Becoming a Registered Respiratory Therapist

While becoming a registered respiratory therapist is not required to begin working, it can increase your chances of finding a better job. The National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) offers a multi-step process designed to teach and verify your understanding of the inner-most workings of the respiratory therapy field. Achieving such a designation could open up opportunities to a wide variety of career options with a higher respiratory therapist salary. If you are interested in becoming a registered respiratory therapist, use the information below to chart your course.

1. Earning a Respiratory Therapist Degree

The first step in the respiratory therapist registration process is to earn a degree. The minimum educational requirement for a registered respiratory therapist is to earn a 2-year associate’s degree. Because most people want advancement opportunities, they choose to pursue a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in respiratory therapy.

Regardless of which type of degree you pursue, make sure your training program is accredited by either the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). In order for you to become a registered respiratory therapist, you must have graduated from an education program that has been accredited by at least one of these two agencies. You can check with your school’s admissions representatives to verify your program’s accreditation status.

2. Becoming a Certified Respiratory Therapist

Before you can take the registered respiratory therapist exam, you must first become a certified respiratory therapist. You can do this by passing the entry-level CRT exam administered by the NBRC. In fact, if you don’t complete this step of the process, your degree alone will not help you find a job. This is because you must have a respiratory therapist certification before being allowed to work in every state besides Alaska.

The CRT exam involves 160 multiple choice questions that will test you on everything you learned during your respiratory therapist training. You will be given three hours to complete the exam to the best of your ability. For additional information about the CRT, including practice exams, visit the NBCR website.

3. Passing the Registered Respiratory Therapist Exam

Once you pass the CRT, you will be eligible to take the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) examination, which is also administered by the NBCR. Unlike the CRT, this exam will test you on the most advanced areas of the respiratory therapist job description. To become a registered respiratory therapist, you will have to use everything you learned throughout the education and certification process.

Use the NBCR website to apply for the registration test. Once approved you’ll be given a confirmation of eligibility with information on scheduling your exam. The test is offered six days a week in over 170 locations across the country. Keep in mind, you must complete the certification and registration within three years of earning your degree in order to be eligible. If you miss the three year window you’ll be asked to re-take the CRT exam before you can continue onto your Registered Respiratory Therapist Exam.

The RRT exam itself is broken down into two different sections:

  • The Written Exam (WRRT) consists of 115 questions covering a variety of topics ranging from clinical data review to proper equipment usage and therapeutic procedures. Candidates are given two hours to complete this part of the registration process.
  • The Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE) involves ten different real life scenarios meant to encompass the different roles of a registered respiratory therapist within the respiratory care field. Candidates are given four hours to complete these reenactments and demonstrate their competency in a hands-on environment.

For more information about becoming a registered respiratory therapist, and to find practice versions of both the WRRT and the CSE tests, contact the NBCR.