Respiratory therapy technician positions are being phased out in favor of respiratory therapists, and there will be few job openings for technicians going forward, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Therefore, this article will consider respiratory therapists rather than technicians.
In a respiratory therapy associate's program, students learn through a combination of classes and lab work, as well as supervised clinical experiences in a healthcare setting. When choosing a program, look for one that is accredited by a recognized organization in the respiratory field, such as the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
- Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, with strong grades in biology, mathematics and natural sciences
- Other Requirements: Strong math capabilities, completion of basic respiratory care and life support courses
- Program Length: 2 years
- Experiential Learning: Lab work, supervised clinical experiences
Respiratory Therapy Associate's Degree Programs
Students take foundation courses in liberal disciplines, math and sciences in the first year of their program to prepare for core second year courses in respiratory care. In the second year, students take classes and labs, followed by clinical experiences.
- Human anatomy and physiology
- General chemistry
- Introduction to respiratory care
- Cardiopulmonary care
- Technician clinical practice
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Job growth for respiratory therapists is anticipated to be 19%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The population is getting older and seniors will need more respiratory care for bronchitis, pneumonia and emphysema, among other diseases. Respiratory therapists made a median annual salary of $56,730 as of March 2015, per the BLS.
Certification and Continuing Education Information
Licensure is required for respiratory therapists working in the United States (only Hawaii and Alaska do not require licensure). In order to be licensed, graduates must become certified. The National Board for Respiratory Care oversees the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential. To gain certification, individuals must graduate from a program accredited by CoARC or CAAHEP and then pass a national examination. Certified Respiratory Therapists can take additional training to become Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT), by completing an advance degree and passing two exams.