Years of School
Respiratory therapists provide care and treatment for patients suffering from breathing and cardiopulmonary difficulties. They may also provide emergency medical care for patients who have experienced asphyxiation, heart attacks, or shock.
Respiratory Therapist Salary
How much do respiratory therapists make? The median salary for respiratory therapist is just over $54,000. The lowest 10% earned around $40,000 while the highest 10% earned $73,000 or more.
Respiratory therapists with Registered Respiratory Therapist certification earned the most, with the median registered respiratory therapist salary sitting at just over $63,000. Respiratory therapists in nursing care facilities have the highest median salary at $57,450, followed by those employed by home health care services at $55,960. Respiratory therapists employed in private physician offices earn the lowest median salary at $52,500, while the median salary for respiratory therapists employed by hospitals is $54,210.
Respiratory Therapist Job Description
What is a respiratory therapist? A respiratory therapist cares for and treats with patients who have difficulty breathing. They treat a wide range of patients, from those with chronic respiratory diseases, to premature infants, to elderly patients with diseased lungs. Respiratory therapists in hospitals and care facilities may also be called upon for emergency care when patients who have experienced heart attacks or asphyxiation.
Respiratory therapists can work in a number of varied work environments, from hospitals, to nursing care facilities, to private doctor offices, to out-patient care in the patient’s home. Respiratory therapists who work in doctor’s offices tend to work regular hours, but those employed in hospitals or nursing care facilities may work night or weekend hours.
Respiratory therapists are often on their feet for extended periods of time, and occasionally may be required to turn or lift disabled patients. They are also regularly exposed to patients with communicable diseases.
Respiratory Therapist Duties
What does a respiratory therapist do?
- Examine and interview patients with breathing/cardiopulmonary issues
- Perform diagnostic tests
- Develop a treatment program after consultation with physicians
- Implement treatment programs
- Monitor and keep records of treatment progress
- Supervise respiratory therapy technicians when they implement tests and evaluate the findings.
- Provide emergency care
Alternative Jobs Titles
- Certified Respiratory Therapist- This is the entry-level respiratory therapy level that one is awarded upon meeting the required educational requirements and passing the appropriate NBRC exam.
- Registered Respiratory Therapist- Highest level of certification for respiratory therapists.
How To Become A Respiratory Therapist
Respiratory therapists must possess an associate’s degree, although many employers prefer those with bachelor degrees. The main certifying body for respiratory therapists is the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), which offers two levels of certification. Licensing is required in all states except Alaska.
Education & Training Requirements
An associate’s degree is the minimum formal education required for entry level respiratory therapist positions, although many respiratory therapists possess bachelor degrees. Respiratory therapist programs can be found at colleges and universities, vocational and technical schools, as well as the U.S. Armed Forces.
All respiratory therapist training programs will include a clinical component that allow the future therapist to gain practical experience treating patients in a supervised environment.
Sample Courses in a Respiratory Therapy Program
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Cardiovascular system
- Respiratory-based therapeutics
- Pulmonary care
- Mechanical ventilation
Respiratory Therapist Schools
When looking for respiratory therapist schools, it is important to ensure the institution is certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
Certification & Licensing
Certification in the respiratory therapist profession is overseen by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The NBRC offers two levels of certification: the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) designation, and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) designation.
The Certified Respiratory Therapist exam consists of 160 multiple-choice questions. The exam fee is $190, and people will have three hours to complete it. In order to sit for the CRT certification exam, the candidate must have either completed an associate’s degree from an accredited program or completed the equivalent coursework in a bachelor degree program.
The Registered Respiratory Therapist exam has a $250 fee. The exam consists of 160 questions, and it also includes a 10 question simulation section where the test taker will have to “treat” an imaginary patient’s condition. In order to sit for the RRT certification exam, the candidate must possess CRT certification.
In order to practice as a respiratory therapist, all states (except Alaska) require candidates to apply for licensing. Licensing requirements will differ from state to state, so check with your local state board or department of health for licensing requirements.
The projected job outlook for respiratory therapists is excellent. Career opportunities for respiratory therapists are expected to grow 28% from 2010-2020. This is a higher than the national average for all jobs, which is between 10 and 19%. Currently, a little more than 112,000 people work in this field, but by 2020, that number is expected to grow to 143,900.