory Therapist:

As a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), you will have advanced clinical skills and knowledge, giving you GREATER responsibilities in your job. An RRT also has more influence over decisions concerning patient care planning and treatment than someone with an entry-level CRT credential. With that said, having achieved RRT status will open more job opportunities with higher salaries and benefits. Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) can make anywhere from $33.00 to $37.00 per hour, which is higher compared to a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) who makes approx. $25.00 to 32.00.

Adult Critical Care Specialist:

After you GAIN experience as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), you CAN specialize in specific areas with higher demand that will provide you with more job opportunities, salaries, and benefits. As an Adult Critical Care Specialist, you will be a Respiratory Therapist that’s highly focused on ADULT patient respiratory care.

Neonatal/Pediatric Specialist:

When you transition from an RRT to a Neonatal-Pediatric Specialist, you will be working in children’s hospitals. Your training will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to treat and monitor newborns for breathing disorders. For example, some of your responsibilities MAY include monitoring the breathing patterns of premature babies, and treating infants born with pulmonary diseases or disorders. The current SALARY listed on Payscale for someone with a Neonatal Pediatric Specialist Certification is $85,315.

Sleep Disorders Specialist:

According to Payscale, a Registered Respiratory Therapist with a Sleep Disorder Speciality (SDS) can EARN approx. 27.82 per hour, depending on experience and employer. As an RRT-SDS, you will assist in diagnosing breathing disorders related to sleeping conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea,  narcolepsy, etc.





Respiratory Therapists Salary

The average annual salary for entry-level Respiratory Therapists is $70,501, with the average entry-Respiratory Therapist hourly pay being $34.00.

Figures are reflective as of October 2020 (Ziprecruiter.com)


Respiratory Therapists Industry Statistics

 

Figures are reflective as of May 2019 (bls.gov)

Figures are reflective as of May 2019 (bls.gov)


Respiratory Therapists Industry Earning Potential by State

 

Figures are reflective as of May 2019 (bls.gov)


Respiratory Therapists Highest Paying US Cities

 

Figures are reflective as of May 2019 (bls.gov)


Choosing The BEST Respiratory Therapist Program For You

When you have decided to pursue a career as a Respiratory Therapist, it’s essential you choose a school/training program that is both reputable and provides you with a strong foundation to prepare you for what’s ahead. As a Respiratory Therapist, you WILL play a VITAL role in caring for patients with respiratory disorders, so it will require both an in-depth knowledge of your responsibilities and a skillset to perform them too. With that said,

It’s ESSENTIAL to take into consideration various FACTORS before selecting a Respiratory Therapist training program. Therefore, we have listed the common questions you should consider before finalizing your choice:

1) Has the Respiratory Therapist program been ACCREDITED by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)?

Before you can become ELIGIBLE to sit for the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination, you MUST complete your educational requirements from an accredited training program. It is ESSENTIAL for you to do your own due diligence to ensure the program you select has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Graduating from a non-accredited Respiratory Therapist training program will NOT make you INELIGIBLE for the TMC examination and delay your plans of becoming a Respiratory Therapist.

2) Are there any applicable student reviews/ratings about the Respiratory Therapist Program Offered?

We recommend doing a search online to find reviews about the training program you plan on attending. Reading through reviews/ratings will give you a better idea of the quality of learning the educational institute provides. You can also visit the school’s campus to speak to students currently enrolled in the program to GAIN useful feedback about what to expect once you have enrolled. Visiting the campus will also give you a chance to ask students who are CURRENTLY enrolled if they would recommend the program and what other additional resources it provides their students to help them graduate and PASS the licensing exam.

3) What is the LENGTH of the Respiratory Therapist training program? Full-time, Part-time, or Online?

Before choosing a program, it’s IMPORTANT to consider your priorities because some schools MAY only provide full-time classes when you are looking for a part-time schedule. The BEST way to ensure that your learning schedule aligns with your other priorities is to choose a Respiratory Therapist program that offers both a full-time and part-time classroom schedule, so you have the flexibility to choose a time that’s better suited to you. However, it’s ESSENTIAL to keep in mind that opting for a part-time program MAY compress the curriculum of the course, and this CAN BE overwhelming for some people who are NOT used to a faster learning pace. Again it’s IMPORTANT to think about your preference and choose a learning pace that you feel would provide the MOST value to you.

4) Will the Respiratory Therapist (RT) program offer opportunities to transition into other progressive roles or further education? How about work opportunities?

Before finalizing your program choice, it’s IMPORTANT to think about how the school can help you reach your future goals. For example, if you decide to specialize in different areas of Respiratory Care, does the school provide educational opportunities to help you transition into other progressive roles? Does the educational institute offer specialized training programs to help you upgrade your credential? You MAY just be starting out your career as a Respiratory Therapist and MAY have plans to specialize within this profession, so choosing a training program that gives it’s GRADUATES more opportunities further down the line can be beneficial to you. Not to mention, it’s always a BONUS if the training school you choose works closely with employers in the healthcare profession because this can lead to accelerated job opportunities after you GRADUATE from the program.


Search Respiratory Therapists Jobs In Your Area



Additional Resources

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How to Become a Phlebotomist – A Complete Guide
How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant – A Complete Guide

 



Author: careercrawlers

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