Respiratory Therapist Licensure Requirements

Get information about the classes required to prepare for a career as a respiratory therapist. Find out about licensure requirements and the renewal process. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Requirements for Respiratory Therapy Licensure?

Your state will most likely base licensure requirements on the requirements established by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). In addition to state licensing fees and age requirements, you might need to complete education requirements as detailed by the NBRC. You also need to pass an exam administered by the NBRC to earn Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) designation before being considered for licensure.

To be eligible for the CRT exam, you need at least an associate's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). You may also qualify for this certification exam if you have completed a bachelor's degree program.

If you have earned CRT certification and intend to pursue RRT certification, there are three possible ways to meet RRT eligibility requirements. If you have completed four years of experience as a CRT with a minimum of 62 college course hours, earned a bachelor's degree and completed two years of CRT clinical experience or completed two years of CRT experience and an associate's degree program, you are eligible.

Licensure RequirementsVaries by state, but often include completing education requirements, licensing fees, minimum age, and passing a licensing exam
Exam TopicsPatient care, patient safety, respiratory support, airway control, therapeutic techniques
License RenewalContinuing education may be required; varies by state
Common CoursesPhysiology, mechanical ventilation, respiratory pathophysiology, medical terminology, vital sign 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 Might the Exam Look Like?

The CRT certification exam is multiple choice and might cover how to use the instruments related to the job and compile patient information. Other exam topics include patient care, various therapeutic techniques, patient safety, airway control and respiratory support.

If you plan on earning RRT certification, you can expect to take a live demonstration and a written exam. The written exam might cover patient evaluation techniques, equipment use, therapist protocol, quality control and record maintenance. This must be completed within three years of graduating from an education program or earning CRT certification.

How Do I Renew My License?

Your state may require you to pay licensing fees and complete continuing education hours. Since most states require you to hold certification from the NBRC, you must also adhere to NBRC guidelines for renewal.

What Courses Can I Expect to Take?

In a 2-year associate's degree program, you may take courses in human anatomy, physiology, respiratory care, mechanical ventilation, function testing, respiratory pathophysiology and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You may also take courses in pharmacology, microbiology, medical terminology and treatment principles.

A 4-year bachelor's degree program may include courses in life support, pulmonary diagnostics, airway management, vital sign monitoring, law, ethics and heath care policy. Both types of programs may require you to complete general education courses like mathematics, English, chemistry and biology.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • ECPI University

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  • Fortis College

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