Respiratory Therapist Career Path

Steps to becoming a respiratory therapist

  1. Job shadow and interview an experienced respiratory therapist to understand what this job entails. It is also a good idea to shadow RTs in a variety of employment settings and even different sized hospitals to see which setting you’d ultimately prefer.
  2. Research and enroll in a respiratory therapist degree program.
  3. Get as many clinical hours as possible while in a degree program, to gain experience and help season your resume.
  4. Upon graduation from a respiratory therapy degree program, sign up to take the National Board for Respiratory Care exam to become both certified (CRT) and registered (RRT).
  5. After becoming certified and registered nationally, take any necessary requirements to gain a state license. This sometimes involves taking a test and other times involves just submitting an application and fee.
  6. Start pursuing jobs as a respiratory therapist.


Learn more about repiratory therapy job specifics.

What personality traits make someone a good fit for this profession?

Compassion is probably the most important trait for a respiratory therapist to possess. Caring for the patient and trying to relate to the feelings they are going through is important. These patients are typically having trouble breathing which is often frightening for them. Trying to calm them down and letting them know you care about their situation and will offer them the best care possible can help them feel at ease. It is fairly common to see people with asthma or who have children with asthma move into the RT field because they have empathy for others suffering from this condition.

Respiratory therapists also must have excellent communication skills since they’re often working with a variety of different medical

Do most individuals remain in this field or use it as a stepping-stone to other health care professions?

This profession is a great field and most people stay in it. They enjoy helping people and handling emergency situations. However, others chose to move on to other jobs in the medical field. Not only does working as an RT teach one how to deal with patients, it also teaches them how to excel in assessment skills, communication skills, and just about every other skill needed for anyone working in a hospital. Some RTs move on to becoming nurses, others move on to becoming physician assistants or even physicians.

What specialties exist in the field of respiratory therapy?

The following specialty certifications are available to respiratory therapists and require passing an exam given by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC):

  • Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT)
  • Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist (RPFT)
  • Sleep Disorders Specialist (SDS)
  • Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care Specialist (NPS)
  • Asthma Educator (AEC)
  • COPD Educator
  • Certified Hyperbaric Technologist (CHT)

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