How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

Become a Respiratory Therapist

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Respiratory therapists are professionals whose training and career skills enable them to help patients with breathing issues. Running diagnostic tests, using complex equipment, and creating therapy regimens, are all ways respiratory therapists can help improve patients' breathing capabilities. If you are interested in the medical field, retraining as a respiratory therapist might be a good way to improve your skills for a new career. Online respiratory training courses can be a way to gain the knowledge you need to enter this field.

Breathe Easy: Career Skills for Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory testing can be an uncomfortable process and even a little frightening to patients. Respiratory Therapists must calm people when tests require they go without air for a short time, and also need to be comfortable with problem-solving and handling equipment. Respiratory therapists work with people of all ages, from infants born with respiratory problems to the elderly struggling with breathing issues. Sometimes they also provide instructions for treatments or smoking cessation programs, and from time to time, teach patients to use respiratory equipment.

Respiratory therapists work primarily in hospitals, where they have access to sophisticated equipment. However, they are also found in clinics, mobile health units, and even make home visits to patients who need this kind of care. This career is hands-on and requires good communication skills along with attention to detail. The economy of the future will certainly have a need for people with respiratory therapy expertise.

Career Advice for Respiratory Therapy

The typical education level for a respiratory therapist is an associate's degree, although higher education may be desirable for someone who wants to retrain for supervision and higher-level roles. To improve your skills for this profession, you could complete your coursework through online respiratory training courses or at a campus based program. Hands-on experience is desirable as well, and can be received under supervised training. Job prospects for this career are good, and are expected to continue to be so in the future. If the economy has put pressure on your current industry or you're thinking it might be time to explore a new field, retraining as a respiratory therapist could be a smart move.

Career Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: In May 2013, the respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $57,880 with top 10% making more than $76,750.
  • Typical education required: Entry-level possible with associate's degree although bachelor's or master's preferred
  • Number of accredited respiratory therapy programs in the U.S.: Over 300
  • Most common certification for licensure: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)
  • Advanced certification for supervisors: Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)
  • States that require a license to practice: all except Alaska
  • Primary work locations: Hospitals, clinics, or private practice. Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals while some work in nursing facilities or travel patients' homes.
  • Most common coursework: Human anatomy & physiology; microbiology, physics, and chemistry; mathematics; and pharmacology
  • Job outlook: Faster than average (2012-2022) at 19 percent
  • Number employed in respiratory therapy in 2008: 119,300
  • State that pays the highest for respiratory therapists: California, New Jersey, Nevada, Alaska, Massachusetts
  • States with highest employment for respiratory therapists: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Respiratory Therapists
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Respiratory Therapists, May 2013 Wages