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Respiratory Therapists picture    Respiratory Therapists image

Respiratory therapists work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to evaluate, treat and care for patients who have breathing and other cardiopulmonary disorders. They also perform diagnostic tests and limited physical examinations. Therapists utilize complex, specialized equipment to help people breath.

They work with patients ranging in age from infants to senior citizens. Respiratory therapists work under the supervision of physicians. Most respiratory therapists are employed in hospitals. They also work in nursing care facilities and physician offices.

Therapists often treat patients with oxygen and oxygen mixtures, aerosol medications and chest physiotherapy. They provide treatments that give temporary relief for problems such as emphysema and chronic asthma. They also give emergency care to patients for heart attacks, strokes, shock and drowning. Some therapists, employed in hospitals, might work in intensive care or critical care units.

Some of the duties of therapists and technicians overlap, however the therapists have more responsibility. Therapists provide more complex therapies which need independent judgement. Respiratory therapists also consult with doctors and other healthcare personnel in order to create and modify the treatment strategies for patients.

In some hospitals respiratory therapists are involved with duties that are not traditionally part of the profession such as pulmonary resuscitation, disease prevention and smoking cessation counseling.

Responsibilities

  • Conduct diagnostic tests
  • Offer treatments with oxygen or oxygen mixtures, aerosol medications and physiotherapy
  • Evaluate patients by interviewing them and giving limited physical examinations
  • Treat people of all ages
  • Connect patients to ventilators
  • Evaluate patients' lung capacity
  • Perform regular checks on patients
  • Test people for lung abnormalities
  • Consult with doctors and other healthcare personnel to create and modify care plans
  • Make sure the equipment is working properly
  • Supervise respiratory technicians
  • Measure patients concentration of oxygen and other gases in their blood
  • Determine the pH level, which shows the acidity or alkalinity of a patient's blood

Job Characteristics

They typically work between 30 and 40 hours a week. Those that work in hospitals might be required to work evenings, nights and during weekends. They spend a lot of time walking and standing. Respiratory therapists are sometimes exposed to infectious diseases, however risks are minimized by adhering to appropriate procedures. They also handle high-pressure cylinders.

Some respiratory therapists have to use independent judgement when taking care of patients. Respiratory therapists must be detail-oriented, be sensitive to their patients' needs, follow instructions and be good at working as part of a team. Also, in order to operate some of the equipment they need to be proficient with computers.

Employment Outlook

In 2006, the median annual earnings for respiratory therapists was $47,420. In 2006, there were about 122,000 jobs in the profession. About 79 percent were employed in hospitals, primarily in departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology and pulmonary medicine.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth rate for respiratory therapists from 2006 to 2016 which is faster than average for all occupations. The growth in employment is partly due to growth in the middle-aged and elderly populations. These age groups are expected to increase the number of cardiopulmonary disease patients. Advances in medications and treatments will also increase the need for respiratory therapists.

The demand for respiratory therapists will also increase since therapists are expanding their role in disease prevention, case management, early detection of pulmonary disorders and emergency care. Most of the employment opportunities will continue to be provided by hospitals. Growth in job opportunities will also occur in other settings such as home healthcare services and doctor offices.

They typically advance in their careers by taking care of critically ill patients who have substantial problems with other organs such as kidneys or the heart. Experienced therapists, particularly those which have advanced degrees, may have opportunities to acquire supervisory or managerial positions in a respiratory therapy department.

Respiratory Therapy Schools, Certification, and Licensing

Respiratory therapists need at least an associate degree. Those with a bachelor's or a master's degree may have better opportunities for advancing in their careers. Training is provided at colleges, universities, vocational schools, medical schools and the Armed Forces. The programs usually included courses in human anatomy, microbiology, physics, mathematics, chemistry and pharmacology. Courses are also provided in therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, respiratory health promotion, disease prevention, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and other topics.

Licensure is typically based on fulfilling the certification requirements of the National Board for Respiratory Care. Those that graduate from programs accredited by the CAAHEP or the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care and also pass an exam are provided with a Certified Respiratory Therapist credential. Certified Respiratory therapists that graduated from advanced programs and are able to pass two separate exams receive the Registered Respiratory Therapist credential. Supervisory jobs and intensive-care specialties typically require a Registered Respiratory therapist credential.

Resources

Major Employers

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Other major employers are nursing homes, respiratory therapy clinics and home care agencies.

Schools for Respiratory Therapists are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Respiratory Therapists

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Respiratory Therapists jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hoover 690 $46,610
Birmingham 690 $46,610
Huntsville 240 $48,610
Tuscaloosa 120 $43,270
Montgomery 120 $46,730
Foley 110 $46,790
Fairhope 110 $46,790
Daphne 110 $46,790
Dothan 90 $43,710
Jacksonville 80 $48,080
Anniston 80 $48,080
Oxford 80 $48,080
Gadsden 80 $51,750
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 130 $71,430
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Phoenix 1600 $56,480
Scottsdale 1600 $56,480
Mesa 1600 $56,480
Tucson 480 $48,620
Kingman 50 $54,790
Lake Havasu City 50 $54,790
Prescott 50 $56,060
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 520 $48,120
North Little Rock 520 $48,120
Little Rock 520 $48,120
Jonesboro 60 N/A
Hot Springs 50 $46,700
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Los Angeles 5640 $75,460
Anaheim 5640 $75,460
Long Beach 5640 $75,460
Hayward 1780 $92,170
Oakland 1780 $92,170
San Francisco 1780 $92,170
Carlsbad 1360 $73,170
San Diego 1360 $73,170
Ontario 1340 $70,500
San Bernardino 1340 $70,500
Riverside 1340 $70,500
San Jose 890 $92,610
Sunnyvale 890 $92,610
Santa Clara 890 $92,610
Arden 750 $91,370
Sacramento 750 $91,370
Roseville 750 $91,370
Arcade 750 $91,370
Fresno 320 $80,780
Thousand Oaks 290 $84,290
Oxnard 290 $84,290
Ventura 290 $84,290
Bakersfield 240 $73,550
Stockton 220 $82,120
Lodi 220 $82,120
Redding 160 $72,330
Modesto 160 $79,720
Santa Rosa 160 $83,800
Santa Maria 130 $77,580
Santa Barbara 130 $77,580
Chico 130 $82,690
Vallejo 130 $96,370
Fairfield 130 $96,370
Salinas 110 $89,760
Porterville 90 $63,330
Visalia 90 $63,330
Watsonville 80 $96,310
Santa Cruz 80 $96,310
Arroyo Grande 70 $84,030
San Luis Obispo 70 $84,030
Paso Robles 70 $84,030
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 1000 $58,480
Lakewood 1000 $58,480
Denver 1000 $58,480
Colorado Springs 190 N/A
Boulder 100 $63,920
Greeley N/A $56,770
Fort Collins N/A $59,500
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hartford 500 $61,490
East Hartford 500 $61,490
West Hartford 500 $61,490
Stamford 200 $70,690
Bridgeport 200 $70,690
Norwalk 200 $70,690
Waterbury 80 $60,270
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Miami 2670 $54,560
Fort Lauderdale 2670 $54,560
West Palm Beach 2670 $54,560
Tampa 1200 $56,630
St. Petersburg 1200 $56,630
Clearwater 1200 $56,630
Sanford 870 $55,030
Kissimmee 870 $55,030
Orlando 870 $55,030
Jacksonville 610 $55,420
Gainesville 260 $44,800
Sarasota 240 $57,250
North Port 240 $57,250
Bradenton 240 $57,250
Cape Coral 230 $55,730
Fort Myers 230 $55,730
Ferry Pass 210 $52,120
Brent 210 $52,120
Pensacola 210 $52,120
Deltona 210 $52,630
Daytona Beach 210 $52,630
Ormond Beach 210 $52,630
Lakeland 200 $54,760
Winter Haven 200 $54,760
Palm Bay 200 $55,540
Melbourne 200 $55,540
Titusville 200 $55,540
Tallahassee 130 $53,910
Ocala 90 $54,070
Port St. Lucie 90 $57,020
Panama City 80 $48,770
Marco Island 80 $53,690
Immokalee 80 $53,690
Naples 80 $53,690
Crestview 70 $47,610
Fort Walton Beach 70 $47,610
Destin 70 $47,610
Sebastian 50 $55,890
Vero Beach 50 $55,890
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sandy Springs 1890 $55,860
Atlanta 1890 $55,860
Roswell 1890 $55,860
Savannah 200 $52,030
Warner Robins 70 $47,940
Valdosta 40 $47,060
Clarke County N/A $54,040
Athens N/A $54,040
Rome N/A $56,470
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 290 $69,950
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 300 $53,950
Coeur d'Alene 50 $58,350
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 170 $56,370
Rockford 140 $53,330
Champaign 80 $47,090
Urbana 80 $47,090
Springfield 80 $54,600
Kankakee 60 $52,740
Bloomington 50 $49,460
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Carmel 1320 $53,910
Anderson 1320 $53,910
Indianapolis 1320 $53,910
Fort Wayne 240 $53,080
West Lafayette 120 $54,120
Lafayette 120 $54,120
Terre Haute 100 N/A
Kokomo 70 $54,210
Goshen 70 $55,030
Elkhart 70 $55,030
Muncie 60 $59,950
La Porte 50 $52,270
Michigan City 50 $52,270
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Iowa City 150 $53,200
Des Moines 130 $50,910
West Des Moines 130 $50,910
Cedar Rapids 100 $48,820
Waterloo 70 $46,240
Cedar Falls 70 $46,240
Dubuque 40 $46,170
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 250 $51,240
Topeka 110 $48,030
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 390 $50,640
Fayette 390 $50,640
Bowling Green 110 $45,460
Owensboro 30 $46,120
Fort Knox N/A $53,940
Elizabethtown N/A $53,940
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Orleans 650 $56,190
Metairie 650 $56,190
Shreveport 290 $49,870
Bossier City 290 $49,870
Baton Rouge 270 $49,080
Lafayette 190 $48,460
Hammond 120 $50,010
Houma 90 $50,570
Thibodaux 90 $50,570
Monroe 60 $48,680
Lake Charles 60 $51,360
Alexandria N/A $51,760
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 130 $58,210
Portland 130 $58,210
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 910 $66,290
Columbia 910 $66,290
Baltimore 910 $66,290
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 100 $70,860
New Bedford 70 $61,120
Gardner 60 $68,830
Leominster 60 $68,830
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 1770 $54,920
Warren 1770 $54,920
Detroit 1770 $54,920
Wyoming 550 $52,890
Grand Rapids 550 $52,890
Flint 170 $54,810
Midland 40 $53,580
Battle Creek N/A $51,530
Lansing N/A $60,170
East Lansing N/A $60,170
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 240 $70,040
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 450 $51,390
Gulfport 160 $43,330
Pascagoula 160 $43,330
Biloxi 160 $43,330
Hattiesburg 100 $46,440
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 360 $49,220
Columbia 140 $52,900
Joplin 110 $48,260
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 90 $51,330
Great Falls 60 $49,870
Missoula 50 $53,700
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Grand Island 30 $49,770
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 760 $69,180
Henderson 760 $69,180
Las Vegas 760 $69,180
Reno 130 $69,450
Carson City 60 $74,680
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 50 $65,850
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton 140 $70,980
Hammonton 130 $77,970
Atlantic City 130 $77,970
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 340 $56,110
Las Cruces 90 $41,480
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Niagara Falls 440 $58,520
Cheektowaga 440 $58,520
Buffalo 440 $58,520
Rochester 430 $54,470
Albany 330 $58,530
Schenectady 330 $58,530
Troy 330 $58,530
Syracuse 170 $58,510
Binghamton 100 $68,700
Rome 90 $69,000
Utica 90 $69,000
Kingston 60 $70,640
Elmira 30 $63,290
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Chapel Hill 460 $54,030
Durham 460 $54,030
High Point 350 $56,200
Greensboro 350 $56,200
Raleigh 290 $56,070
Asheville 240 $51,780
Fayetteville 150 $46,940
Greenville 140 $48,380
Hickory 120 $52,100
Morganton 120 $52,100
Lenoir 120 $52,100
Wilmington 100 $53,040
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cleveland 1060 $55,670
Elyria 1060 $55,670
Columbus 1010 $53,010
Toledo 450 $55,460
Akron 360 $52,220
Dayton 350 $54,850
Massillon 190 $54,430
Canton 190 $54,430
Mansfield 70 $53,340
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 540 $52,760
Tulsa 270 $50,900
Lawton 40 $49,650
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 1350 $52,590
Carlisle 270 $62,470
Harrisburg 270 $62,470
Wilkes 190 $50,210
Barre 190 $50,210
Hazleton 190 $50,210
Scranton 190 $50,210
Reading 180 $54,870
Berwick 180 $58,960
Bloomsburg 180 $58,960
Lancaster 140 $59,230
Hanover 120 $59,210
York 120 $59,210
Erie 110 $49,120
Johnstown 80 $51,340
Waynesboro 40 N/A
Chambersburg 40 N/A
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 350 $21,800
Carolina 350 $21,800
San Juan 350 $21,800
Ponce 40 $21,340
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 400 $49,850
Mauldin 400 $49,850
Greenville 400 $49,850
Columbia 370 N/A
Charleston 340 $59,100
North Charleston 340 $59,100
Spartanburg 140 $53,490
Florence 110 $56,420
Bluffton 50 $51,030
Hilton Head Island 50 $51,030
Beaufort 50 $51,030
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 180 N/A
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Murfreesboro 860 $49,480
Franklin 860 $49,480
Davidson 860 $49,480
Nashville 860 $49,480
Knoxville 460 $46,860
Jackson 110 $41,880
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Worth 3140 $58,710
Dallas 3140 $58,710
Arlington 3140 $58,710
The Woodlands 2350 $57,540
Sugar Land 2350 $57,540
Houston 2350 $57,540
San Antonio 1030 $51,820
New Braunfels 1030 $51,820
Round Rock 600 $56,800
Austin 600 $56,800
Edinburg 450 $61,290
McAllen 450 $61,290
Mission 450 $61,290
El Paso 300 $48,800
Temple 240 $56,610
Killeen 240 $56,610
Brownsville 230 $55,880
Harlingen 230 $55,880
Beaumont 200 $57,120
Port Arthur 200 $57,120
Lubbock 190 $48,120
Corpus Christi 190 $58,790
Amarillo 160 $50,320
College Station 150 $58,560
Bryan 150 $58,560
Tyler 110 $49,130
Longview 110 $53,470
Midland 90 $55,730
Abilene 80 $48,330
Victoria 70 $47,900
San Angelo 50 $53,020
Denison 50 $54,350
Sherman 50 $54,350
Wichita Falls 40 $58,440
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 450 $59,230
Clearfield 160 $53,800
Ogden 160 $53,800
Provo 110 $59,670
Orem 110 $59,670
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 400 $56,520
Roanoke 190 $50,570
Charlottesville 150 $57,090
Lynchburg 100 $47,900
Christiansburg 40 $56,960
Radford 40 $56,960
Blacksburg 40 $56,960
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bellevue 1150 $69,020
Tacoma 1150 $69,020
Seattle 1150 $69,020
Walla Walla 40 $70,650
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Morgantown 180 $51,050
Charleston 170 $45,530
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Milwaukee 660 $61,580
West Allis 660 $61,580
Waukesha 660 $61,580
Madison 230 $59,190
Eau Claire 90 $53,660
Green Bay 80 $55,910
Wausau 70 $52,690
Neenah 40 $56,210
Oshkosh 40 $56,210
Appleton N/A $58,880
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 40 $57,600
Casper N/A $51,610

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Respiratory Therapists

To find out more about building a career as Respiratory Therapists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Respiratory Therapists

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Hospital 84,110 81% $52,090
Medical Office 5,920 5% $53,810
Office Services And Staffing 3,570 3% $61,100
Nursing And Residential Care 3,550 3% $51,900
Rental And Lease 2,760 2% $45,880
Drug Stores 1,270 1% $48,960
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
Results:  10
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CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Respiratory Therapists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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