How Long Does It Take To Become A Respiratory Therapist?

Careers in healthcare frequently offer chances to gain knowledge of extremely specialized diseases and body parts. For instance, respiratory therapists are experts in treating conditions affecting the respiratory system and the ability to breathe. 

You may determine if this is the appropriate career choice for you by learning more about respiratory therapists, including what they do and how long it takes to obtain a respiratory therapy degree. 

What you may study in a respiratory therapy degree program and how long respiratory therapy school lasts are two of the most often asked topics about becoming a respiratory therapist addressed in this article.

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Who is a Respiratory Therapist?

A respiratory therapist is a skilled healthcare professional trained in critical care, cardiopulmonary medicine, and pulmonary disease who works therapeutically with patients with these conditions. 

Respiratory therapists hold degrees in respiratory therapy from colleges or universities and have attained certification from the national board.

Respiratory therapists focus on patients with breathing difficulties, who can be of any age and have various medical conditions. 

They may all require the services of a respiratory therapist, whether they have asthma, emphysema, a chronic respiratory condition, or heart disease. These specialists shouldn’t be concerned about their work because it is a reality that there are more of these patients.

What is Respiratory Therapist School Like?

Respiratory therapy school is difficult. The timetable is limited. The reading list is strenuous. The skills lab gives you the willies. Additionally, it would be best if you made it through clinical rotations. 

When you learn that you will have to get up at 5 in the morning and prepare to pose as a professional in a hospital you have probably never been to while being observed by an instructor who is watching your every move, you are exhausted and emotionally spent.

You’ll need to be optimistic in the first place. Your professors know the program’s difficulty because we have all completed one. We know how difficult it can be to concentrate on your studies while maintaining a career and balancing a family and personal life for some of you. 

You cannot simply show up for your clinical rotations and gripe about them the entire day (let’s be honest, what personal life?). 

You can choose not to fall into negativity’s troughs and keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to improve other people’s lives. Approach your clinical with a grin on your tired face and the expectation that it will be both educational and enjoyable.

Patients with illnesses and problems associated with the heart and lungs can benefit from respiratory therapy, a specialized profession. After completing this three-year professional program, a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy is earned.

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Is Attending a Respiratory Therapist School Worth it?

Being a respiratory therapist is a fascinating and difficult vocation that calls for a high level of expertise and adaptability. There is anticipation as you enter the hospital doors because you never know what you might experience during that shift.

You’ll undoubtedly require strong resilience to handle the everyday peaks and valleys of the healthcare industry. 

You may be interested in learning more about your options for professional advancement as an RT after feeling secure and proficient in your fundamental abilities. This makes schooling to become a respiratory therapist worth the time spent. 

What Schooling Do You Need to Become a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory therapists must fulfill several educational prerequisites to acquire the skills and information necessary for their jobs. Most states require a respiratory therapist to get a bachelor’s degree or higher before obtaining a license to practice. 

Respiratory therapists frequently obtain a master’s degree to further their clinical careers. Under the guidance of an experienced respiratory therapist, respiratory therapists often complete a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training. 

After receiving an associate degree from a recognized college, some jurisdictions can let respiratory therapists work. 

In respiratory therapy school, you could study the following topics: 

  • The human body 
  • Heart and lung physiology 
  • Pediatric, adult, and newborn respiratory care 
  • the use of care in a therapeutic setting 
  • Procedures for diagnosis and treatment
  • Artificial ventilation techniques
  • Pharmacology 
  • Pathophysiology 
  • respiratory biochemistry theory

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Complete Your Degree in Respiratory Care:

Obtaining a degree in respiratory care is the first step in learning how to become a respiratory therapist. You want to think about effectively completing the curriculum necessary in a bachelor’s degree program in respiratory care to offer the best employment chances. 

The bachelor’s degree program often covers clinical respiratory care, procedures, pharmacology, pathophysiology, mechanical ventilation, and advanced respiratory theory. 

Programs often need a competence evaluation that validates acquiring the abilities and traits necessary for success in the respiratory care industry. You will also need to complete clinical hours to gain expertise in this crucial medical profession.

Pass the Credentialing Examinations

The next stage on your path to becoming a respiratory therapist is often to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist. The exam needed to obtain this certification is administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). 

This multiple-choice exam gauges your general knowledge and provides routes to certification at the entry-level and advanced levels.

Apply for and Obtain a State License

Except for Alaska, every state in the U.S. requires that respiratory care practitioners hold a license. For licensing in these 49 states, students must have earned at least an associate’s degree.

 Most states demand background checks from applicants seeking licenses, and some grant trainee licenses to students in recognized respiratory care programs.

Think about specializing in or continuing your education 

Although most occupations do not require postgraduate degrees, respiratory therapists can seek a master’s degree in respiratory care to boost their salaries and career prospects. 

These programs typically involve two to three years of part-time study. Remember that you can work in the field without a graduate degree. 

Respiratory therapists in practice can pursue continuing education through workshops, classes, and other professional advancement opportunities.

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How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Respiratory Therapist?

Consider a career in the healthcare sector if you desire a hands-on job where you can help others. However, you might not want to (or be able to) spend years in medical schools like many aspiring healers. 

Fortunately, you can enter a highly fulfilling career assisting those in need with a flexible, fast-track healthcare degree in only a few months. Respiratory Therapy is one of the fields that leads the list of the greatest healthcare careers in the country. 

You might be ideal for the respiratory therapist position if you’re kind, driven, and seeking to revitalize your career (RT). Anyone wishing a fulfilling and adventurous life can find it in this expanding industry.

In a nutshell, it takes at least two years to complete the standard standards for current RTs, including an associate degree and licensing. 

However, there are programs available that are adaptable and go more quickly. There are additional bachelor’s degree choices for aspirant respiratory therapists willing to dedicate more time to school.

The BLS reports that certain firms favor candidates with bachelor’s degrees, which can be earned in four years. Consider getting the minimum required associate degree to enter the sector quickly and returning to finish your bachelor’s degree once you’ve gained some work experience. Many Goodwin RT graduates return to complete their bachelor’s in health science. 

Every state also requires respiratory therapists to hold a license and a postsecondary degree. The National Board of Respiratory Care’s entry-level and advanced practitioner-level exams for respiratory care practitioners must be passed to obtain your license. 

You can use this to show that you are a skilled registered respiratory therapist.

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How Much Does it Cost to Become a Licensed Respiratory Therapist?

Depending on the degree, pursuing a career in respiratory therapy can be expensive. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2020–2021, a four-year public school’s average annual tuition was $9,359. The average annual tuition at two-year public universities was $3,501. 

Online students can frequently reduce out-of-pocket expenses and their actual program costs by forgoing expenses like housing, board, and transportation.

Salary and Job Outlook of a Licensed Respiratory Therapist After School


The median annual salary for respiratory therapists, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $60,280. In addition, according to the BLS, the employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase by 23% between 2016 and 2026, which is substantially faster than the average for all occupations. 

According to U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the top jobs in the country, the median annual salary for respiratory therapists is $59,710. They are ranked #19 in the category of best healthcare jobs and #26 overall in the list of the top 100 jobs. The report also states that the top 25% made $72,700.

Job Outlook

Why is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that the number of jobs in the field of respiratory therapy will increase by 23% by 2023? The BLS lists the following as important factors: 

  • Increased prevalence of respiratory diseases like pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other problems that might harm the lungs or limit lung function will be brought on by the growth of middle-aged and older populations. 
  • According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 12 million COPD patients have not yet received a diagnosis, and an additional 12 million do. 
  • The need for respiratory therapists in nursing homes and doctor’s offices may increase as the focus on decreasing hospital readmissions increases.
  • The need for respiratory therapists will rise in response to disease detection and prevention improvements, better drugs, and more advanced therapies. 
  • The need for trained respiratory therapists will continue to be fueled by respiratory issues brought on by smoking and air pollution.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifications do you need to become a respiratory therapist?

You require at least an associate’s degree in a related profession, such as respiratory care, to work as a respiratory therapist. A degree from a CoARC-accredited program is advantageous. Before you can work as a respiratory therapist, you must also obtain state licensure, which frequently needs a set amount of supervised clinical hours.

How quickly can someone become a respiratory therapist? 

Earning an associate degree from a CoARC-accredited program is the quickest path to becoming a respiratory therapist. Two years of full-time study are typically needed to earn an associate’s degree. Some online, accelerated programs enable students to complete their degrees in as little as 18 months by enrolling in more courses each semester and throughout the summer sessions.

Can I get a degree in respiratory therapy online? 

Yes, you may earn a degree in respiratory therapy online. Numerous recognized online associate’s and bachelor’s programs in respiratory care are offered by two-year and four-year colleges. 
Some colleges provide hybrid versions of these programs, where students take part-time classes online and attend intensive sessions on-site.

A Respiratory Therapist Requires What Grade? 

To become a respiratory therapist, you must complete a recognized associate’s or bachelor’s degree program.


To become a respiratory therapist, one must have four years of professional experience. That is the amount of time needed to learn particular respiratory therapy skills, but it does not consider formal schooling.

To become a respiratory therapist, you need to fulfill the standard educational requirements for a college degree, which can add another 7 to 9 years to the process. 

To be a competent respiratory therapist, you must have specific abilities.


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