Respiratory therapists are healthcare professionals who treat patients with breathing disorders. The demand for RTs is rising, making it a great career choice for those interested in the field.
If you’re considering entering the field of respiratory care, you’ll need to complete some prerequisite coursework before applying to the program.
In this article, we’ll outline the most common courses students must take before applying to respiratory therapy school. These may vary slightly depending on the program, but this article will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Respiratory Therapy School Prerequisite Courses
The most common prerequisite courses required for most respiratory therapy programs include:
- College Algebra
- English Composition
- Anatomy and Physiology I
- Anatomy and Physiology II
- Medical Terminology
You’re probably wondering why you must take algebra before applying to a healthcare-related program. Believe it or not, respiratory therapists must be able to understand and use basic mathematical concepts to do their job.
Let’s not get carried away, though — you won’t be solving complex equations daily while in respiratory therapy school.
However, you will be required to learn a few basic formulas and calculations that respiratory therapists use on the job. Some examples include calculating a patient’s ideal body weight (IBW), minute ventilation, and oxygen tank duration.
Most respiratory therapy programs require you to take at least one English composition course before applying.
This ensures that you have the writing skills necessary to complete the program. Writing is an essential skill for respiratory therapists, as they often use it when documenting information in a patient’s chart.
Students may also be required to write several case studies or reports throughout the respiratory therapy program. Therefore, strong writing skills are essential for success.
Anatomy and Physiology
Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) is a two-semester course that covers the structure and function of the human body. This is important for respiratory therapists because they must understand how the cardiovascular and respiratory systems work to treat their patients effectively.
You’ll also learn about the other body systems, which all work in tandem with one another. For example, you’ll learn how the digestive system breaks down food so the body can use it for energy.
Most students will agree that college A&P courses are not easy. However, they are essential for anyone planning to work in the healthcare field, especially respiratory therapists.
Medical terminology is a course that covers the common language used by healthcare professionals. This is important because respiratory therapists must be able to understand and communicate with other members of the healthcare team.
You’ll learn about standard medical terms used to describe the respiratory system, as well as other body systems and diseases. You’ll also learn how to pronounce these terms correctly.
Medical terminology is not a required prerequisite course for all respiratory therapy programs. However, students who do not have a medical background are strongly encouraged to take this course before applying.
In addition to the prerequisite courses listed above, most respiratory therapy programs require students to complete a few other requirements. This includes:
- High school diploma or equivalent
- GPA of 2.5 or higher
- Complete prerequisite courses with a grade of “C” or better
- Clinical experience or observation hours
- Submit high school transcripts
- Submit college transcripts
- Submit ACT or SAT scores
- Letter(s) of recommendation
The application process for respiratory therapy school can be competitive and challenging. Therefore, simply meeting the minimum requirements above does not guarantee acceptance into the program.
However, if you have a solid academic record and exceed the other requirements, you can drastically improve your chances of being accepted.
Where to Apply for Respiratory Therapy School?
There are several accredited respiratory therapy programs across the United States. The best school will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Some factors to consider include:
- Location: Do you want to attend a school close to home, or are you willing to relocate?
- Program Length: Respiratory therapy programs typically range from two to four years in length.
- Cost: The cost of tuition and other associated expenses can vary significantly from one school to the next.
- Scholarship availability: Some schools offer more scholarships and financial aid than others.
If you’re unsure where to apply, your best bet is to visit the website of the respiratory therapy program of your choice for more information.
Is the Respiratory Therapy Program Hard?
Now that you know what it takes to get into respiratory therapy school, you’re probably wondering if the coursework inside the program is difficult.
The answer is: it depends.
Some students find respiratory therapy school very challenging, while others do not. It varies from person to person.
One thing is for sure, though: respiratory therapy school is not easy.
The program requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and commitment. But if you are willing to put in the effort, you can succeed in the program and become a licensed respiratory therapist.
And remember, you always have the option to seek help from your professors or classmates if you’re struggling with the material. You can also take advantage of the free resources that we have to offer, such as:
Our materials have already helped thousands of students navigate their way through respiratory therapy school. So, if you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, know that you are not alone and that we’re here to help.
The required prerequisite courses for respiratory therapy school can vary depending on the program. However, most programs require you to pass college algebra, English composition, anatomy and physiology, and medical terminology with a grade of “C” or higher.
In addition to the prerequisite courses, most programs also have other requirements you must meet before applying (e.g., a GPA of 2.5 or higher).
The admissions process for respiratory therapy school can be a daunting task. However, it becomes much easier to handle if you break it into smaller steps. Start by researching the different respiratory therapy programs to determine their requirements.
Then, begin taking the necessary prerequisite courses and completing the other requirements mentioned above. If you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to becoming a respiratory therapist in no time. Good luck, and thanks for reading!
John Landry, BS, RRT
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- We researched several respiratory therapy programs in the United States to determine the most common prerequisite courses that are required before applying. Use [this link] to see the accredited schools that we referenced for this article.
- Faarc, Kacmarek Robert PhD Rrt, et al. Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care. 12th ed., Mosby, 2020.
- “What Is An RT?” AARC, 12 Sept. 2019, www.aarc.org/careers/what-is-an-rt.
- “The National Board for Respiratory Care.” The National Board for Respiratory Care, www.nbrc.org. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
- “Respiratory Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 May 2022, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm.