Certified x Registered Respiratory Therapist (CRT x RRT) (2023)

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While there are many specialized medical professionals, none are as critical asAtemtherapeuten. Your training and further education has the sole aim of improving the vital breathing of the patient.

Both certified and registered respiratory therapists care for patients who are experiencing breathing difficulties for a variety of reasons, including preterm labor, chronic lung disease, viral infections, asthma or emphysema. You will work as part of holistic patient care teams under physician supervision. They are typically employed in hospitals and long-term care facilities, although some may work for doctor's offices or other healthcare facilities.

The training requirements for certified and registered respiratory therapists are the same: completion of an associate's degree or higher in a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Both are even required to pass the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) exam, although RRTs are also required to pass the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE).

So what is the difference between a CRT and an RRT certification as the scope of practice, workplace and training are all the same? Read on to learn more about the difference and overlaps, including a full side-by-side comparison chart.

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Certified vs Registered Respiratory Therapist: Similarities, Differences, and Overlap

Certified and registered respiratory therapists can perform the same roles, provide the same patient care, and are even employed in the same locations. Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRT) have entry-level certification, while Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) have more advanced certification.

Prospective professionals can earn a CRT or RRT credential by completing an accredited respiratory therapy program. This program can be an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree. The more training a candidate completes, the better their chances of employment and passing the required exams.

CRTs must pass the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) Therapist Multiple Choice Examination (TMC). To earn an RRT qualification, candidates must also pass the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE). To participate in the CSE, candidates must pass the TMC with a high score. Both the TMC and the CSE are considered some of the most demanding exams in the medical field.

In most states, a CRT is required to be licensed as a respiratory therapist. Some states require respiratory therapists to earn the more advanced RRT rating to be licensed. Candidates should contact their local bodies to ensure they have the required qualifications.


Although there is some overlap between the two certifications, there are some key differences. Here's a detailed side-by-side comparison.

Head-to-Head Comparison – Certified vs. Registered Respiratory Therapist

Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)
Practice number in the United StatesErBureau of Labor Statisticsestimates that approximately 132,090 respiratory therapists are currently employed in the United States.According to the officethe labor statistics, there are currently approximately 132,090 respiratory therapists employed in the United States. The BLS does not differentiate between certified and registered professionals.
Pay$64,424 per year (median salary) based onsalario.com$69,209 per year (median salary) based onsalario.com
Expected Employment Growth (BLS), 2019-2919 percent19 percent
Projected Number of New Jobs (BLS), 2019-2926.30026.300
degree requirementsCRTs must complete at least an associate's degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Respiratory Care (CoARC).RRTs must complete at least an associate's degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
grades availableCRTs may pursue 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 earn a bachelor's degree or higher, as additional education can help them pass certification exams.
ProgrammdetailsRespiratory therapist programs include courses in anatomy, biology, ventilation, pharmacology, and therapeutics. Students are also required to complete clinical internships, during which they acquire practical skills. Associate degree programs can be completed in as little as two years.

RRTs can pursue an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree. Coursework varies by program but generally includes anatomy, mathematics, pharmacology, pathology, therapeutics, psychology, and critical care medicine.

All programs include a clinical internship during which students learn to apply the skills learned in the classroom.

school recognitionPrograms must be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Respiratory Care (CoARC) for students to be eligible to take the CRT exam.To be eligible for RRT certification, students must complete a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Respiratory Medicine (CoARC).
Schools that offer classroom programs

The following five schools offer associate respiratory therapy programs on campus:

The following five schools offer undergraduate respiratory therapy programs on campus:

Schools offering online programs

The following four schools offer online associate degrees in respiratory therapies:

The following five schools offer online bachelor's degrees in respiratory therapy:

certificationCRT certification is provided by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Certification is earned by passing the Therapist Multiple Choice Exam (TMC).RRT certification is provided by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Certification is earned by passing the Therapist Multiple-Choice Exam (TMC) and the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE).
state licenseCRTs must be licensed in all states except Alaska. Licensing is state-by-state and requirements may vary.RRTs are required to obtain a state license in all states except Alaska. Applicants should contact their local board to ensure they have the required qualifications.
recertificationTo maintain CRT certifications, certificate holders must pay an annual fee and complete 30 continuing education credits every five years.RRTs must manage credentials. They have to pay an annual fee and complete 30 continuing education credits every five years.

CRTs can also obtain CPFT (Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist) certification through the NBRC.

While there are other specializations, respiratory therapists must have RRT certification to sit the exams.

RRTs can earn one of four specializations offered by the NBRC. They are:

  • Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist
  • Specialist in intensive care medicine for adults
  • Specialist in neonatology/paediatrics
  • Specialist in sleep disorders
practice frameworkCRTs work under the supervision of a doctor. You work in a team and are responsible for all care measures that have to do with breathing. You can make independent decisions in critical situations.RRTs act as team members and are overseen by a doctor. You will be responsible for all patient care related to breathing, oxygenation and lung function. Although they can make decisions independently in an emergency, they usually have to follow medical orders.
Required Skills for Success

CRTs work closely with patients, so they need to have a high level of compassion. Because they also work in teams, respiratory therapists must have strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Respiratory therapists often work in emergencies, so they need to be able to remain calm under pressure. You must also be detail-oriented and have a strong memory.

Skills required to excel as an RRT include:

  • detail oriented
  • Compassionate
  • team player
  • problem solver
  • able to deal with emergencies
  • communication skills
Usual practice structureRespiratory therapists work in a variety of settings as part of a larger healthcare team. They are typically used in hospitals, care facilities and doctor's offices.Although respiratory therapists can work anywhere patients need respiratory support, they typically work in long-term care facilities, nursing facilities, physicians' offices, and hospitals.

Certified x Registered Respiratory Therapist (CRT x RRT) (1)

Kimmy Gustavson writer

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love of traveling the world began when her family moved to Spain at the age of six and since then she has lived extensively abroad, visiting six continents and touring more than 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and speaks French. When she is not writing or looking after her children, you can find her kite surfing, hiking or cooking.

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