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Respiratory Therapist Jobs - How To Become A Respiratory Therapist

Updated on August 17, 2012

Most people are able to breath normally without any thought to what the process involves. Others are not so fortunate, and depend on the knowledge and skill of a respiratory therapist to help them overcome diseases and abnormalities, improve their pulmonary and cardiopulmonary health, and lead as normal a life as possible. Although the job of respiratory therapist may be demanding and stressful, it is also satisfying to anyone who enjoys helping others.

Job Summary

Respiratory therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and in private homes. They work hand in hand with others in the medical profession. They usually work a regular eight hour day, or as emergency situations demand. Respiratory therapists work with people of all ages, and social backgrounds, many of whom may be fearful, distressed, and, because of their lack of oxygen, disoriented.

If you want to become a respiratory therapist, you must be compassionate, physically fit, and emotionally mature. You must be well-organized, patient, and cheerful. Because your patients are from diverse backgrounds and may be suffering from serious condition such as cystic fibrosis and emphysema, you must have excellent communication skills, and the ability to work calmly and efficiently, in any situation.

Your duties will depend on your place of employment as well as the specific condition you are treating. Duties may include recording medical histories, performing diagnostic tests, and assisting patients in correctly using inhalers and ventilators,. You may also arrange for and set up various equipment that will assist or improve the breathing capacity of patients. You may assist other medical personnel in cases of near drowning, smoke inhalation, heart attack; stroke, and surgeries.

Respiratory therapists are a vital part of the medical system. Because of an aging population, there is an increasing demand for trained, experienced respiratory therapists.

Education And Other Requirements

If you are interested in becoming a respiratory therapist and are still in high school, take courses in English, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computers, and a second language.

Get some experience, paid or volunteer, in a medical facility such as a hospital or senior's home. Arrange with your school councilor to 'shadow' a professional respiratory therapist for a day or two. In this way, you will see first hand what the job involves.

After obtaining your high school diploma, you will need to obtain a degree from an accredited training college. Courses there include anatomy, mathematics, physiology, microbiology, diagnostics and therapy. Make sure the program you choose is accredited. For a list of accredited courses, go to:

Some respiratory therapists choose to get an associate's degree, which takes two years. This is adequate to get work as a therapist. However, it is preferable to get your bachelor's degree, which takes four years. A bachelor's degree will make you eligible for the more prestigious jobs, and of course, the higher salaries. Most employers prefer to employ those with bachelor's degrees. A bachelor's degree is essential for anyone who hopes to eventually get a job in education or administration.

Once you have completed your degree, you will need to get a license to practice. Licensing requires that you become certified. To become certified, you must; 1) have graduated from an accredited training program, 2) pass a background check, and 3) pass an exam set up and administered by The National Board For Respiratory Care. Their web site is:



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    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Central Texas

      H Kashmir56 - thanks for your kind comments and vote up - I really enjoy writing articles that could be useful - B.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, great hub and so well written and explained, all this information will help all those who are interested in becoming a respiratory therapists.

      Well done and vote up and more !!!

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Hello Teaches12345 - I appreciate that you took the time to both read my article and comment - B.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Our college is considering adding this career to the list of medical degree options. Good to know what it is all about. Thanks for the post. Voted up.


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