How to Become a Respiratory Therapy Technician: Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Find out how to become a respiratory therapy technician. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in respiratory therapy.

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Respiratory Therapy Technicians

Respiratory therapy technicians work with physicians and respiratory therapists to help patients with breathing problems. They assist in treating, evaluating and caring for patients. These workers also perform procedures under the guidance of a therapist or physician.

Respiratory therapy technicians work in medical care settings that provide respiratory therapy, such as hospitals or nursing care facilities. Those who work in settings that care for individuals with contagious illnesses, like hospitals, may be exposed to such diseases. The majority of respiratory therapists work full-time, and their technicians may do so as well. Technicians must be physically able to assist patients and work well with others.

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Field Respiratory therapy or respiratory care
Licensure and Certification Varies by state; many states require certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care
Key Skills Communication skills; critical thinking and math skills; compassion and patience; knowledge of office and medical records software; technical skills to operate ventilators, blood gas analysis equipment, and suction equipment
Median Salary (2018)* $51,210

Sources: National Board for Respiratory Care, O*Net Online, *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Obtain an Associate's Degree

The first thing a prospective respiratory therapy technician needs to do is earn an associate's degree. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), the national certifying body for respiratory therapy professionals, requires respiratory therapy technicians to have an associate's degree in respiratory therapy or to currently be enrolled in a respiratory therapy baccalaureate program. Undergraduate programs give respiratory therapy technicians a chance to work alongside respiratory physicians and learn how to treat and evaluate patients for any possible cardiopulmonary or breathing disorders. Courses commonly included in an associate's degree program include respiratory care fundamentals, pharmacology, and physiology.

Step 2: Certification/Licensure

After completing a degree program, prospective respiratory therapy technicians should see if they need to be licensed by their state. State departments of health and occupational licensing boards may require a respiratory therapy technician to obtain a license prior to working. The exact requirements vary in each state but generally include passing scores on an examination and some education or work experience related to respiratory therapy.

Most states require these technicians to obtain certification through the NBRC before they can become licensed. To get certified by the NBRC, candidates must pass a written exam after meeting the NBRC's education requirements.

Respiratory therapy technicians need to maintain licensure. Every few years, these licenses require renewal, which consists of participating in continuing education courses. Acceptable continuing education courses vary but may include courses from the American Association for Respiratory Care, local health departments, or postsecondary institutions.

Step 3: Advancement Opportunities

After obtaining work experience and gaining knowledge from continuing education courses, respiratory therapy technicians who wish to advance their careers may have the option to move forward into respiratory therapist positions. Although some therapists have bachelor's degrees, they can qualify for most jobs with associate's degrees. Respiratory therapists must be licensed by the state they practice in. They also have several voluntary professional certifications to choose from. Much of the instruction from respiratory therapy technician training programs is useful to respiratory therapists.

Respiratory therapy technicians need an associate's degree in respiratory therapy or respiratory care. They may need to gain licensure or certification as well to meet state guidelines.

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