Starting a Career as a Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory Therapist

A Respiratory Therapist or an RT treats cardiopulmonary or breathing problems in people. Mostly, you will find that their main patients include premature infants with underdeveloped lungs in need of Respiratory Therapy. Also included in the patient list of a Respiratory Therapist are people with COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis and similar lung problems. Their job involves examination of the patient after interviewing them and then developing a comprehensive Respiratory Therapy treatment plan for the patient. The Respiratory Therapist might have to remove mucus from lungs of the patient and help the patient to breathe by inserting ventilation tube inside their windpipe and connecting the other end to oxygen supply.   To find out more about this career you can go to

The work environment typically includes a variety of patients falling under different age groups. It also includes interactions and consultations with others physicians to do what is best for the patient because Respiratory Therapy is usually recommended by other doctors. A lot of independent judgment goes into the work of an RT. Sometimes, Respiratory Therapy technicians are used and it is the job of an RT to supervise them and ensure that treatment is being carried out properly. A Respiratory Therapist spends a lot of time in regular patient check-ups, performing diagnostic tests and using chest physiotherapy. In 2012, there were 119,300 jobs for RTs and the common places where RTs work are hospitals and nursing care facilities. Sometimes, they may treat their patients by visiting them at their home.

How To Become A Respiratory Therapist:

An Associate Degree is a must for a person to become a Respiratory Therapist. Usually, you will find that most RT programs are bachelor degree programs and when it comes to employment opportunities, graduation from such programs and courses is exactly what the employers prefer. Vocational schools, medical schools, colleges and Armed Forces all offer courses and programs in Respiratory Therapy. The courses that students take up must include human anatomy, microbiology, physics and physiology, apart from insurance reimbursement, record keeping, patient assessment, diagnostic tests and therapeutic procedures for their patients.

Apart from Alaska, all states in the US require RTs to be licensed. Different states have different requirements for licensing of an RT but generally, the student must graduate from a program that has accreditation from CoARC (Commission on Accreditation of Respiratory Care) and an associate degree from the same is also a must. Apart from this, in order to get licensed, the candidate needs to pass the state/national exam. CRT Exam and RRT Exam must be written in order to get licensed. Depending on your state, you might have to qualify either or both CRT and RRT. If you are an RT in a state where these exams do not fall under requirement, you would still be advised to appear for them since the employers who hire you might require these exams.

How Much Does A Respiratory Therapist Make?

Respiratory Therapist salaries are set to rise by 2020, as per BLS and this is also rated as one of the fastest growing professions that need an associate degree with a growth rate of 19%. In 2012, the median Respiratory Therapist salary was $55,870 annually and hourly wages for the same year were $26.86. However, it should be interesting to note that the top 10% of the workers earned over $75,430 while the bottom 10% earned under $40,980. These salary scales are usually offered for full time work since RTs’ major places of working include hospitals that are open 24×7. Some RTs also work in evenings, weekends or at night.

As far as the job outlook goes, apart from the expected 19% growth in jobs for RTs, and great Respiratory Therapist salary prospects by 2022, the overall outlook seems booming for RTs with about 22,700 positions all set to open by that time. The demand is mostly set to rise because the elderly and middle aged population will grow in the coming years, leading to an increase in respiratory issues that restrict the function of lungs or damage them permanently.