How to Become a Respiratory Therapist – detailed guide

Looking for a job in the healthcare field that is in demand and provides good compensation and the satisfaction that comes from helping people? You may want to consider becoming a respiratory therapist, a sector of the healthcare industry whose job outlook is growing faster than many other fields in the medical profession, with a more than 25 percent increase annually.

A respiratory therapist is a trained healthcare professional who works with patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions and chronic illnesses affecting the respiratory system, including heart disease, pneumonia, emphysema and bronchitis. The first step on the path to becoming a respiratory therapist is graduating with a diploma from an accredited high school with a course load that includes as many courses as possible in biology, science, mathematics and health.

Now you will need to find a respiratory therapy program offered either by a hospital, medical center or two-year institution of higher learning in order to gain your associate’s degree. Some vocational/technical schools offer certified courses in respiratory therapy, as does the military. There are approximately 400 respiratory therapy training programs throughout the United States that have been certified by CCCHEP (The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs).

While enrolled in a two-year respiratory therapy training program, you will undergo both classroom training as well as hands-on clinical training to help prepare you for a job as a respiratory therapist. After successfully completing 24 months of both classroom and practical training, you are ready to take the national credentialing exam to prove you have the knowledge to be a professional respiratory therapist. This exam is offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care and is a necessary step on the path to gaining your Certified Respiratory Therapist license. In order to find a job in respiratory therapy, you will also need to acquire as well as maintain your cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification (CPR) as well.

Depending upon the state where you are seeking employment, you will need to check out your particular state’s licensing requirements. Every state with the exception of Alaska now requires a respiratory therapist to obtain a license from the state in order to be legally employed. Once you have graduated from an accredited 2-year training program, have passed the certification exam, have your CPR certification as well as any license required by the state, you’re ready to apply for your first job.

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Hospitals that have pulmonary care units and respiratory care departments are good places to start. Your training program may also be able to help you by making good recommendations about entry-level job placement. Facilities that offer nursing care also hire respiratory therapists. Annual income is around $54,000, depending upon your experience and the part of the country in which you seek employment.