Respiratory Therapist

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist
Job Duties of Respiratory Therapists
Skills and Qualities Needed to Become a Respiratory Therapist
Salaries of Respiratory Therapists
Influential Respiratory Therapists
Leading Respiratory Therapist Organizations
Top Cities for Respiratory Therapist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Respiratory Therapist

While an associate degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a respiratory therapist, having a bachelor's degree or a master's degree can increase chances for advancement. At present, all respiratory therapists in the United States are required to have a license except for Alaska and Hawaii.

Various educational and medical institutions at the post-secondary level -colleges and universities, medical schools, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces - offer training for respiration therapy. Most programs in the field offer associate or bachelor's degree and prepare the graduates for careers in advanced respiration therapy. Some associate degree programs can pave the way for entry level jobs in respiration therapy.

In addition to the license required to practice respiration therapy, most employers also want applicants to have a current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Licenses are typically based on the candidate's fulfillment of the certification requirements from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Respiratory therapists who are interested in supervisory positions and intensive-care specialties are usually required to have a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) certification.

What does a Respiratory Therapist do?

Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians are also known collectively as respiratory care practitioners. Their position involves the evaluation, treatment, and care of patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders. They typically perform their duties under the direct supervision of a physician, and they are primarily responsible for all treatments related to respiratory care and diagnosis as well as the supervision of respiratory therapy technicians. These respiratory therapy technicians generally follow the respiratory care procedures ordered by respiratory therapists and physicians.

Respiratory therapists generally have more responsibilities than respiratory therapy technicians although, in common practice, their roles may overlap slightly. Among the responsibilities of respiratory therapists are the evaluation and treatment of all types of patients. These can range from premature infants to elderly patients. They are also responsible for providing temporary care to patients who are suffering from chronic asthma or emphysema, and they may be required to provide emergency care to heart attack, stroke, drowning, or shock victims.

Respiratory therapists may be called upon to perform regular evaluations of both patients and equipment. If a certain patient has trouble breathing, for example, or if there are abnormal levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, or pH in the blood, respiratory therapists may adjust ventilator settings in accordance with a doctor's orders or they may be asked to check the equipment for any malfunctions.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Respiratory Therapist?

Aspiring respiratory therapists will need to have adequate training in the fields of human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, pathophysiology, microbiology, pharmacology, mathematics, and physics. They will also need to gain familiarity in various respiratory-related therapeutic and diagnostic procedures, associated equipment, patient evaluation, CPR, clinical practice guidelines, care for patients outside hospitals, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation procedures, respiratory health, and prevention of respiratory diseases as well as record-keeping and reimbursement as it relates to respiratory care.

High school students who intend to pursue careers in respiratory therapy would do well to take courses in general health, biology, physics, and chemistry. A thorough grounding in mathematics would also be beneficial since respiratory care procedures typically involve problem solving as well as knowledge of chemistry and physics.

Respiratory therapists should also be prepared to work long hours, often on a shifting time schedule. It is not unusual for respiratory therapists to work anywhere from 35 to 40 hours a week with around the clock shifts required. The job also involves standing and walking for extended periods of time, and stress is a normal part of the job. Respiratory therapists that work in home health care are typically required to travel to patients' homes on a regular basis.

How much do Respiratory Therapists make?

As of May 2006, the average annual salary of respiratory therapists was calculated to be a little over $47,000. Out of those surveyed, the 50 percent in the middle earned somewhere between $41,000 and $56,000. The lowest ten percent of the respondents made less than $35,200 with the highest ten percent making a little more than $64,000.

For respiratory therapy technicians, the average annual salary was calculated at a little over $39,000 during the same period. Out of these respondents, the middle 50 percent earned salaries from $32,000 to almost $47,000. The lowest ten percent made $25,900 on the average with the highest ten percent making more than $56,000.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Some of the noted professionals in the field of respiration therapy are Donald S. Howard and Josh Benditt who are both co-medical directors at the Respiratory Care Society of Washington, Inc., or RCSW as well as RCSW President Dennis Bing, President elect Dennis A Archer, and CSRT President Ray Hubble.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

Among the foremost respiratory care organizations are the American Association for Respiratory Care, The National Board for Respiratory Care, Inc., and The Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists.

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) was founded in 1947 and has been involved in efforts to enhance the skills and capabilities of professional respiratory care practitioners by helping them to improve their job performance on the job and increasing their knowledge range. The AARC currently has over 42,000 members all over the United States, and they are the only professional society for respiratory therapists in hospitals and home care companies. The AARC also counts respiratory and cardiopulmonary service managers and educators in the field of respiratory care as some of its members.

The National Board for Respiratory Care, Inc. (NBRC) is a health certifying board established in 1960 in order to evaluate respiratory therapists' professional competence. A voluntary organization, the NBRC is comprised of physicians and therapists from the Chicago area, all of whom saw the need for more formal training and registration of practitioners in the respiration therapy industry.

The Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (CSRT) is the national professional association for respiratory therapists in Canada. They are responsible for awarding the voluntary credential called the CSRT RRT, which can be obtained through national certification. This certification is funded by voluntary membership in the CSRT.

What are the top cities for Respiratory Therapist jobs?

In general, employment opportunities for respiratory therapists are quite high across the United States. Most of the jobs are available in hospitals, but it is expected that more employment opportunities will be made available in other organizations in the future, particularly in home health care services, physicians and other health practitioners' offices, rental firms, and even in the employment services field.

The city with the most job openings for respiratory therapists currently is Orlando, Florida, with Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York following close behind. Other Florida cities, including Jacksonville, Saint Petersburg, Tampa, and Miami, also offer numerous opportunities in the field while other job prospects can be found in Phoenix, Arizona and Gainesville, Texas.

Other Careers of Interest

An allergist is a type of physician and focus on treating the symptoms and causes of allergic reactions, which have much to do with the body's immune...

Cardiovascular Technician
Cardiovascular Technicians and technologists assist cardiologists with patients. They may schedule appointments, perform procedures such as ultrasounds...

Emergency Medical Technician / Paramedic
EMTs are often among the first emergency responders to a scene and sometimes work with fire fighters and police workers. Their primary role is...

Health and Safety Inspector
Health and safety inspectors perform a vital role in maintaining safe working environments for all types of employees in a wide array of industries....

Home Healthcare Nurse
Home healthcare nurses provide a vital patient to medical care giver link by visiting patients in their homes. This sometimes done on a one-time...

Laboratory Technician
On a broad scale, a Laboratory Technician performs a variety of tasks delegated by a superior medical professional. There are many different areas...

Licensed Practical Nurse / LPN / Licensed Vocational Nurse
LPN's perform various medical procedures that range from simple to complex. These procedure include: gathering patient health information, taking...

Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and family therapists assist families, couples and individuals to tackle their problems by applying family techniques, principles and theory...

Nurse / Registered Nurse
Nurses performs a variety of functions that are essential for patient recovery. Regardless of their specialty or workplace setting, he or she treats...

Nurse Practitioner
An NP is trained in diagnosis and management of common and complex medical conditions. The core philosophy is individualized care and focus on patients'...

Nursing Aide
Nurse aides assist and care for others. Workloads can be physically demanding. Aides are on their feet all day, moving patients in and out of bed...

Nursing Assistant
Nursing assistants are mainly responsible for providing medical support to doctors and nurse in hospitals and other health care facilities. They...

Nutritionists are mainly responsible for planning diets for patients and educating people about healthy eating habits. Their job is to study, interpret,...

Occupational Health Nurse
An occupational health nurse specializes in providing and monitoring emergency care services while helping employers to implement health and safety...

Occupational Therapist
An occupational therapist helps people with their physical disabilities as well as learning new skills or helping them adapt to permanent losses....

Operating Room Technician
Hospitals employ about 70 percent of the estimated 86,000 operating room technicians working in the United States. Operating room technicians would...

Physical Therapist
A physical therapist helps to restore maximum movement and functional abilities in people who have lost them for one reason or another. Even if...

While radiology was once thought of as simply taking and interpreting X-rays the field has become far more advanced; today the Radiologist uses...

Rehabilitation Nurse
A rehabilitation nurse can be found in a variety of settings. They can work directly in a hospital or sign on at an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation...

Social Worker
A social worker assists people at all stages of their life with things such as medical care, food, shelter, clothing, and relationships. Other...

Speech Therapist
Speech therapists treat various speech, language and voice related physiological disorders. They also research ways of preventing such disorders...

Surgical Technician
Surgical technicians assist in various surgical operations, always under the supervision of professional surgeons, registered nurses or other more...

Improving the way that a person can use his or her body is the main goal of therapists. They help their patients to find ways to relieve pain, restore...

Trauma Nurse
Trauma nurses are employed by acute-care and specialty hospitals where they attend to emergency situations. They might be based in a hospital, on...

Ultrasound Technician
An ultrasound technician works predominantly in hospitals and physician offices and clinics. Ultrasound is most commonly associated with pregnancy...

X-Ray Technician
X-ray technicians use a variety of equipment to produce images known commonly as x-rays or radiographs so that doctors can diagnose or better understand...

Respiratory Therapy Jobs

Browse by Location | Browse by Career



Career & College Resources


Creative Commons License