Respiratory Therapist Career

respiratory-therapist-500Respiratory therapists work to provide help to people who have trouble breathing. Their patients may include, but are not limited to, premature infants, children with asthma, or adults with lung cancer or emphysema. Respiratory therapists provide physical treatment as well as guidance to help patience improve their breathing.

When first meeting with a patient, respiratory therapists may perform tests to see how well the patient’s lungs are performing. If necessary, they may perform interventions such as connecting patients to ventilators to help them breathe. In less extreme instances, they may do things like help remove mucus from patient’s throat and lungs. They often work with doctors to create treatment plans for their patients.

Respiratory Therapist Career Snapshot

Most respiratory therapists–around 80 percent–work in hospitals. Others work in other healthcare facilities, especially nursing homes. Although some may have typical 40 hour workweeks, others are expected to be available nights, weekends, and holidays in case patient crises arise.

Further details on a career as a respiratory therapist are listed below (statistics from the May 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics and Onet Online):


is the average yearly salary for respiratory therapists.


increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.


have an Associate’s degree while 12% have a Bachelor’s degree.

Respiratory Therapist Education

To become a respiratory therapist, you will need an associate’s degree; getting a bachelor’s degree may increase your payment and chances of employment. All states except for Alaska require respiratory therapists to become licensed before practicing. In additional, 5 percent of respiratory therapists have an additional post-secondary certificate. The National Board for Respiratory Care is the main certifying body in the United States.

Respiratory Therapist Job Duties

Respiratory therapists usually meet with patients one-on-one and conduct tests and perform treatments to improve the patient’s breathing. They interact with patients at very vulnerable times, and need good communication and interpersonal skills in order to succeed.

Respiratory Therapist Salaries

The median salary for a respiratory therapist was $57,790 in May 2015 according to statistics. The top 10 percent of earners made $80,440 or more; in general, job candidates are able to command a higher salary if they have earned a bachelor’s degree. The bottom 10 percent of earners made $41,970 or less.

Respiratory Therapist Job Outlook

The job market for respiratory therapists is currently growing at a faster than average rate. In 2014, the United States had 120,700 respiratory therapists. That number is expected to increase 12 percent by 2024.

Respiratory Therapist Skills & Traits

Respiratory Therapist Skill Set:Required Abilities:Tools Used by Respiratory Therapists:Typical Work Activities:
• Active Listening
• Critical Thinking
• Monitoring
• Speaking
• Active Learning
• Inductive Reasoning
• Oral Expression
• Problem Sensitivity
• Deductive Reasoning
• Information Ordering
• Blood gas kits
• Medical aerosol tents
• Medical oxygen masks
• Nebulizers
• Spirometers
• Documenting information
• Caring for others
• Getting information
• Inspecting equipment
• Decision making

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