(Last Updated On: 05/04/2017)

Respiratory Therapist Job Description

Salary: $46,200 – $63,500 Number of Jobs: 105,940
Hourly Rate: $22.19 – $30.54 Employment Outlook: Good
Green Job: No Education: Associate degree

What do Respiratory Therapists do?

Respiratory therapists care for patients with breathing disorders. They commonly help patients who suffer from asthma or emphysema, and may work in emergency situations involving shock, heart attacks, or drowning.

There are many different tests that respiratory therapists use to evaluate the condition of their patients. In same cases, analyzing blood samples or testing oxygen level is necessary. In other cases, a simple lung capacity test can be administered.

Respiratory therapists often need to perform more advanced procedures as well. For example, they may insert a tube in a patient’s trachea to connect them to a ventilator. Then they monitor the patient’s signs to ensure that they’re receiving the necessary levels of oxygen.

Since respiratory problems are often a result of lifestyle or environmental problems, therapists spend a lot of their time educating patients on how they can better take care of their respiratory health. Depending on the problem, they can help patients quit smoking or provide instructions on how to keep their home free of potential irritants.

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, but many also work in nursing homes and provide in home care. Regardless of the working environment, respiratory therapists need to spend long stretches of time on their feet. Though the job isn’t physically demanding, it can be exhausting.

The majority of respiratory therapists work full time, and overtime is very common for people in this occupation. Hospitals and nursing homes provide care every hour of every day, and respiratory therapists often need to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Since they work with sick patients, respiratory therapists are frequently exposed to infectious diseases. They are able to reduce the risk of illness by taking safety precautions, but it’s impossible to eliminate the risk entirely.

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

A minimum of an associate’s degree is required to work as a respiratory therapist, but many employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Programs in respiratory therapy normally include classes in physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and human anatomy. They provide classroom instruction as well as hands on work experience that allow students to gain the work experience they’ll need throughout their careers.

All states except Alaska require respiratory therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but most require the successful completion of an exam. To learn about the exact requirements where you live, contact your state’s health board.

The National Board for Respiratory Care offers certifications in respiratory therapy. These certifications aren’t always required to get a job, but many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified. To become certified, you will need to have a degree from an accredited school and pass an exam.

The two most common certifications are the CRT and the RRT. The CRT requires applicants to have at least an associate’s degree. The RRT requires the CRT as well as work experience.

If you’re still in high school and you’re considering a career in respiratory therapy, taking math and science courses will provide a great background for college.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 105,940 respiratory therapists in the United States, with 4,140 new respiratory therapist job openings created each year.

Respiratory Therapist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Respiratory Therapist Salaries

Overall Salaries

Respiratory Therapist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most respiratory therapists make between $46,200 – $63,500 per year, or $22.19 – $30.54 per hour.

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