According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for respiratory therapists are growing fast. In fact, this nation’s number of respiratory therapy jobs is projected to grow 28% by the year 2020.1 Compared to the average growth rate for all American occupations (14.3%2), that’s huge. In short, there’s never been a better time to become a respiratory therapist.
Respiratory therapists (RTs) use a variety of therapeutic techniques, medications, and equipment to help those who struggle with respiratory conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and pneumonia.
As a respiratory therapist, you could help people in all ages and stages of life to breathe more easily and regain proper lung function. You could even save someone’s life in an emergency!
Best of all, respiratory therapy is perhaps one of the best healthcare jobs you can get with just an associate’s degree.
So, how do you become a respiratory therapist? These five helpful steps will show you what you need to do:
Step 1: Enroll in an accredited respiratory therapy program
First of all, you need to enroll in an associate’s degree program in respiratory therapy. However, not just any respiratory therapy program will do. You’ll want to make sure that your program will give you all the fundamental knowledge and skills you need to start a career as a professional respiratory therapist. Your program should be accredited by a respected accrediting commission.
The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (COARC)4 accredits professional degree programs in respiratory therapy. This means that when you enroll in a respiratory therapy program accredited by COARC, you and your family can rest assured that your program has met the rigorous standards necessary to enter the respiratory therapy field.
Your respiratory therapy program should also help you prepare for the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) examination. This examination is administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to ensure that all respiratory therapists meet the minimum requirements to safely and legally practice in the United States.
California College San Diego, for example, offers an accredited associate’s degree program in respiratory therapy that prepares you for the NBRC CRT exam.
Step 2: Finish your associate’s degree
Next, you’ll need to complete all the requirements of your associate’s degree program. To do this, you’ll need to actively participate in your classes and get good grades.
As part of your program, you’ll also have to finish a series of clinical experience courses. These experiential courses are designed to help you gain valuable hands-on experience in real-world settings under the direct supervision of practicing RTs. This way, you’re prepared to hit the ground running when you graduate.
Step 3: Pass the NBRC CRT examination
Once you graduate from your COARC-accredited program, you’ll be eligible to take the NBRC CRT examination, as explained in step 1. Passing this exam will allow you to apply for a professional license if required in your state.
For more information about NBRC and the CRT exam, visit their website at http://www.nbrc.org/Pages/default.aspx.
Step 4: Get your CPR certificate
Most employers require respiratory therapists to hold a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certificate. This certification helps ensure that RTs are ready to respond to emergencies such as choking and heart failure.
You can learn more about CPR and how to get certified through the American Heart Association. Visit their website at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/CPRAndECC/CPR_UCM_001118_SubHomePage.jsp.
Step 5: Apply for a job as a respiratory therapist
Once you’ve graduated from your program, passed the CRT exam, and gained the necessary licenses and certificates, you’ll be ready to apply for a job as a respiratory therapist. Most RTs work in hospitals. Others can work in physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities, or even travel to patients’ homes.
To get a job, you’ll need to have a polished résumé and follow the best practices of other job seekers in the field. Colleges such as California College San Diego actually help you find a job after graduation. 5 You can use this resource to make contacts in the field and build your professional network.
Advance your career
Once you’ve started working as a respiratory therapist, you have a couple of good options for advancing your career.
One is to gain your registered respiratory therapist (RRT) license. This license is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities of advanced RTs so they can move into positions of greater responsibility and pay.
To gain this license, you’ll need to pass the two-part NBRC RRT examination. Most respiratory therapists don’t attempt to take this exam until they’ve had at least a few years of experience in the field. You can find more information about the RRT exam at http://www.nbrc.org/Pages/RRT.aspx.
Another way to advance your RT career is to earn your bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy. Your bachelor’s degree will help you gain advanced skills in clinical practice, as well as in managing and supervising healthcare staff. Your bachelor’s degree could help you advance into supervisory positions in a variety of healthcare environments, overseeing the work of respiratory therapists and other staff.
California College San Diego offers an accredited bachelor’s degree program in respiratory therapy to help RTs take their careers to the next level.
How to get started
Are you ready to launch your career as a respiratory therapist? California College San Diego makes getting started easier by helping you apply for financial aid that you may qualify for.
In addition, they’ll help you apply for one of their new Fresh Start Scholarship so you can possibly save up to $5,000 on tuition.6
Call them today at 1-800-622-3188 or request info here. Classes start every month, so enroll today!