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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does a respiratory therapist do?

A: There are more than 100,000 respiratory therapists in the United States. They are members of the health care team that provides respiratory care for patients with heart and lung disorders. Typically, respiratory therapists are a vital part of a hospital's life saving response team that answers patient emergencies. Respiratory therapists work with patients of all ages in all areas of the hospital and are qualified to perform critical care and neonatal procedures. While most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, an increasing number of them have branched out into alternate care settings, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation programs, physicians' offices, home health agencies, specialized care hospitals, medical equipment supply companies, and patients' homes. Respiratory therapists perform procedures that are both diagnostic and therapeutic including lung capacity, management of ventilator care, treatment of lung problems such as asthma, croup and cystic fibrosis.

Q: What is the average salary for a respiratory therapist?

A: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase faster than average over the next decade, primarily because the aging baby boom generation will increase the number of older people, who tend to suffer the most from respiratory conditions like pneumonia and COPD. The need for RTs is expected to grow by up to 26 percent. According to the 2014 Human Resources study from the AARC, the average annual earnings of RTs working in the U.S. is $62,223. New respiratory therapy graduates in the United States can expect an average salary range of $56,404 to $59,610 per year. In Rhode Island, CCRI graduates start at $25-28 per hour, and can earn as high as $30 per hour. An extra hourly rate (shift differential) is paid above the base rate for weekend and evening work.

Q: What type of training is required, and where might I go to get this training?

A: CCRI offers a two-year, fully accredited respiratory therapist program (six semesters) which includes classes and clinical practice. Graduates of the Respiratory Therapy Program earn an Associate in Applied Science Degree (AAS), and must pass a national entry-level (CRT) examination in order to obtain a state license to practice respiratory care. They are eligible to sit for the advanced-level national examination (RRT). Some students elect to expand their program to three years. Permission of the Program Director is required to ensure that courses are taken in the proper sequence.

Q: What are the necessary high school courses I need to take in order to be accepted?

A: Students should take science and math courses. The specific courses that will be beneficial are algebra, general science (including chemistry and biology). Students should also have good reading and communication skills.

Q: What does the education program consist of at CCRI?

A: Students take courses in the classroom and laboratory such as biology, chemistry, algebra, and respiratory courses. The students will also practice their skills by caring for patients in the hospital.

Q: What is the typical cost of this program?

A: The typical cost of the program for a full-time student is the current CCRI tuition and fees, laboratory fees, books, uniforms and travel expenses to the clinical sites. Additional information can be found on the Bursar website at

Q: How do I apply for the program?

Admission procedures and specific program admission guidelines for Performance-Based Health Sciences can be found on the Office of Enrollment Services website at

Q: Whom may I contact for more information?

Ellen Schulte
Office of Enrollment Services
Community College of Rhode Island
Warwick Campus
400 East Avenue
Warwick, RI  02886
(401) 825-1091
[email protected]

If more information is needed, contact Mrs. Amy Chaves, Respiratory Therapy Program Director, at the above address or telephone (401) 333-7024 or email [email protected].

Q: What online resources would you recommend?

American Association for Respiratory Care -
This is the professional organization for Respiratory Therapists. Click on Career and scroll down for more - see Life and Breath Video: This exciting video shows respiratory therapist at work. It requires Real Player download to view.

Community College of Rhode Island -
Official website of Community College of Rhode Island

National Board for Respiratory Care -
This website contains information on national testing and credentials that can be earned in respiratory therapy.

US Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics - Information on Respiratory Therapists from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.