Career Information

Return to Career Page


Respiratory Therapist

Career data updated last on 10/15/2014
Respiratory Therapist Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians perform diagnostic tests and provide treatments to patients with heart and breathing problems. Emphysema, asthma, pneumonia, heart failure, chest injuries and other conditions are causes of these problems. The respiratory therapist is knowledgeable about the problems requiring respiratory care and is trained to perform tests and treatments under a physician's supervision. Respiratory therapists treat all types of patients, ranging from premature infants whose lungs are not fully developed to elderly people whose lungs are diseased. In home care, therapists teach patients and their families to use ventilators and other life-support systems. In addition, therapists visit patients several times a month to inspect and clean equipment and to ensure its proper use. Therapists also make emergency visits if equipment problems arise. To evaluate patients, respiratory therapists interview them, perform limited physical examinations, and conduct diagnostic tests. To treat patients, respiratory therapists use oxygen or oxygen mixtures, chest physiotherapy, and aerosol medications. Therapists perform regular checks on patients and equipment. He or she must also use independent judgment as to the appropriate techniques and treatments. A respiratory therapy technician is trained to administer specific treatments under the supervision of a respiratory therapist and/or a physician.
Salary $28.04/hr- $58,330 annually
Significant Points Job opportunities will be very good, especially for therapists with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with newborns and infants.
Work Environment Respiratory care personnel are employed at hospitals, nursing care facilities, clinics, home care agencies, educational facilities, research centers, private industry and special medical services. Therapists generally work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Because hospitals operate around the clock, therapists may work evenings, nights, or weekends. They spend long periods standing and walking between patients’ rooms. In an emergency, they work under a great deal of stress. Respiratory therapists employed in home healthcare must travel frequently to the homes of patients.
High School Prep A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Courses in health, biology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics are recommended.
Academic Requirements

Formal training is necessary for entry into this field. Training is offered at the postsecondary level by colleges and universities, medical schools, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. An associate degree has become the general requirement for entry into this field. Most programs award associate or bachelor’s degrees and prepare graduates for jobs as advanced respiratory therapists. Other programs award associate degrees or certificates and lead to jobs as entry-level respiratory therapists.

The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) offers voluntary certification and registration to graduates of programs accredited by CAAHEP or the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Two credentials are awarded to respiratory therapists who satisfy the requirements: Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT). Graduates from accredited programs in respiratory therapy may take the CRT examination. CRTs who meet education and experience requirements can take two separate examinations leading to the award of the RRT credential. The CRT examination is the standard in the States requiring licensure.

Respiratory therapists advance in clinical practice by moving from general care to care of critical patients who have significant problems in other organ systems, such as the heart or kidneys. Respiratory therapists, especially those with 4-year degrees, may also advance to supervisory or managerial positions in a respiratory therapy department. Respiratory therapists in home healthcare and equipment rental firms may become branch managers. Some respiratory therapists advance by moving into teaching positions.


Bachelor Degree Bachelor's    On-line program available On-line program available
Grand Canyon University
Bachelor Degree Bachelor's    On-line program available On-line program available
Pickins Technical College
Associate Degree Associate
Pima Medical Institute-Denver Campus
Associate Degree Associate
Pueblo Community College-Pueblo Campus
Associate Degree Associate
Southwest Colorado Community College West Campus
Associate Degree Associate
Southwest Colorado Community College East Campus
Associate Degree Associate

Return to Career Page