A career in respiratory therapy is an excellent choice because the demand for respiratory therapists has never been higher. It’s expected that the job opportunities for respiratory therapists will grow between 21 - 35% over the next 10 years. They will experience job growth faster than the average for all occupations in the United States.
To become a respiratory therapist, you must first graduate from an accredited college program in respiratory care. Accredited respiratory care programs are offered by about 400 colleges and universities throughout the country. You may obtain either a two-year associate degree program or a four-year bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy.
There are two levels of respiratory therapist—the certified respiratory therapist and the registered respiratory therapist. Upon graduation you are eligible to take the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) Certified Respiratory Therapy (CRT) exam. All graduates of any respiratory therapy program must pass the CRT exam in order to qualify for a license as a respiratory therapist.
After passing the CRT exam, graduates are also eligible to take the advanced practitioner exam given by the NBRC known as the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) exam. Employers prefer that the RRT certification be earned within the first year of clinical practice in order to place graduates in the more critical patient care areas.