Respiratory Therapist Certification and Licensing

Respiratory therapists need credentials to practice. All states except Hawaii and Alaska license the profession. While details vary from state to state, candidates can generally expect to demonstrate that they have completed an accredited program and passed national board exams.

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The National Board for Respiratory Care offers two different credentials, the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). The RRT is the higher credential. Three organizations, the American Association for Respiratory Care, the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care, and the NBRC, joined together in recognizing it as the professional standard.

A candidate must work as a CRT for two years before taking the RRT exam. CRTs are expected to take and pass the higher exam within three years of graduation from an advanced level program, however. Those who don’t must retake the CRT before taking the RRT. (In some cases, it may be possible to attempt both the same day.)
The RRT exam has two parts: a multiple choice portion and a set of ten case study examples. Prospective respiratory care practitioners can download a candidate handbook from the NBRC site. There is also a free practice exam available. The NBRC notes, however, that the case studies in the practice exam should not be taken as being representative of those on the real exam – the point is to familiarize candidates with the exam format.

RTs may also choose to pursue specialty certifications in neonatal/ pediatric respiratory care or sleep disorders. The neonatal/ pediatric certification requires experience in the specialty; the sleep disorder certification can be earned though either experience or coursework. Respiratory care practitioners can earn continuing education through various organizations, including the AARC.

Learn more about what exactly a career as an RT entails byclicking here. At this point, you may also want to explore schools in your geographic proximity that offer associate and bachelor degree programs in respiratory therapy.