How to Become a Respiratory Therapist in Virginia

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment growth rate for respiratory therapists to be 19 percent in the current ten-year period ending 2022, compared to an average overall job growth rate of 11 percent. In 2013, the annual salary for respiratory therapists in Virginia stood at $56,550. Virginia contains a metro area with one of the highest national concentrations of RT jobs: the Kingsport/Bristol area on the Virginia/Tennessee border.

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Follow these five steps to learn how to become licensed as an RT through the Virginia Department of Health Professions:

Enroll in an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Degree Program
Pass Your NBRC Exams
Apply for Your Virginia Respiratory Care Therapist’s License
Maintain Your Virginia License Through Continuing Education



Step 1. Enroll in an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Degree Program

The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoArc) names eight approved and accredited RT programs located in schools throughout Virginia. All eight programs are RRT level; conferring AS, AAS and BS degrees. A CoArc report revealed that together, the eight RT programs in Virginia had a total of 127 graduates in 2012. Subsequent job placement outcomes varied by school, ranging from 59.6 to 97.9 percent.

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Depending on the degree you choose to earn, you may have to complete a preparatory certificate program to qualify for the degree program. Prep courses may include topics such as:

  • Human Physiology
  • Computer Applications
  • Respiratory Care
  • Cardiopulmonary Science

Degree-level programs may include subjects such as:

  • RT Theory/Procedures
  • Mathematics/Algebra
  • Social Sciences
  • Patient Assessment
  • Cardiopulmonary Pharmacology

An RT degree program includes a practicum at a local hospital or clinic. Students may be required to supply their immunization records, submit to a physical, undergo a criminal background check and drug screening, and provide documentation of a current CPR healthcare provider certification, before being allowed to interact with patients.



Step 2. Pass Your NBRC Exams

CRT Credential

When you have successfully completed your respiratory therapy program, you are eligible to take the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination and earn the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The NBRC is the national certifying board for respiratory therapists that provides the credentials that state licensure is based on. Unless you qualify for the CRT credential, you cannot obtain a license to practice in Virginia.

The Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination tests your understanding of relevant equipment, therapeutic procedures and clinical data through your responses to 160 multiple choice questions. You are given three hours to take the exam. You must be at least 18 years old to take the test.

RRT Credential

The advanced level Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential is considered the standard of excellence, and possessing this credential may help you to secure higher-paying work.

The exam you will take to earn the RRT is the same Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination required to earn the CRT, but you are required to achieve a higher cut score, as well as take an additional Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE).


Step 3. Apply for Your Virginia Respiratory Care Therapist’s License

Once you have passed your CRT exam, you can apply online for your RT license on the Virginia Board of Medicine website. The site notes that it takes from six to eight weeks for an application to be processed, but you cannot practice in the interim, because the state of Virginia does not issue temporary licenses.

Virginia also does not participate in reciprocity; an RT license applicant must meet the education and examination requirements of the state to become licensed in Virginia.

If you are an RT and have been licensed outside of Virginia, but have not practiced recently, you must have a minimum of 160 hours of professional practice as a respiratory care practitioner within the 24-month period immediately preceding your application for licensure. Active practice may include supervisory, administrative, educational or consulting activities.



Step 4. Maintain Your Virginia License Through Continuing Education

Your RT license must be renewed every two years, during your birth month in each odd-numbered year. You must submit your renewal application no later than midnight of the day that your license is set to expire. If you renew after your license deadline, you will have to pay an additional fee.Your license can only be updated within 60 days prior to your expiration date, but the state may consider early renewal in the case of military deployment. You must pay a fee of $135.00 to renew your license.

You can renew your license online at the Virginia Department of Health Professions website. You can also change your address of record, provide emergency contact information, and request duplicate licenses issued through the Department of Health Professions.

In order to renew your license, you must also provide proof that you have satisfied the state’s ongoing requirements for continuing education (CE). When you apply for renewal, you have to demonstrate that you have completed 20 hours of continuing respiratory care education as approved and documented by a sponsor recognized by the ARRC. Alternately, you may show proof that you completed courses directly related to the practice of respiratory care, as approved the American Medical Association for Category 1 CME credit, within the last two years.

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