How Long Does It Take to Become a Respiratory Therapist in California?

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Have you been asking, how long does it take to become a respiratory therapist in California?

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the respiratory therapist need is great – in various areas of the hospital, including emergency care.

The following information will give you a more in depth understanding of what to expect when taking respiratory therapist California coursework.


The basic requirements for becoming a respiratory therapist in California are as follows:

  • Associate’s Degree. Typically, getting an associate’s degree takes two years and covers topics like human structure, function, pathology and respiration care skills.
  • Bachelor’s Degree. A bachelor’s degree covers four years of study and features more intensive courses, such as management, research and adult critical care.

Licensure, Credentials, and Membership

After finishing the course in respiratory therapy, you’ll need to fill out an application for licensure from the Respiratory Care Board of California (RCBC). To be eligible for licensure, an applicant must meet the following conditions:

  1. Pass either TMC and CSE, CRT or RRT national examination.
  2. Submit application forms and supporting documents including official transcripts, exam scores and background investigation to RCBC
  3. Pay the necessary fees imposed by law

Graduates may also receive credentials in adult critical care, sleep disorders, and neonatal/pediatric care. For instance, advanced students may receive certification as a registered pulmonary function technologist (RPFT), allowing them to check vital signs and explain respiratory processes to patients. This designation requires a “high-cut” score on a pulmonary function exam.

A student membership in the California Society for Respiratory Care allows students to further themselves in their careers. While you can’t be a voting member as a student, you can hold an appointed position in the society. Students may take a professional ethics course as part of their membership.

Personality Traits

To work as a respiratory therapist, you must have certain personality traits. To succeed in the field, it is helpful to possess the following characteristics.

1. Compassion and Empathy

The work of respiratory therapists usually involves close contact with patients who may be experiencing breathing difficulties or pain. Therapists should show compassion and understanding to support patients emotionally and to build trust.

2. Attention to Detail

It is important for respiratory therapists to follow strict protocols when administering medications, monitoring a patient’s condition and operating complex medical equipment and machines

3. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Rapid thinking and making proper decisions during emergencies is very important. This means evaluating the condition of a patient, recognizing possible problems, and applying suitable interventions.

4. Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Effective communication is critical in interacting with health teams, educating patients’ families and documenting patient information correctly.

5. Physical Stamina

Many respiratory therapists must stay on their feet for many hours – moving equipment around or repositioning patients. Therefore, you must be physically able all the time to perform these duties.

Respiratory Therapy FAQs

If you’re considering an educational program in respiratory therapy, you may have the following questions.

1. What are the educational requirements for a respiratory therapy student, or AS and BS graduate?

You will need to complete an accredited respiratory therapy program leading either to associate’s degree (associate’s in science) or bachelors of science degree.

Respiratory therapy education programs usually include courses like anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, and similar coursework.

What are some of the career opportunities in respiratory care?

By taking a respiratory therapist program, you can enter into career opportunities in the respiratory care network. Doing so will allow you to obtain a respiratory therapist job or respiratory care job that involves a specialization.

Advanced specialties may include adult critical care or pulmonary function testing for pulmonary disease and similar breathing issues.

What are some of the key takeaways of receiving respiratory therapy training and meeting the education requirements for respiratory care?

A respiratory care associate license is dependent on a clinical simulation exam, such as a mechanical ventilation laboratory, and receiving an RRT credential.

Hands-on experiences make you more competent in emergency situations that involve pulmonary disease and serious respiratory difficulties.

As a respiratory therapist student, you’ll become well acquainted with certain respiratory conditions. You’ll learn about specific breathing issues, mechanical ventilation, and the concepts of airway care. This knowledge will help you in assuming first level respiratory therapist responsibilities.

A respiratory care education program, such as one offered by Platt College, involves respiratory care planning and specific education and specialization requirements. In turn, educators can ensure that their respiratory therapy degree programs are able to support certification and licensing requirements.

Students must pass a complete competency assessment. They must understand the degree requirements and clinical hours they must complete for their respiratory care practitioner license.

A clinical simulation examination for in-patient care for patients with breathing problems allows students to practice their skills first hand. An understanding of respiratory care pharmacology and respiratory medication administration is required as well.

A certificate of achievement, in the form of a degree, enables students to set upon a satisfying and long career path and journey.

2. Clinical Experiences and the Respiratory Care Practitioner

Practical training settings for a respiratory therapy program include hospitals, clinics and long term care facilities. At these sites, students undergo a supervised clinical experience under various professionals in real healthcare settings.

Diagnostic studies laboratory work opportunities also allow students to advance their understanding in the respiratory field.

3. Background Check and Immunizations for Respiratory Care and Respiratory Therapy Work

Respiratory therapists work in health care facilities that include vulnerable patient populations. Therefore, they need to be background checked and immunized when seeking employment in California and elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

If you plan to enter a degree program in respiratory therapy in California, you need to be prepared. If you’ve forged a pathway to health sciences in high school, and wish to pursue a fall 2024 associate degree in respiratory diseases–including asthma and COPD–take the next step.

Learn what it takes to be a California respiratory care practitioner. Getting the education to be a respiratory therapy associate will be time well spent.