Respiratory therapists take care of patients who have difficulty breathing for a wide variety of reasons. They work in emergency rooms of hospitals, outpatient clinics, or in private homes for those needing care. They may need to help a wide variety of patients, from infants who are born premature to children with cystic fibrosis and elderly patients with failing lungs. Common job duties of a respiratory therapist may include:
Examining patients who have cardiopulmonary disorders or other problems breathing
Providing emergency care to a patient who has had a heart attack
Performing diagnostic tests on the lung capacity of each patient
Collaborating with doctors to help develop treatment plans for patients
Recording the progress of multiple patients
Candidates who enjoy working with people and are able to stay calm under pressure may enjoy working in the medical field as a respiratory therapist.
Respiratory Therapist Job Education Requirements
Employers will expect a respiratory therapist to have at least an associate's degree, but a bachelor's degree is preferable. Required courses will include microbiology, chemistry, human anatomy and physics. Practical classes like patient assessment and diagnostic procedures will also be required. Because this profession places respiratory therapists in crucial lifesaving positions each day, it is important that training is thorough. Part of the training for either an associate or bachelor degree will require the aspiring physical therapist to earn school credit by completing clinical programs where they treat patients under supervision.
Respiratory Therapist Job Market
There are currently over 119,000 people employed as respiratory therapists, and over 22,000 new respiratory therapist job positions will be created between now and 2022. This 19 percent projected job growth is impressive, meaning that respiratory therapists are very much in demand. Respiratory therapists who are willing to travel for their work have the greatest job prospects. It's likely that rural areas may have a strong demand for respiratory therapists, while some urban areas may have an excessive amount of workers.
Respiratory Therapist Job Salary Information
The average starting salary for a respiration therapist is $55,870 annually. Some states that have a high demand for respiration therapists, such as California, offer a higher annual salary. Colleges and universities also typically pay their respiration therapists over $65,000 per year. Respiratory therapists make the same approximate salary each year as physical therapist assistants. However, keep in mind that registered nurses earn more. Respiratory therapists who are willing to continue to stay on top of their field and work their way up to a bachelor's degree if they don't currently have one may enjoy this position as a long-term career. After all, the highest-paid respiratory therapists make over $75,000 each year.