Respiratory Therapist Certification

In addition to undergoing formal training, earning a voluntary respiratory therapist certification is a great way to increase your chances of landing a higher-paying job. By becoming a certified respiratory therapist, you are demonstrating to both patients and employers that you have the foundation and skills to succeed in this high-demand career field.

Respiratory therapist certification is primarily offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). This organization, which has been voluntarily evaluating respiratory therapist competence since 1960, offers two certifications:

This page will walk you through the process of obtaining these certifications.

The Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) Certification

The CRT designation is the entry-level certification for respiratory therapists offered by the NBRC. It examines the essential skills of a respiratory therapist by way of an exam.

Requirements: To be eligible to take the CRT exam, a respiratory therapist must:

  • Be at least 18
  • Have graduated with at least an associate’s degree from a formal training program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). In some cases, a student currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program may still qualify.

Cost: As of 2013, CRT exam costs are as follows:

New Re-Apply Renewal (Active) Renewal (Inactive)
Written Exam $190 $150 $75 $150

Certification Process: Respiratory therapists interested in obtaining the CRT certification should apply through Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP), the organization that administers the exam. You will be prompted to pay the appropriate fee.

The exam itself consists of 160 multiple-choice questions covering medical knowledge, equipment, and clinical practices. Candidates have three hours to complete the exam. Study materials are available free through the NBRC website, or for purchase through the AMP online store.

The Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Certification

The RRT certification, offered by the NBRC, represents advanced-level respiratory therapist competency. An existing CRT credential is required to apply for an RRT.

Requirements: To be eligible to take the RRT exam, you must:

  • Be at least 18
  • Meet one of the following criteria:
    • Be a CRT who graduated from an associate’s-level program accredited by CoARC or CAAHEP
    • Be a CRT enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program that satisfies specific criteria outlined by the NBRC
    • Be a CRT with at least four years of clinical experience and 62 hours of training at an accredited school, with certain course requirements
    • Be a CRT who graduated from an entry-level respiratory therapist associate’s degree program and has accumulated two years of clinical experience
    • Be a CRT with a bachelor’s degree in another field, with at least two years of respiratory therapy experience, 62 hours of college-level training, and certain course requirements

Cost: Costs for RRT exams are as follows, as of 2013:

New Re-Apply Renewal (Active) Renewal (Inactive)
Written Exam $190 $150 $75 $150
CSE $200 $200 $125 $200
Both $390 $350 $200 $350

Certification Process: The RRT certification process consists of two exams which must be scheduled separately. The first part is a written exam consisting of 115 multiple-choice questions. The exam covers recall, analysis, and application of clinical knowledge, equipment, and procedures. Candidates have two hours to complete it.

The second exam is the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE), in which candidates face 10 realistic patient cases in a simulated clinical environment. Candidates have four hours to complete the CSE exam.

Study materials are available free through the NBRC website, or for purchase through the AMP online store.

The Recertification Process

The NBRC recommends recertification every three years, or whenever exam material is updated. Certified Respiratory Therapists and Registered Respiratory Therapists who wish to renew their credentials simply apply the same way an initial candidate would, but check the box on the application indicating a renewal. They are then charged the appropriate renewal fee instead of the first-time-applicant fee.

Recertification earns CRTs and RRTs Continuing Respiratory Care Education (CRCE) credits toward license renewal. CRTs earn 10 CRCEs, RRTs earn 15.

Benefits of Respiratory Therapist Certification

Demonstrating your expertise and competency as a respiratory therapist by means of a formal certification process proves to employers that you have the medical foundation, equipment knowledge and clinical expertise you need to excel in the role of a respiratory therapist. This helps to make you as employable as possible, and gives you the grounds to seek a higher salary and more responsibility. As today’s job market is highly competitive, employer standards are rising, making CRT and RRT certifications a desirable career step.

Some of the specific benefits you can gain from certification include:

  • Higher pay – Respiratory therapists with stronger foundations and more expertise may generally demand higher salaries than those with entry-level expertise
  • More job opportunities – Since employers prefer to hire respiratory therapists with more experience, those who are certified generally have more employment options than those who aren’t
  • NBRC membership status – This status looks good on a respiratory therapist’s resume and grants discounts on other NBRC offerings, including recertification
  • Continuing education – Maintaining a certification helps respiratory therapists keep their skills fresh, and earns continuing education credits toward license renewal

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