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What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Students work in the respiratory care lab with the breathing equipment and mannikinThe respiratory therapist treats people with health care issues affecting the cardiopulmonary system such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, cardiovascular disorders, and trauma.

In the hospital setting, the respiratory therapist provides care and life support to patients in the emergency room, intensive care units, general hospital areas, the pulmonary diagnostics laboratory and other specialty areas such as rehabilitation. They use high-tech equipment and the latest medical procedures to help patients and may be employed in non-hospital environments as well.

Patients receiving care from a respiratory therapist range in age from the premature infant to geriatrics. The respiratory professional is also involved in the diagnostic testing of infants, children and adults with underlying medical concerns including disease and sleep disorders.

The AARC web site can provide additional information on the respiratory care profession.

Male and female student working on infant mannequin, practicing respiratory therapy procedure.

Professional Credentialing: CRT and RRT
The Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential is required to acquire state license and practice as a respiratory therapist. This is obtained by passing the National Board for Respiratory Care certification examination. At minimum, an associate's degree from an accredited respiratory care program is required; increasingly, hospitals and other health care providers are seeking professionals with a bachelor's degree in the field.

Upon graduation from a regionally accredited program, graduates are eligible to sit for the two-part advanced practitioner registration examination and achieve the CRT and/or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential.

Other credentialing specialty examinations, such as neonatal/pediatric specialty and registered pulmonary function technician, are also available.

Last modified: Sep 07, 2018

Careers in Respiratory Care
Where do respiratory therapists work? How much do they earn? See career information at

U.S. Dept. of Labor has a wealth of information about the field of respiratory care in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Kansas Respiratory Care Society
National Board for Respiratory Care