Respiratory therapists need at least an associate’s degree, but employers look favorably on applicants who have more education. Many colleges and universities, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces offer training. Most programs award an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. All programs have clinical components that allow therapists to earn course credit and gain supervised, practical experience treating patients. Respiratory therapy programs include courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and mathematics. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs should take courses in health, biology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
Respiratory therapists are licensed in almost all jurisdictions, although requirements vary. Licensure requirements in most places include completing a professional certification exam.
Many employers prefer to hire respiratory therapists who have certification. Certification is not always required, but it is widely respected throughout the occupation. Certification usually requires graduating from an accredited program and passing a certification exam and is often required in order to get a license.