How to Become a Respiratory Therapy Assistant

Some respiratory therapy assistants only hold a high school diploma, though other credentials may be required. Find out how to join this profession.

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by Nalea Ko

Updated May 13, 2022

Edited by Madison Hoehn
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How to Become a Respiratory Therapy Assistant
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Do you want to learn about the physiology of the lungs and the diseases that affect them? Respiratory therapist assistants have played a critical role in the frontline response to COVID-19, taking advantage of their knowledge of intubation, ventilator management, and respiratory exercises. They may work under doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists to care for patients who have breathing issues.

The pandemic has exposed staff shortages in many respiratory therapy departments. Employers are projected to add more than 27,000 health technologist and technician positions from 2020-2030 — including respiratory therapist assistants — according to O*NET.

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Health technologists and technicians earned a median salary of $44,090 in 2020, and they can sometimes begin working with only a high school diploma. However, depending on the employer and work setting, these professionals may need an associate degree and additional certification. Learn more about respiratory therapy assistant requirements, salaries, and what to expect if you decide to enroll in a trade school.

Respiratory Therapy Assistant Requirements

What do you need to become a respiratory therapy assistant? Job requirements depend on the employer and the state. Some respiratory therapy assistants need to earn an associate degree in respiratory care and certification, while others only need a high school diploma.

High School or GED Diploma

Most respiratory therapist assistants hold a postsecondary degree. However, some people can become respiratory therapist assistants with only a high school diploma or GED certificate. Usually, states require students to attend a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

Associate Degree

Employers often require respiratory therapy assistants to hold a minimum of an associate degree. This degree also prepares future respiratory therapist assistants for licensure and credentialing exams.

Certification

Individuals who want to become certified respiratory therapists (CRTs) must pass the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination to earn state licensure in 49 states. Administered through the National Board for Respiratory Care, the exam includes 160 multiple-choice questions.

Test-takers with a high score on the TMC exam can take the Clinical Simulation Examination. Those who pass both exams qualify for the registered respiratory therapist (RRT) credential. Candidates need to be at least 18 years old and hold an accredited associate degree.

What Does Respiratory Therapy Assistant Training Look Like?

Students who complete an associate program learn about respiratory therapy through lessons that investigate chemistry, medical terminology, respiratory theory, cardiac physiology, respiratory procedures, and research. They typically complete 60-65 credits over the course of 2-3 years. Many associate programs prepare students to sit for the CRT and RRT exams.

Degree-seekers apply classroom lessons in clinical settings at local hospitals and medical centers. Hands-on training teaches students to monitor oxygen, start mechanical ventilators, and insert an artificial airway. Programs may culminate with graduates finding a permanent placement at their clinical site.

How Much Do Respiratory Therapy Assistants Make?

Pay for respiratory therapy assistants varies based on a worker's education, experience, and industry. According to Salary.com, as of April 2022, the median annual wage for respiratory therapy assistants was $56,160.

Outpacing the average job growth for other occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that positions for respiratory therapists will grow by 23% from 2020-2030. Because respiratory therapy assistants work alongside respiratory therapists, a similar job outlook can be expected.

Frequently Asked Questions About Respiratory Therapy Assistants

What skills does a respiratory therapy assistant need to have?

Respiratory therapy technicians must have strong communication skills to work with respiratory therapists and other healthcare workers, often in high-pressure situations. They also need a technical understanding of respiratory therapy to change tracheostomies and clean or transport equipment for repairs.

Is being a respiratory therapy assistant a good career?

Becoming a respiratory therapy assistant offers a chance to make a good living in a thriving but challenging industry. Individuals interested in joining the healthcare field with only an associate degree (or less) may find work as a respiratory therapy assistant appealing.

Do respiratory therapy assistants make more than nurses?

Respiratory therapy assistants do not typically may more than nurses. Registered nurses make a median hourly salary of about $36, compared to respiratory therapy assistants who make $27 per hour.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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