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Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) Education and Certification

Certified respiratory therapists (CRTs) help treat cardiopulmonary issues in patients, such as breathing problems. Read about associate's and bachelor's degree programs in respiratory therapy that can prepare you for this job. Explore the typical coursework, and check the requirements for licensure. Get info on the career outlook and potential salary for a respiratory therapist.

What are the Education and Certification Requirements for a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)?

You will be able to find both associate's and bachelor's degree programs in the field. Associate's degree programs are typically offered at community and technical colleges. Bachelor's degree programs are offered at universities and 4-year colleges. Your education will train you to treat asthma, shock, heart attacks, emphysema, drowning and any other related cardiopulmonary issues. Both associate's and bachelor's degree programs will require you to participate in clinical training to develop hands-on experience.

There are very few schools that offer an associate's degree program online, but several schools offer online bachelor's degree programs. Even though you may be able to find a program online, there will be portions that are required to be taken on-site. If you are taking courses online, your college may provide support in finding a site for clinical work.

Degree ProgramsAssociate's and bachelor's programs both requiring clinical hands-on experience
CourseworkTypical coursework may include treatment techniques, theory, pulmonary diagnostics, cardiopulmonary disease and patient monitoring
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 23% growth (for respiratory therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$60,280 (for respiratory therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Can I Expect?

Both associate's and bachelor's degree programs offer similar courses. The differences between the two degree levels are that bachelor's degree programs offer additional general education courses and advanced program courses. Some bachelor's degree programs also require you to participate in professional clinical training during your last two years.

Your program will provide the education necessary to treat respiratory and cardiopulmonary illnesses, support your patients and recognize health issues. Topics will cover treatment techniques for infants, children, adults and the elderly. If you enroll in an associate's degree program, you can expect to take courses in therapeutic procedures, theory, health science, pulmonary diagnostics, cardiopulmonary disease, airway management and patient monitoring. If you decide to enroll in a bachelor's degree program, you can expect courses in advanced pharmacology, outpatient services, human resource management, pediatric care, ventilation and advanced laboratory work.

What Can I Expect After Earning My Degree?

Unless you live in Alaska or Hawaii, you will be required to successfully gain your license. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) provides certification exams (www.bls.gov). If you decide to advance your career, NBRC also provides an advanced certification to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist.

The BLS expects that there will be a 23% increase in respiratory therapists between 2016 and 2026. This increase will be caused by a greater amount of job roles. As of May 2018, the BLS also estimates that this job type earned a median salary of $60,280.