How to Become a Respiratory Therapist Online

Dec 03, 2019

Respiratory therapists must complete a respiratory care degree program and obtain a state license. Learn more about the process of becoming a respiratory therapist, including which steps of the process you can complete online.

Essential Information for Becoming Respiratory Therapist Online

Respiratory therapists primarily care for those with chronic respiratory diseases, and their job duties include examining patients, developing treatment plans, administrating diagnostic tests and treatments, and teaching patients how to use breathing equipment and medications. To become a respiratory therapist, you must complete a degree program, which can be done in an online hybrid format, and obtain a state license, which cannot be done online. Below, you can learn about the skills needed in the respiratory therapist profession as well as data about job growth and salary for this career.

Required Skills Science and math, emotional, detail-oriented, interpersonal skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 21%
Median Salary (2018)* $60,280

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Becoming a Respiratory Therapist Online

You have two educational pathways for becoming a respiratory therapist: earning an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Although there are online programs of both types, these programs may also require some real-world clinical training experiences, which means you cannot complete this step fully online.

Step 1: Earn an Online Associate's Degree

The basic educational requirement for becoming a respiratory therapist is holding an associate's degree. Some colleges and universities offer online respiratory therapist programs that include some general education and science courses as well as classes on respiratory care, human anatomy, physiology, and pulmonary studies. Typically, you complete any general coursework requirements and possible courses in the major in an online format. However, these online programs also require real-world clinical training that take place within your community.

Step 2: Or Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree

Some employers will prefer that you have earned a bachelor's degree in respiratory care instead of an associate's degree. Online respiratory therapy bachelor's degree programs are similar to associate's degree programs in that you can complete some coursework online but must also complete some clinical experience in the real world. However, online bachelor's degree completion programs, which are for those already in the profession and who have graduated from an accredited respiratory care program, may not have any clinical requirements.

Most online respiratory care programs include coursework on health education, respiratory therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, patient assessment, and CPR. When choosing a respiratory therapist degree program, whether that be a bachelor's or an associate's degree program, it's important that your program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care, as this is generally required for licensure.

Step 3: Obtain a State License

In all states, except for Alaska, you must obtain a state license in order to practice as a respiratory therapist. Requirements for licensure vary by state, but you can expect to take and pass a state or professional exam, which cannot be done online. It's important that you check with your state's health board for the exact requirements for your respiratory therapist license. You can also become certified as a respiratory therapist by the National Board for Respiratory Care, which offers a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. In Alaska, it's recommended that you become certified, but you are not required to achieve certification.

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