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Respiratory Technician Certification and Certificate Program Info

Learn about Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy degree programs. Get information on prerequisites, curriculum, employment outlook and certification requirements.

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Essential Information

Respiratory therapy technicians work within a healthcare facility to diagnose and treat lung-related medical disorders. There are no certificate programs for entry-level respiratory therapy technicians. The most basic degree in the field is an associate's degree program.

Also, 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.

A 2-year associate's degree program in respiratory therapy provides students with a foundational understanding of respiratory care, human respiratory systems and technical respiratory devices. Students learn through a combination of classes and lab work as well as supervised clinical experiences in a healthcare setting.

Most states require that respiratory therapists be licensed. Requirements usually call for completing an accredited program and passing a competency exam. 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).

Education Prerequisites

A high school diploma and strong grades in the areas of biology, mathematics and natural science are common prerequisites. Good math abilities are important to the job as a respiratory therapist because therapists must calculate dosages and gas concentrations. Some schools also list perquisite courses that students must complete before enrolling in an associate's degree program, including basic respiratory care and life support courses.

Program Coursework

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
  • Microbiology
  • General chemistry
  • Introduction to respiratory care
  • Cardio-pulmonary care
  • Technician clinical practice
  • Technical interventions

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Job growth for respiratory therapists is anticipated to be 28%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2010-2020, according to 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 $55,870 as of May 2012 (BLS data).

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.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics