Respiratory Therapist………….?

Question by : Respiratory Therapist………….?
I’m in High School right now and I think I want to become a respiratory therapist. I googled how much they make and the pay is good. I’m aware that a respiratory therapist helps people with breathing problems. Right? If you are a respiratory therapist or know a lot of info about this job please tell me everything I need to know. How many years will I have to go to school to become a RT when I graduate college? I’m on this website where they help me get a scholarship, I do well in school, but I want to know what I should major in to be a respiratory therapist? . It asks for my college and graduate interests. Are my graduate interests what kind of school I want to go to when I finish college? PLEASE HELP. I don’t have anyone to ask this information and I tried to Google for research but I can’t find much, I have an aunt whose a RN But I can never get in touch with her and no one at school can help. Thank you for you’re help. I know this probably isn’t the right section but I didn’t know where other section else to ask this.

Best answer:

Answer by Jason
I love being an RT. I prefer being a specialist in a complex discipline like this. It’s a great gig. You can do everything from the ICU to home care to the PFT lab and everything in between. Your focus is on one aspect of patient care (as opposed to the nurse) but you are an expert in that aspect (at least if you’re any good at it). I like being really, really good at a smaller slice of the patient care pie rather than just knowing a little something about all of it. I might not know a thing about dressing that wound on your butt but I can dial in your mechanical ventilator better than most people on the planet.

The majority of programs are a two-year A.A.S. degree. There are BA/BS programs around as well but there aren’t many of them. To my knowledge, the 1-year programs are no longer in existence since you cannot sit for the CRT exam upon completion. You need at least a two-year degree to take the national board exams and you can’t practice as an RT until you pass your boards. Licensure varies from state-to-state; all the way from formal licensure by a medical board to just title protection and registration. Virtually all states require at least the CRT to obtain a license. A few states differentiate between CRT and RRT with regard to licensure (i.e. NY). You can find out more about the board exams at:

You can find more about the profession in general and information about your state association at:

Job security is good; there is still a shortage of RTs (some regions much moreso than others). Openings tend to vary with the season — as classes graduate the jobs get filled; by December/January there are tons of openings again. You can also work for a traveling agency or staffing agency once you have some experience. You can work in hospitals, clinics, home care, long-term care, medical device sales & support, pharmacy sales, pulmonary function, pulmonary rehab, asthma education… there are a lot of oppportunities. It depends mostly on your interests and experience.

That said, nursing is more flexible. There are things you can do with a nursing degree that have NOTHING to do with nursing — but wherein lacking the degree is a barrier to employment. That’s not true of respiratory therapy. For example, when I moved and was looking for a new job I found several health education jobs that I am highly qualified for (I also have a B.S. in biology and most of an M.S.Ed in health professions education). All of them required a degree in nursing — even one that was teaching asthma patients! I couldn’t even get an interview because I don’t have the RN credential. It doesn’t matter that I’m actually MORE qualified for the job in both education and experience (as well as being licensed by the same board that licenses physicians in my state); they wanted the RN initials. So that’s something to consider. RN typically pays better too.

Lastly, you have avenues for advancement with an RN that are not available to you as an RT. For instance, I frequently taught mechanical ventilation to residents and nurse anaesthetist (CRNA) classes in my old job. I cannot get into a CRNA program because I am not an RN. It doesn’t matter that I can give drugs as both a paramedic and as an RT and it doesn’t matter that I have a stronger physiology background than a nurse. I don’t have the RN so I cannot be admitted to a CRNA program. That goes for nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, etc. RT does make you competitive for PA programs and I know several RTs who have gone on to PA school and done exceptionally well. (One last peculiarity: I work at a hospital where nurses are unionized. One of the union rules is that nurses cannot be supervised by non-nurses — which means there are NO management opportunities unless you are an RN. None.)

The downside to an RN degree is that it is usually pretty competitive to get into the program and there is often a long waiting list. It can also be very expensive. RT programs tend to be pretty easy to get into, are short, and are usually less expensive. For that reason, they also tend to have fairly high dropout rates. My class started with 32 and graduated 11. My co-worker has been an RT for almost 30 years and had about the same rate when she was in school. A friend is currently in school and they’ve lost a similar number form his class. A 60% dropout rate seems to be fairly standard. It is a math and science heavy program — even moreso than RN — and the low barrier to entry means quite a few people are blindsided by the work once they get in. Some folks are just not prepared to do that much math and science work. For me, that aspect to being an RT is what attracted me to it in the first place.

Best wishes!


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