Are you considering a career in the medical field and wondering exactly how to become a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory therapists play a vital role to the healthcare team. Working alongside of doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists help treat patients suffering from dysfunctions of the cardiopulmonary system, including any type of disease that affects their breathing. Due to a rising number of patients with chronic lung diseases such as COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, it is expected that the demand for respiratory therapists will continue to grow for years to come. 

Respiratory therapy is an excellent, growing field and is a challenging but fulfilling career for someone interested in becoming a medical professional. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a respiratory therapist:

1. Have a natural desire to want help people

First and foremost, you have to have the right mindset. It is important not to enter into the health field for the wrong reasons. Those who are “in it for money” or the prestige never tend to last, or they become miserable with their job and burn out easily.

To be a respiratory therapist, you have to make sure you actually care about the people you are treating on a deeper level. You must be compassionate by nature. It must be more than just a paycheck. 

Here is a good book I found on this topic:

The book can help you grow into a more compassionate person and a better Respiratory Therapist.

2. Graduate from high school

To be accepted into a respiratory therapy program, it is a requirement to have your high school diploma. This is a given but must be mentioned, nonetheless. Also, I recommend taking as many health and science-related courses as you can in order to prepare yourself adequately while in high school. This will pay off once you actually get into the program.

3. Take the required prerequisite courses

These are the collegiate courses you are required to complete before you are even eligible to apply. These courses will be different for every program. Check with the program that you are interested in applying to for the list of required prerequisites. You can check out our list of each of the respiratory therapy programs listed by state.

4. Apply to certain schools

After completing all prerequisite courses and others requirements (observation hours, letters of recommendation, etc.), you will now become eligible to apply for a spot in the program. There are more than 400 accredited programs across the United States to choose from. 

5. Enroll in the program

After being accepted, you can now enroll into an accredited respiratory therapy program. You must inform your school of choice that you intend to enroll in the respiratory therapy program. Otherwise, they will offer your seat to another prospect after a number of days. The instructors will instruct you on how to properly confirm your spot in the program.

6. Complete the required coursework

This will include participating in, and passing, the required classes within the respiratory therapy program, including: Cardio A&P, Patient Assessment, Pharmacology, and Mechanical Ventilation, among others.

In our famous Test Bank section of this website, we have provided tons of useful study guides, cheat sheets, old tests, and more, that will help you not only complete these courses, but actually learn the necessary material that you will need to know when it is time to take the TMC Board Exam.

7. Complete the required clinical experience

This step will occur simultaneously with Step 6. In most programs, you will complete hands-on clinical experience in the hospital while also taking classes. This is absolutely critical in your development into becoming a respiratory therapist.

The things you learn and the mistakes you make during clinicals will stay with you forever. And it’s okay to make mistakes – just as long as you learn from those mistakes and strive to not make them again.

Trust me, you will. Early mornings and late evenings, while trying to find time to study in between — this will (in my opinion) be the most difficult part of the program, but yet also the most rewarding. 

8. Graduate with an associates degree

At the time of this writing, the majority of respiratory programs are two-year associates degree programs, although, bachelors degrees in respiratory are becoming more common. You must have your degree from an accredited program before you can move forward. 

9. Take the national credentialing exam

This is a national exam offered by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Once you pass this exam, you will officially have the necessary credentials to practice respiratory care as a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT).

To help with this, we created the TMC Test Bank with over 1000 questions and answers exactly like the ones on the test. We also have a book which will help you Hack the TMC Board Exam; not to mention our TMC Study Guide.

10. Obtain your license

You will have to get your license to practice in whichever particular state you choose to work. This is a must, as you cannot work or practice without a license. Each state has it’s on process and requirements for applying for a license. Also, it is common to be licensed to practice in multiple states, as I know multiple respiratory therapists who are.

11. Apply for a job

You did it! You’re now ready to work as a Respiratory Therapist. Check with your local hospitals or online listings to apply for jobs near you. To see all the available positions in your area, you can use our Job Board. Oh yeah, before your job interview, be sure to review our top interview tips for new respiratory therapy grads.

12. Advance your Career as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)

Once you pass the national credentialing exam with the high-cut score, as mentioned in Step 9, making you a Certified Respiratory Therapist, you are now eligible to take the Clinical Simulations exam. Pass it and boom, you will officially be a Registered Respiratory Therapist.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, folks, a step-by-step guide on how to become a respiratory therapist. It sounds like a lot, but don’t get overwhelmed. You can do it, just take it one step at a time. I wish you the best of luck to you in all of your endeavors. No matter which career you choose, I wish you nothing but the best.

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