Certified vs. Registered Respiratory Therapist
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While there are many specialized health care professionals, there are none quite as critical as respiratory therapists. Their training and education are for the sole purpose of improving a patient’s respiration, a function essential for life.
Both certified and registered respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing for a variety of reasons including premature birth, chronic lung disease, viral infections, asthma, or emphysema. They work as part of holistic patient care teams under physician supervision. They are most commonly employed at hospitals and long-term care facilities, although some may work for physicians’ offices or other health care centers.
Education requirements for certified and registered respiratory therapists are the same: complete an associate’s degree or higher from a Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) accredited program. They are even both required to take the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) exam, although RRTs must also pass the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE).
So with the scope of practice, place of employment, and education all being the same, what is the difference between a CRT and RRT certification? Continue reading to learn about the difference and overlap, including a thorough side by side comparison chart.
Certified vs. Registered Respiratory Therapist: Similarities, Differences, And Overlap
Certified and registered respiratory therapists can perform the same functions and patient care and are even employed at the same places. Certified respiratory therapists (CRTs) hold an entry-level certification, while registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) hold a more advanced certification.
Aspiring professionals can become either a CRT or RRT credential by completing an accredited respiratory therapy program. This program can be either an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. The more education a candidate completes, the better their chances of employment and of passing the required examinations.
CRTs must pass the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) exam through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). In order to earn an RRT credential, candidates must also pass the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE). To be eligible to take the CSE, candidates must pass the TMC with a high score. Both the TMC and CSE are considered some of the most challenging exams in the medical field.
A CRT is required for licensing as a respiratory therapist in most states. Some states require respiratory therapists to earn the more advanced RRT credential to be licensed. Candidates should contact their local boards to ensure they have the necessary qualifications.
While there is quite a bit of overlap between the two certifications, there are some key differences. Here is a detailed side-by-side comparison.
Side-by-Side Comparison: Certified vs. Registered Respiratory Therapist
|Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)||Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)|
|Number practicing in the United States||The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are approximately 132,090 respiratory therapists currently employed in the US.||According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 132,090 respiratory therapists are currently employed in the US. The BLS does not distinguish between certified and registered professionals.|
|Pay||$64,424 per year (median pay) according to Salary.com||$69,209 per year (median pay) according to Salary.com|
|Expected job growth (BLS), 2019-29||19 percent||19 percent|
|Anticipated number of new positions created (BLS), 2019-29||26,300||26,300|
|Degree Requirements||CRTs must complete at least an associate’s degree from a Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) accredited program.||RRTs must complete at least an associate’s degree from a Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) accredited program.|
|Degrees available||CRTs can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy or a related field.||RRTs must earn at least an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy. Many professionals in this field pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher as the additional education can help with passing the certification exams.|
|Program details||Respiratory therapist programs include coursework in anatomy, biology, respiratory care, pharmacology, and therapeutics. Students must also complete clinical internships where they gain hands-on skills. Associate degree programs can be completed in as little as two years.||
RRTs can complete either an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. Coursework varies by program but typically include anatomy, math, pharmacology, pathology, therapeutics, psychology, and critical care.
All programs include a clinical internship where students learn to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom.
|School accreditation||Programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) for students to be eligible to sit for the CRT examination.||To be eligible for RRT certification, students must complete a Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) accredited program.|
|Schools that offer in-person programs||
The following five schools offer on-campus associate’s respiratory therapy programs:
The following five schools offer on-campus bachelor’s respiratory therapy programs:
|Schools that offer online programs||
The following four schools offer online associate degrees in respiratory therapys:
The following five schools offer online bachelor’s degrees in respiratory therapy:
|Certification||CRT certification is through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Certification is obtained by passing the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination.||RRT certification is through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Certification is obtained by passing the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) examination and the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE).|
|State licensing||CRTs must be licensed in every state except Alaska. Licensing is done on a state by state basis, and requirements can vary.||RRTs are required to obtain state licensure in every state except Alaska. Applicants should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary qualifications.|
|Re-certification||In order to maintain CRT credentials, certificate holders must pay an annual fee and complete 30 continuing education credits every five years.||RRTs must maintain credentials. In order to do so, they must pay an annual fee and complete 30 continuing education credits every five years.|
CRTs can also earn a Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT) certificate through the NBRC.
While there are other specializations, respiratory therapists must hold an RRT certification in order to be eligible to sit for the examinations.
RRTs can earn one of four specializations offered by the NBRC. They are:
|Practice framework||CRTs work under the supervision of a physician. They work as part of a team and are responsible for all care that has to do with respiration. They can make decisions independently in critical situations.||RRTs function as team members and are supervised by a physician. They are responsible for all patient care that is related to respiration, oxygenation, and lung function. While they can make decisions independently in an emergency, typically, they must follow a physician’s orders.|
|Skills required for success||
CRTs work closely with patients, so they must have a high degree of compassion. Because they also work as a team, respiratory therapists must have strong communication and interpersonal skills.
Often, respiratory therapists work on emergency cases, so they must be able to stay calm under pressure. They also must be detail-oriented and have strong recall skills.
The skills required to excel as an RRT include:
|Common practice settings||Respiratory therapists work in a variety of settings as part of a larger health care team. They are typically employed at hospitals, nursing care facilities, and physician offices.||While respiratory therapists can be employed anywhere patients need respiratory support, they most commonly work at long term care centers, nursing care facilities, physician offices, and hospitals.|