The Temple College Advanced Respiratory Therapist Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care and provides educational experiences and all course work necessary to qualify the graduate for credentialing exams offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Students desiring admission into the Respiratory Care Program must first meet the basic entrance requirements for Temple College. They then must file for admission to the Respiratory Care Program.

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William Cornelius III, EdD, RRT-NPS, RCP

  Respiratory Care Faculty  
Career Information

What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Photo of respiratory care studentWhile most people take breathing for granted there are many among us who cannot. Abnormalities of all kinds may affect our ability to breathe. Breathing is primarily a reflex activity that brings in air with oxygen as its most important component and we exhale air with higher amounts of carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of normal metabolism. For many people, however, getting the oxygen in and the carbon dioxide out is difficult. People who have chronic lung problems, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema often find breathing is a major difficulty. Others may also be the victims of accidents, or may suffer from various cardiac problems or have cancer or cystic fibrosis. Newborn premature infants often have greatly labored breathing and need respiratory support in order to survive.

For individuals with breathing difficulties many may seek assistance from healthcare organizations, and in most cases will be seen by a respiratory therapist. Respiratory Therapists work under the direction of a physician and will seek to evaluate, treat and care for anyone with heart and lung problems.

Role of the Respiratory Therapist

There are over 100,000 respiratory therapists working in the United States. They work with patients of all ages and in many different care settings. Respiratory Therapists are members of the health care team that provides respiratory care for patients with disorders of the heart and lungs.

Most Respiratory Therapists work in hospitals where they perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in virtually all areas in which there are patients. Many work in adult, pediatric and newborn intensive care units. Respiratory Therapists are typically a vital part of the hospital’s code team that handles patient emergencies. Of the more than 7,000 hospitals in the U.S., about 5,700 have separate respiratory care or cardiopulmonary departments. There are also many respiratory therapists now working in physician’s offices, as home health care providers, in specialized care hospitals, medical equipment companies, and diagnostic sleep laboratories.

Respiratory Therapists perform procedures that are both diagnostic and therapeutic.

In fact, the credentialing system for practitioners is built upon these two major functions. Many therapists may even specialize in acute care of a certain age population or work exclusively in a pulmonary or cardiopulmonary function laboratory performing diagnostic tests. It is a common misperception that the field is somewhat narrow, when in fact, it is actually quite broad. On the following page are examples of some of the activities respiratory therapists are engaged in.


Without accurate and timely information it would be difficult to treat patients appropriately. Respiratory therapists play an important role in gathering relevant information about problems a patient may be having. They may be involved in:

  • Physical examination of the chest – all of us have gone to the doctor and had our chest listened to and tapped on. This is one of the most common procedures done by practicing respiratory therapists.
  • Obtaining and analyzing sputum samples – patients with lung diseases, whether they are mild or acute often produce phlegm that may be indicative of the nature of an infection.
  • Obtaining and analyzing blood specimens – mostly arterial samples to determine the pH, levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases.
  • Measuring the capacity of a patient’s lungs to determine if there is any impairment in function.
  • Performing electrocardiograms (EKGs) and stress tests, along with other studies of the cardiopulmonary system.
  • Studying disorders of people with disruptive sleep patterns.
  • Assisting physicians in performing special procedures like bronchoscopy, in which a lighted, flexible instrument is introduced deep into the patient’s lungs to visually examine the inner parts of the airways and lungs.


  • Operating and maintaining various types of equipment from simple to complex.
  • Employing mechanical ventilation for treating patients who cannot breathe adequately on their own.
  • Monitoring and managing therapy that will help a patient recover lung function.
  • Administering medications in aerosol form to help alleviate breathing problems and to help prevent respiratory infections.
  • Monitoring equipment and patient responses to therapy.
  • Conducting rehabilitation activities, such as low-impact aerobic exercise classes, to help patient who suffer from chronic lung problems.
  • Maintaining a patient’s artificial airway, one that may be in place to help the patient who can’t breathe through normal means.
  • Conducting smoking cessation programs for both hospital patients and others in the community who want to kick the tobacco habit.


  • The Texas Respiratory Care Practitioners’ Act allows students enrolled in accredited respiratory care programs to be employed in respiratory care if they are in the clinical phase of their training. Many of our students have become employed prior to graduation and in many cases this has helped them with expenses while in school. Working while in school is made easier with the Monday through Thursday class schedule.
  • Salaries for respiratory care professionals vary widely, even in Central Texas, but wages throughout the state are competitive with other health related vocations.
  • According to a 2009 Human Resources study conducted by the AARC the average salary nationally for RTs was $62,223 with starting salaries for recent graduates ranging from 42,078 to 47,297.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics respiratory care is projected
    to grow 26%, faster than the average for all occupations through 2020.

Information Sessions

Please check the free standing sign inside the glass doors of the Health Sciences Center for directions to room 1818

Date Room
Friday, September 9, 2016 1818
Friday, October 7, 2016 1818
Friday, November 4, 2016 1818
Friday, December 2, 2016 1818
Friday, January 6, 2017
Friday, February 3, 2017 1818
Friday, March 3, 2017 1818
Friday, April 7, 2017 1818
Friday, May 5, 2017 1818
Thursday, June 1, 2017 1818


Information Sessions will be held in the HSC starting at 9:00 am to about 12 noon, usually on designated Fridays. A group tour of Scott & White Hospital takes place after lunch at approximately 1pm-2pm. Prospective students are shown areas where respiratory therapists work throughout the hospital. Specific instructions about the tours are given prior to lunch (lunch is on your own).

Please call the RSPT Office to add your name to the list/date when you would like to attend an INFO Session. We ask that you dress “semiprofessional” for the tour.

Training and Credentialing


  • Those entering the field are graduates of two or four year training programs.
  • Since December 31, 2001 all one year, non-degreed programs have been phased out.
  • Now there is a minimum of an associate degree required offered principally by community colleges.

Less common, although growing in number, are four-year baccalaureate degree programs. Graduate degree programs are also beginning to be seen.


  • Respiratory care practitioners are tested and gain their credentials from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).
  • There is no testing done by any agency in Texas; however scores from the Entry Level Examination for the Certified Respiratory Therapist examination are sent to the Texas Department of Health so that a person may receive the Respiratory Care Practitioner (RCP) credential.
  • In Texas it is mandatory to have the RCP. There is also some type of mandatory regulation in all 48 continental states.
  • After the graduate becomes a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) by passing a 140 question computerized NBRC exam and receives their RCP if in Texas, they become eligible for the registry sequence.
  • To become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) two computerized tests must be taken and passed. The first is a 100-question multiple choice exam, and the second is a 10-problem clinical simulation exam.

Specialty Credentialing

The NBRC also has a certification (Certified Pulmonary Function Technician – CPFT) and a registry (Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist – RPFT) for pulmonary function testing. There is also a test to become a Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care Specialist (NPS) and a fairly recent one for Sleep Disorders Specialist (SDS). A new one soon to come out will be for Adult Critical Care Specialist (ACCS).