How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist works as a member of a team of medical professionals who evaluate and treat patients with lung disorders. They're responsible for all diagnostic procedures and treatment given to their patients, such as evaluating lung capacity and testing if pH or acidity exists in the blood stream. Their responsibilities include connecting patients to breathing machines by inserting a tube into the windpipe and then connecting them to the oxygen flow from a ventilator. Their work often involves performing the following kinds of tasks:

  • Measuring lung capacity
  • Setting up and monitoring ventilator equipment
  • Testing patients for lung abnormalities
  • Assisting patients with rehabilitative exercises [source: BLS]

Here's how to become a respiratory therapist.


  1. Take as many biology, chemistry and physics courses as you can while you're in high school.
  2. Earn a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy. You can get an associate degree from a respiratory therapy school, but that degree will only afford you entry level jobs.
  3. Earn a master's degree in the field. Although this isn't necessary, it will help you advance professionally.
  4. Get licensed. All respiratory therapists must be licensed and certified. To obtain a license, you must pass the examination given by National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Upon passing the exam you will become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT), which allows you to work as a therapist.
  5. Become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Although this isn't required, to really move ahead it's imperative to become an RRT. You can become an RRT by taking more courses and passing two additional exams. Being an RRT allows you to work in the intensive care unit of a hospital or to become a supervisor [sources: Medical Assistant, Degree Finders].