Respiratory Therapy Frequently Asked Questions
Who are respiratory therapy practitioners
- Respiratory therapy practitioners (also known as respiratory therapists) are considered the go-to experts in their facilities for respiratory therapy technology. But their high tech knowledge isn’t just limited to the equipment they use in their jobs. They also understand how to apply high tech devices in the care and treatment of patients, how to assess patients to ensure the treatments are working properly, and how to make the care changes necessary to arrive at the best outcome for the patient.
- The combination of these skills-hands on technical know-how and a solid understanding of respiratory conditions and how they are treated-is what sets respiratory therapists apart from the crowd and makes them such a crucial part of the health care team.
What is the nature of their work/what do they do?
- Diagnosing lung and breathing disorders and recommending treatment methods.
- Interviewing patients and doing chest physical exams to determine what kind of therapy is best for their condition.
- Consulting with physicians to recommend a change in therapy, based on your evaluation of the patient.
- Analyzing breath, tissue, and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases.
- Managing ventilators and artificial airway devices for patients who can’t breathe normally on their own.
- Responding to Code Blue or other urgent calls for care.
- Educating patients and families about lung disease so they can maximize their recovery.
Where do they work? Where are job opportunities available?
- In hospitals giving breathing treatments to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
- In intensive care units managing ventilators that keep the critically ill alive.
- In emergency rooms delivering life-saving treatments.
- In newborn and pediatric units helping kids with conditions ranging from premature birth to cystic fibrosis.
- In operating rooms working with anesthesiologists to monitor patients’ breathing during surgery.
- In patient’s homes providing regular check-ups and making sure people have what they need to stay out of the hospital.
- In sleep laboratories helping to diagnose disorders like sleep apnea.
- In skilled nursing facilities and pulmonary rehabilitation programs helping older people breathe easier and get more out of life.
- In doctor’s offices conducting pulmonary function tests and providing patient education.
- In asthma education programs helping kids and adults alike learn how to cope with the condition.
- In smoking cessation programs assisting those who want to kick the habit for good.
- In air transport and ambulance programs rushing to rescue people in need of immediate medical attention.
- In case management programs helping devise long-term care plans for patients.
- Respiratory therapists held about 105,900 jobs in 2008. About 81 percent of jobs were in hospitals, mainly in departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology, or pulmonary medicine.
- Most of the remaining jobs were in offices of physicians or other health practitioners, consumer-goods rental firms that supply respiratory equipment for home use, nursing care facilities, employment services, and home healthcare services.
- Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How much money could I make as a respiratory therapist?
- Median annual wages of wage-and-salary respiratory therapists were $61,330 in 2019.
- The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,850 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,980.
What is the job outlook?
- Much faster than average growth is projected for respiratory therapists. Job opportunities should be very good.
- Employment change. Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow by 21 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing demand will come from substantial growth in the middle-aged and elderly population—a development that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease. Growth in demand also will result from the expanding role of respiratory therapists in case management, disease prevention, emergency care, and the early detection of pulmonary disorders.
- Older Americans suffer most from respiratory ailments and cardiopulmonary diseases, such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease. As the number of older persons increases, the need for respiratory therapists is expected to increase as well. In addition, advances in inhalable medications and in the treatment of lung transplant patients, heart attack and accident victims, and premature infants—many of whom depend on a ventilator during part of their treatment—will increase the demand for the services of respiratory care practitioners.
- Job prospects. Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for those with a bachelor’s degree and certification, and those with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants. The vast majority of job openings will continue to be in hospitals. However, a growing number of openings are expected to be outside of hospitals, especially in home healthcare services, offices of physicians or other health practitioners, consumer-goods rental firms, or in the employment services industry as a temporary worker in various settings.
- Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Is respiratory therapy right for me?
Check out the AARC’s information on what it means to Be an RT in order to find out!
What are the prerequisites for the program?
The prerequisites are now split into two categories, to reflect the importance of science and math in preparing you for the program. First, there are the two in which you are required to earn a 2.5 to be considered. They are:
- BIO 132 (Human Biology) OR BIO 253 and BIO 254 (Human Anatomy and Physiology)
- MAT 130 (Quantitative Reasoning )
Then, there are the two in which you are required to earn a 2.5 to be considered.
- ENG 131 (Writing Experience)
RES 101 is strongly recommended before beginning the program. HOC 130 is recommended if you have no health care background. Both courses will count for a point each in the application process.
How are decisions made about who is accepted into the program?
Decisions are made strictly on the point system.
I understand that acceptance is based on a point system. What are the criteria to earn points?
- Previous degrees earned (Associate, Bachelor, or Masters)
- Previous Allied Health Experience
- Grades received in pre-requisite classes
- Information Sessions
How does the admission process for the program work?
The first step is to submit an application to Jackson College (this can be done on-line). Once accepted, you will want to have official transcripts from other colleges sent to Jackson College for evaluation. You are encouraged to contact your Student Success Navigator, who will assess what prerequisites courses you will need. The application deadline is August 15. Once applications are received and evaluated, qualified applicants are offered acceptance in the program in December. The program begins in January and runs two years.
Do I need to complete all of the prerequisites before my application will be considered?
Respiratory Care applications can be submitted at any time, however the following steps are recommended:
- Complete pre-requisite courses
- Apply to program
If you are enrolled in courses that are used for determining points in the admission process you can still apply, but you will need to complete the courses with the required grades before you can be considered for acceptance.
When will I be notified if I have been accepted to the program?
Because some applicants will be enrolled in prerequisites they will not complete until December, then all applicants must wait to be notified until the grades for Fall term are submitted in December.
Should I do job shadowing in the field of respiratory therapy? Is job shadowing the same as the hospital tour on the application?
- Job shadowing gives the candidate an opportunity to see if the medical field is a good fit for them, and if the field is one toward which the student wants to devote time and education. The student can job shadow as much as needed to learn whether Respiratory Care is a good “fit.” It is worth no points in the application process.
- The student is responsible for finding a job shadow site.
How do I know if courses taken at other colleges will transfer to Jackson College to fulfill prerequisite requirements?
Your official college transcripts must be mailed directly from each of your prior colleges/universities to the Registrar’s office at: Jackson College, 2111 Emmons Rd., Jackson, MI 49201. They will then be evaluated for transfer. You are encouraged to contact a Jackson College Student Success Navigator, who will assess what prerequisites courses you will need.
When does enrollment take place?
Applications are due by August 15. Accepted students will be notified in December and would begin the program in January.
What methods are used to teach students?
- Accredited schools require you to participate in lecture, lab, clinical and didactic settings. Some of these courses are provided in an online format.
- Normal course work includes two years of didactic lectures, class work and labs. Each lab course is followed by an internship in the related clinical setting(s).
What is the basic curriculum for a degree in respiratory therapy?
- An associate degree is the minimum educational requirement, but a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be important for advancement. All states except Alaska require respiratory therapists to be licensed.
- Education and training. An associate degree is required to become a respiratory therapist. Training is offered at the postsecondary level by colleges and universities, medical schools, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. Most programs award associate or bachelor’s degrees and prepare graduates for jobs as advanced respiratory therapists. A limited number of associate degree programs lead to jobs as entry-level respiratory therapists. According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), 31 entry-level and 346 advanced respiratory therapy programs were accredited in the United States in 2008.
- Among the areas of study in respiratory therapy programs are human anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and mathematics. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the application of clinical practice guidelines, patient care outside of hospitals, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, respiratory health promotion and disease prevention, and medical recordkeeping and reimbursement.
- High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs should take courses in health, biology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Respiratory care involves basic mathematical problem solving and an understanding of chemical and physical principles. For example, respiratory care workers must be able to compute dosages of medication and calculate gas concentrations.
- Licensure and certification. A license is required to practice as a respiratory therapist, except in Alaska. Also, most employers require respiratory therapists to maintain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.
- Licensure is usually based, in large part, on meeting the requirements for certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The board offers the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential to those who graduate from entry-level or advanced programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and who also pass an exam.
- The board also awards the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) to CRTs who have graduated from advanced programs and pass two separate examinations. Supervisory positions and intensive-care specialties usually require the RRT.
- Other qualifications. Therapists should be sensitive to a patient’s physical and psychological needs. Respiratory care practitioners must pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and work as part of a team. In addition, operating advanced equipment requires proficiency with computers.
- Advancement. Respiratory therapists advance in clinical practice by moving from general care to the care of critically ill patients who have significant problems in other organ systems, such as the heart or kidneys. Respiratory therapists, especially those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, also may advance to supervisory or managerial positions in a respiratory therapy department. Respiratory therapists in home healthcare and equipment rental firms may become branch managers. Some respiratory therapists advance by moving into teaching positions. Some others use the knowledge gained as a respiratory therapist to work in another industry, such as developing, marketing, or selling pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
- Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Would I be allowed to work while I am in the program?
Most students work part-time while in the program. The program does require approximately four (4) days per week of a student’s time on average, which makes it practically impossible to work full-time and be in the program. Adding overly strenuous work requirements has typically caused poor outcomes. The program is a full time commitment.
How much does the program cost?
The Respiratory Care program requires a minimum of 72 credits.
Tuition & Fees
Tuition and fees are subject to change by the Board of Trustees. Total costs are determined by tuition based on the number of billing contact hours, the Student fee, and any course fees.
How long is the program?
After completion of the pre-requisites, the program is a two year program.
Is the program accredited?
There is no such thing as a non-accredited respiratory care program. The Jackson College Respiratory Care program is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
How many hours a week must I attend clinical?
During a clinical semester, the requirement is two 12 hours days per week.
Can I go to clinical at night or on weekends?
Not typically. Accreditation requires students to be placed in the best learning situations. There are a few very limited afternoon shift and weekend rotations available in some terms. Students may also be expected to rotate to other shifts for different experiences.
Where do I go for my clinical education?
Available hospitals are within an approximate one-hour radius from Jackson. The hospitals include:
- Henry Ford Jackson Hospital
- Bixby Medical Center
- Henry Ford Specialty
- Chelsea Community Hospital
- Herrick Medical Center
- Hillsdale Community Health Center
- Sparrow Health System
- Oaklawn Hospital
- University of Michigan Health System
- Mott Children’s Hospital
- VA of Ann Arbor
You will be required to attend rotations at several of these hospitals in order to acquire a complete and well-rounded clinical education. Different points in the program require different types of experiences, so the number and types of clinical rotations available will vary as well. There will also be rotations in respiratory care subspecialties, such as pulmonary function testing, home care, pulmonary rehabilitation, and many more.
If I were to complete the program, would I be eligible to become registered
YES! Completion of the Respiratory Care Program at Jackson College would prepare you to sit for the CRT and RRT (National Board for Respiratory Care) board exams. When all three exams are passed, you will be an RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist).
Will completing the program allow me to acquire a Michigan license?
Yes, you’d be eligible for licensing in any of the 49 states (including Michigan) where licensure is required. In Michigan, in order to become licensed, you’d need to graduate from an accredited program (like this one!), pass the CRT exam, pass a criminal background check, and pay your licensing fee. The requirements vary somewhat from state to state.