How Do I Become a Certified Respiratory Therapist?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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The requirements to become a certified respiratory therapist may vary depending on the position and location of the job. There are minimal degree requirements, and potential candidates should research the specific education and training guidelines in their area. Most respiratory therapists work under the guidance of a physician. These therapists work with a variety of age groups, and communication skills are often important to become a certified respiratory therapist.

Although an associate's degree is the minimal requirement for most of these positions, a student may increase his or chance to become a certified respiratory therapist by pursuing a higher education. The student will need to determine which vocational program, college, or online course suits his or her needs. College programs are designed to fulfill the necessary requirements to obtain the license needed to become a certified respiratory therapist.

Aside from general coursework in math, English, and science, extensive medical based coursework is also needed to complete the program. Some of these classes include topics such as fundamentals of respiratory therapy, mathematics for respiratory therapy, microbiology, a clinical practicum, fundamentals of clinical medicine, pharmacology, and pulmonary function testing. Most of these courses are offered in the associate's degree program, and in higher degree programs more advanced and additional courses are taught. During this time, students should seek employment or internships in health care services to obtain experience.


In addition to a degree, students will have to enroll in a training program. These programs provide hands-on training in areas that may include therapeutic and diagnostic procedures, patient assessment, respiratory health promotion and disease prevention, and all aspects of patient care. Training programs are fundamental to understanding all of the procedures and methods needed in respiratory care. Those without the necessary certification may be able to obtain entry level assistant positions. Advancement in the field is dependent on education, training, and experience.

Students who plan to become a certified respiratory therapist should possess certain personality traits including compassion, active listening skills, and patience. Most of these patients may experience chronic breathing problems that require extensive treatment, and some patients may be uncomfortable with certain treatment methods. Due to the various needs of patients, certain personality traits are a requirement in order to provide effective patient care. There is room for career advancement in this position, and numerous continuing education courses in the field are available. Employees should continuously research industrial innovations that may increase the efficiency of their work.


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