Respiratory therapists working in Texas enjoy the highest average annual salary in the region. The average RT salary in Texas was most recently calculated at over $55,000. The state is also home to the second-largest number of respiratory therapists in the country, with more than 10,000 highly-qualified professionals licensed in this field as of 2013. Across Texas, the occupational outlook for respiratory therapists is projected to be better than average.
As a prospective respiratory therapist you will work with the Texas Department of State Health Services to complete the Respiratory Care Practitioners Certification Program.
To become a respiratory therapist in Texas you will need to navigate the following steps:
Step 1. Graduate from a Respiratory Therapist Degree Program
The Texas Department of State Health Services is the licensing body for respiratory therapists across the state. To be eligible for licensure through this body you will need to meet several requirements:
- Have graduated from high school
- Have graduated from a CoARC-approved respiratory therapist degree program
- Have obtained certification by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC)
- Have passed a certification examination administered by the NBRC
First and foremost you must earn an associate’s degree at minimum in respiratory therapy recognized and accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). There are 36 respiratory therapist schools offering programs in Texas approved by CoARC. Of these, 31 offer an associate’s of science, while five offer a bachelor’s of science degree that includes a specialization in respiratory therapy.
As part of your academic curriculum you can expect to take courses like:
- Fundamentals of respiratory therapy
- Pharmacology of respiratory therapy
- Cardiopulmonary physiology
- Patient assessment
- Pulmonary capability testing
- Cardiopulmonary pathophysiology
- Patient care and management
- Clinical and practicum experience
As you approach the end of your RT program you will complete a clinical portion that focuses on real-world implementation of the skills you have learned. The clinical segment represents the point in your education where your theoretical knowledge is translated into practice.
Many professionals in this field opt to go beyond the minimum requirement for licensure by pursuing a bachelor’s degree. In competitive job markets within Texas, having a more advanced degree can increase the potential for career advancement.
While you are completing these requirements you may also wish to consider applying for a temporary certificate, which you can upgrade to a full license at a later time. Out-of-state candidates also have the option of applying for a temporary certificate.
Step 2. Consider Obtaining an Optional Temporary Certificate in Respiratory Therapy
You have the option of applying for a temporary certificate from the Texas Department of State Health Services to practice as a respiratory therapist. There are two basic prerequisites you must meet for this:
- Be a high school graduate
- Have graduated or be within 30 days of graduation from an CoARC-approved respiratory therapist degree program
You can apply for a temporary permit using the same online or paper application form you use when applying for a traditional respiratory therapist license. The temporary certificate is only valid for six months, at which point you can upgrade your temporary certificate after meeting the requirements for a full respiratory therapist license.
You may also be eligible for a temporary permit if you are a licensed respiratory therapist in a different state who has been actively practicing within the preceding year.
Step 3. Gain National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) Certification
Once you have reached this step you will have one remaining requirement to meet before you will be eligible to apply for a full respiratory therapist license from the Texas Department of State Health Services: Earn a nationally recognized credential through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) by passing the required examinations.
According to state law, you will need to obtain either of the following NBRC credentials to be eligible for licensure in Texas:
If you are at least 18 years old and are either enrolled in a CoARC-approved respiratory therapist bachelor’s degree program where you have completed your general coursework or have graduated from a CoARC-approved respiratory therapist associate’s degree program, you are eligible to take the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination for CRT credentialing – the minimum requirement for licensure. If you pass this exam you will become a Certified Respiratory Therapist.
Pursuing the advanced RRT credential means passing the same TCM required for the CRT, but with a higher cut score. Additionally, you will need to complete the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE). The RRT is purely voluntary, but often leads to better job opportunities.
You can register online for these exams with Applied Measurement Professionals, a third-party exam service provider.
You can take these exams at Applied Measurement Professionals testing centers across Texas:
- 6929 Airport Boulevard in Austin
- 19009 Preston Road in Dallas
- 6600 North Mesa in El Paso
- 6080 South Hulen in Fort Worth
- 4834 Beechnut in Houston
- 9516 Jones Road in Houston
- 4221 34th street in Lubbock
- 2300 North 10th Street, Suite D in McAllen
- 8131 IH-10 West, Suite 222 in San Antonio
Step 4. Apply for Licensure with the Texas Department of State Health Practitioners
At this point you will be ready to submit an official application for licensure as a respiratory therapist with the Texas Department of State Health Practitioners. You can do this either with a paper application packet or by completing an online application.
You can send the paper application packet to:
- Applying for a temporary permit as a graduate of a respiratory therapy program – fee $57
- Applying for a temporary permit as an out-of-state candidate – fee $57
- Applying for a regular license as an in-state or out-of-state applicant – fee $133
If you already have a temporary certificate you can fill out an application to upgrade this to a normal license.
As you near completion of the licensure process it can be helpful to be aware of some of the major healthcare employers in Texas:
- Methodist Hospital in San Antonio
- TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston
- Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas
- Saint Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston
- UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
- University Hospital in San Antonio
- Menninger Clinic in Houston
- Texas Health Harris Methodist in Fort Worth
- Medical City Dallas Hospital
- Seton Medical Center in Austin
Step 5. Renew Your Respiratory Therapist License
You will need to renew your respiratory therapy license biannually before it expires on the last day of your birth month. The Texas Department of State Health Services will send you a renewal notice and form at least 30 days before your license is scheduled to expire, and you must return the completed renewal form along with a renewal fee in order to renew your license. You must also complete one important remaining requirement to renew your license: continuing education.
Each two-year licensure cycle you will need to complete at least 24 hours of continuing education. To be considered valid by the Texas Department of State Health Services, your continuing education must develop your skills as a respiratory therapist that will directly benefit your patients. Examples of continuing education include:
- College education that is part of a respiratory care education program
- 15 clock-hours are considered to be equivalent to one semester credit
- Respiratory therapist coursework, conferences, seminars, and workshops
- In-service training offered at healthcare facilities
- Up to half of your continuing education can be obtained through self-study such as through online respiratory therapy courses
You need only report the details regarding your continuing education at the time of renewal, and must provide proof of completion if requested to do so by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Because the job market for respiratory therapists in Texas can be highly competitive, many professionals in this field choose to enhance their credentials while also fulfilling their continuing education requirements with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in respiratory therapy or a related health-sciences field. There are numerous opportunities for relevant academic advancement both online and throughout the state.