How to Become a Respiratory Therapist in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia Health Professional Licensing Administration’s Board of Respiratory Care regulates and licenses respiratory care practitioners in Washington D.C. The Board is responsible for evaluating applicant qualifications, administering examinations, recommending standards and procedures, and issuing licenses. Only licensed practitioners in Washington are permitted to use the title Respiratory Care Practitioner, or RC.

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If you want to become licensed as a respiratory care practitioner in Washington D.C., you must complete the following steps:

Complete an Approved Program in Respiratory Therapy
Apply for a License as a Respiratory Therapist
Pass a National Board for Respiratory Care Examination
Maintain your Respiratory Care Practitioner License



Step 1. Complete an Approved Program in Respiratory Therapy

All applicants for respiratory therapist licensure in Washington D.C. must complete a respiratory therapy degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).

There is currently 1 CoARC-accredited program in Washington, D.C. In addition, there are 8 programs in Maryland and 7 programs in Virginia. In 2012, 386 individuals applied to CoARC respiratory therapy programs in Maryland, while 507 individuals applied to respiratory therapy programs in Virginia.

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Although respiratory therapy programs are offered as both associate (AS, AAS) and bachelor’s-level (BS) programs, the minimum requirement for licensure is an associate’s degree. Due to an increase in demand by employers for respiratory therapists with advanced training and education, many are opting to pursue a bachelor’s degree program. Further, many associate degree programs are now designed to allow graduates to apply their associate degree curriculum toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree.

A degree program in respiratory therapy consists of a science-based curriculum that includes coursework such as physiology and biology; respiratory therapy coursework; and a clinical component that allows students to develop the clinical competencies required to meet the health care needs of patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. Coursework in respiratory therapy often includes study in:

  • Principles and practice of respiratory therapy
  • Ventilation and gas exchange
  • Respiratory therapy pharmacology
  • Neonatal/pediatric respiratory therapy
  • Cardiopulmonary diagnostics
  • Respiratory disease management



Step 2. Apply for a License as a Respiratory Therapist

All applicants for licensure must pass the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) examination through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to become licensed in Washington D.C. as a respiratory care practitioner. However, you must apply for licensure before you take the examination.

The Board requires that all applicants submit an application for licensure at least 90 days before the date of the examination. Further, applicants may not take the examination unless all related documentation is received by the Board at least 45 days before the date of the examination.

You must therefore complete the Respiratory Care Initial License Application Package and submit the following documentation:

  • Two identical 2×2 passport-size photos (with your full name and Social Security number written on the back)
  • A clear photocopy of your government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  • A licensing/application fee of $254 (made payable to DC Treasurer)
  • Respiratory therapy school transcript (sent directly from the educational institution)

The completed application and all related documents must be mailed to:

Health Professional Licensing Administration
Board of Respiratory Care
899 North Capitol Street, NE, First Floor
Washington, DC 20002

You may contact the Health Professional Licensing Administration’s customer service line at 1-877-672-2174 if you have any questions regarding the application process.



Step 3. Pass the National Board for Respiratory Care Examination

Before the Board will issue you a license to practice as a licensed respiratory therapist in Washington D.C., you must take and pass the NBRC’s Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) examination, an entry-level examination that is required for licensure in all 49 states that license respiratory therapists.

The CRT exam is administered through AMP testing centers throughout the U.S. In the Washington D.C. area, you may take this computer-based examination at the AMP testing centers in:

  • Washington D.C.
  • Chester, VA
  • Fredericksburg, VA
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Roanoke, VA
  • Glen Burnie, MD
  • Randallstown, MD

Upon the successful completion of the CRT examination, you must provide the Board with your NBRC-certified/validated test results so that the Board can complete your licensing process.

However, given the demand across the nation for respiratory therapists with advanced–level credentials, it is now common for respiratory therapists in Washington D.C. to purse an advanced-level respiratory care certification upon achieving the CRT credential.

To pursue the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential through the NBRC, you must first possess a CoARC-accredited respiratory therapist degree and a CRT credential from the NBRC. The RRT examination is comprised of a written portion and a clinical simulation portion, both of which must be passed to earn the credential. You have the option of taking both portions of the examination at the same time, if desired.

Like the CRT examination, you must take the RRT exam at one of the AMP testing centers. You can also apply online through AMP to take the exam.



Step 4. Maintain your Respiratory Care Practitioner License

Your DC respiratory care practitioner license expires on January 31 of odd-numbered years. You can expect to receive a renewal notice from the Board about three months before the expiration of your license.

To renew your respiratory therapist license in Washington D.C., you must complete the renewal questionnaire/application, pay the renewal fee of $169 , and show proof of the completion of at least 16 continuing education units (CEUs) during the preceding two-year period. Of the 16 required CEUs, 3 must be in ethics.

Board-approved education seminars, workshops, and programs include those administered or approved by:

  • American Association of Respiratory Care
  • Maryland/District of Columbia Society for Respiratory Care
  • A health care facility accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations
  • A regionally accredited college or university

You may also satisfy your continuing education requirements by taking courses or programs through the following organizations (provided that the training is related to respiratory care services):

  • American Medical Association
  • American Thoracic Society
  • American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
  • American Heart Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • American College of Chest Physicians
  • American Society of Anesthesiologists
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine
  • Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education
  • American College of Cardiology
  • American Lung Association
  • National Society for Cardiopulmonary Technologists

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