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How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

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Respiratory therapists administer inhaled medications and medical gases such as oxygen to people who have trouble breathing or chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or emphysema. Most work in hospitals, but they may also work in nursing care facilities or home health care. You'll need an associate's degree, a license and certification to become a respiratory therapist.

Education, Licensing and Certification

The minimum educational requirement for a respiratory therapist is an associate's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau or Labor Statistics. Colleges, universities, vocational-technical schools and the Armed Forces all offer training programs. Some employers may prefer a bachelor's degree, which could also improve your chances for advancement. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pharmacology and microbiology, as well as clinical care components. After graduation, you must pass state licensing exams in all states except Alaska. You may also need to be certified, which means passing another exam. Entry-level certification is the CRT, or Certified Respiratory Therapist, credential offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. After you have some experience, you can sit for the RRT, or Registered Respiratory Therapist, certification examination. Although certification is not necessarily required for practice in all states, many employers prefer to hire certified respiratory therapists.

2016 Salary Information for Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $58,670 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, respiratory therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $49,340, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $70,650, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 130,200 people were employed in the U.S. as respiratory therapists.

Number of Jobs for Respiratory Therapists (by year)
Year Number of Jobs