Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema.
Work Environment: Most respiratory therapists work full time. Because they may work in medical facilities, such as hospitals that are always open, some may work evening, night, or weekend hours.
How to Become One: Respiratory therapists typically need an associate's degree, but some have bachelor's degrees. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.
Salary: The median annual wage for respiratory therapists is $61,830.
Job Outlook: Employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 14 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of respiratory therapists with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as a respiratory therapist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
Recently posted respiratory therapist jobs
Travel Respiratory Therapist - $2,016 per week
- Nationwide Therapy Group
- Marquette, MI
Respiratory Therapist * Discipline: Allied Health Professional * Start Date: 12/25/2023 * Duration: 13 weeks * 40 hours per week * Shift: 8 hours, evenings * Employment Type: Travel NTG is committed ...
Travel Registered Respiratory Therapist - $2,355 per week
- Travel Nurses, Inc.
- Marquette, MI
Registered Respiratory Therapist * Discipline: Allied Health Professional * Duration: 13 weeks * 40 hours per week * Shift: 8 hours, evenings * Employment Type: Travel Job Description We are looking ...
Travel Registered Respiratory Therapist - $1,921 per week
- Synergy Medical Staffing
- Marquette, MI
Registered Respiratory Therapist * Discipline: Allied Health Professional * Start Date: 12/25/2023 * Duration: 13 weeks * 36 hours per week * Shift: 12 hours, nights * Employment Type: Travel Travel ...
Travel Respiratory Therapist - $1,710 per week
- IDR Healthcare
- Marquette, MI
Respiratory Therapist * Discipline: Allied Health Professional * Start Date: 12/25/2023 * Duration: 13 weeks * 36 hours per week * Shift: 12 hours * Employment Type: Travel Why Choose IDR Healthcare? ...
Registered Respiratory Therapist
- Ironside Human Resources
- Kemmerer, WY
Respiratory Therapist Pay: $40.00 Hourly Sign On: $10,000 for 2 Year Commitment Respiratory Therapist Details: * Full-time, Permanent opportunity * Schedule : Monday to Friday, 8-5 * On Call * Strong ...
Travel Registered Respiratory Therapist - $2,062 per week
- LRS Healthcare - Cardiopulmonary
- Sioux Falls, SD
Registered Respiratory Therapist * Discipline: Allied Health Professional * Start Date: ASAP * Duration: 13 weeks * 36 hours per week * Shift: 12 hours, days * Employment Type: Travel Looking for NIC ...
What Respiratory Therapists Do[About this section] [To Top]
Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.
Duties of Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory therapists typically do the following:
- Interview and examine patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders
- Consult with physicians to develop patient treatment plans
- Perform diagnostic tests, such as measuring lung capacity
- Treat patients by using a variety of methods, including chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications
- Monitor and record patients' progress
- Teach patients how to take medications and use equipment, such as ventilators
Respiratory therapists use various tests to evaluate patients. For example, therapists test lung capacity by having patients breathe into an instrument that measures the volume and flow of oxygen when they inhale and exhale. Respiratory therapists also may take blood samples and use a blood gas analyzer to test oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Respiratory therapists perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier for them to breathe. Removing mucus is necessary for patients suffering from lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, and involves the therapist vibrating the patient's rib cage, often by tapping the patient's chest and encouraging him or her to cough.
Respiratory therapists may connect patients who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators that deliver oxygen to the lungs. Therapists insert a tube in the patient's windpipe (trachea) and connect the tube to ventilator equipment. They set up and monitor the equipment to ensure that the patient is receiving the correct amount of oxygen at the correct rate.
Respiratory therapists who work in home care teach patients and their families to use ventilators and other life-support systems in their homes. During these visits, they may inspect and clean equipment, check the home for environmental hazards, and ensure that patients know how to use their medications. Therapists also make emergency home visits when necessary.
In some hospitals, respiratory therapists are involved in related areas, such as diagnosing breathing problems for people with sleep apnea and counseling people on how to stop smoking.
Work Environment for Respiratory Therapists[About this section] [To Top]
Respiratory therapists hold about 135,800 jobs. The largest employers of respiratory therapists are as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||82%|
|Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)||4%|
|Offices of physicians||2%|
Respiratory therapists work in various areas of a hospital, including emergency rooms, critical care units, and neonatal intensive care units.
Respiratory therapists may stand for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients.
Injuries and Illnesses for Respiratory Therapists
Like other healthcare workers, respiratory therapists may be exposed to patients who have infectious diseases. They also may experience strains or sprains when lifting or turning patients. Because of this, they must take precautions to minimize their risk of illness or injury.
Respiratory Therapist Work Schedules
Most respiratory therapists work full time. Because they may work in medical facilities, such as hospitals that are always open, some may work evening, night, or weekend hours.
How to Become a Respiratory Therapist[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Respiratory Therapists near you!
Respiratory therapists typically need an associate's degree, but some have bachelor's degrees in respiratory therapy. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.
Education for Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory therapists need at least an associate's degree, but employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree. Educational programs are offered by colleges and universities, vocational–technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. Completion of a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care may be required for licensure.
Respiratory therapy programs typically include courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and math. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In addition to coursework, programs have clinical components that allow students to gain supervised, practical experience in treating patients.
High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs should take courses in health, biology, math, chemistry, and physics.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska, where national certification is recommended, although not required. Licensure requirements vary by state; for most states they include passing a state or professional certification exam. For specific state requirements, contact the state's health board.
The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body for respiratory therapists. The Board offers two levels of certification: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
Important Qualities for Respiratory Therapists
Compassion. Respiratory therapists should be able to provide emotional support to patients undergoing treatment and be sympathetic to their needs.
Detail oriented. Respiratory therapists must be detail oriented to ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments and medications in a timely manner. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.
Interpersonal skills. Respiratory therapists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to follow instructions from a supervising physician.
Patience. Respiratory therapists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.
Problem-solving skills. Respiratory therapists need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients' symptoms, consult with other healthcare professionals, and recommend and administer the appropriate treatments.
Science and math skills. Respiratory therapists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences and be able to calculate the right dose of a patient's medicine.
Respiratory Therapist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for respiratory therapists is $61,830. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,540.
The median annual wages for respiratory therapists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||$61,940|
|Offices of physicians||$60,570|
|Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)||$60,570|
Most respiratory therapists work full time. Because they may work in medical facilities, such as hospitals that are always open, some therapists work evening, night, or weekend hours.
Job Outlook for Respiratory Therapists[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 14 percent over the next ten years, much faster than average for all occupations.
About 9,400 openings for respiratory therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Respiratory Therapists
Growth in the older adult population will lead to an increased prevalence of respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other disorders that restrict lung function. This, in turn, will lead to increased demand for respiratory therapy services and treatments, mostly in hospitals.
In addition, a growing emphasis on reducing readmissions to hospitals and on providing patient care in outpatient facilities may result in more demand for respiratory therapists in health clinics and in doctors' offices.
Other respiratory conditions that affect people of all ages, such as problems due to smoking and air pollution or those arising from emergencies, will continue to create demand for respiratory therapists.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.