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Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist is a health care professional who provides care for the people who have heart or lung problems. Most often, a respiratory therapist would provide treatment for people with the following conditions:

  • Asthma

  • Chronic bronchitis

  • Emphysema

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Sleep apnea

  • Heart attack

  • Stroke

  • Drowning

The patients of a respiratory therapist would range from premature infants (who have undeveloped lungs) to the elderly people (who have diseased lungs). And, most of the respiratory therapists would work in hospital settings.

Job Description:

As a respiratory therapist, you would typically do the following tasks:

  • Interviewing and examining patients with breathing and other cardiopulmonary disorders

  • Consulting with doctors for the purpose of developing treatment plans for patients

  • Performing diagnostic tests such as the measurement of lung capacity

  • Treating patients by making use of various methods like:

    • Chest physiotherapy

    • Aerosol medications

  • Monitoring and recording the progress of the treatments

  • Supervising the respiratory therapy technicians at the time of tests and evaluating the results of those tests

  • Teaching patients on how to use the treatments

Being a respiratory therapist, you may have to utilize various tests for evaluating patients. Thus, you may have to:

  • Test lung capacity

  • Take blood samples

  • Test oxygen and carbon dioxide levels

  • Perform chest physiotherapy

  • Connect patients to ventilators

  • Make emergency home visits

  • Counsel people on how to quit smoking

  • Diagnose breathing problems

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist?

Educational Requirements:

Those high school students who aspire to become a respiratory therapist must take courses in the following subjects:

  • Health

  • Biology

  • Mathematics

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

A respiratory therapist would require a minimum of associate’s degree although some employers prefer the candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Typically, the respiratory therapy programs would include courses in:

  • Human anatomy

  • Physiology

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Microbiology

  • Pharmacology

  • Mathematics

  • Diagnostic and therapeutic:

    • Tests

    • Procedures

    • Equipments

  • Patient assessment

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Licensing and Certification:

In most states of the US, the licensure requirements for a respiratory therapist would include the completion of state/professional certificate examination. The main certifying body is the ‘National Board for Respiratory Care’, which offers the following two levels of certification:

  • Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)

  • Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)

Job Outlook and Opportunities:

The number of respiratory therapy jobs in the year 2012 was found to be 119,300. The job opportunity for respiratory therapists has been projected to increase by 19% from the year 2012 to 2022. This rate is faster when compared to the median for all the occupations.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a respiratory therapist was found to be $55,870 per year in May 2012. This equals the hourly pay of $26.86.


Average Pay                                        :           $55,870

Education                                            :           Associate’s degree

Number of Jobs, 2012                         :           119,300

Employment Growth from 2012 to 2022         :           19%

On-the-job training                              :           None

Work Experience                                 :           None