Respiratory therapy is one area of healthcare predicted to keep growing strongly over the next ten years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of respiratory therapist jobs in the United States is predicted to grow by 28 percent between 2010 and 2020, even faster than the average for healthcare jobs as a whole and much faster than the average job growth rate.
What Do Respiratory Therapists Do?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapists conduct interviews and examinations of patients with breathing problems, consult with doctors to develop treatment options, perform tests to determine lung capacity and breathing volume, treat patients with physiotherapeutic methods and aerosols, and teach patients how to self-administer breathing treatments. Respiratory therapists are usually called in as consultants to problem breathing cases.
How Much Do Respiratory Therapists Earn?
Respiratory therapists earn a median salary of $54,280, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They can earn as little as $39,990 and as much as $73,410 per year, depending on where they work, their degree level, and the number of years of experience they have.
Respiratory therapists in nursing care facilities earn the highest median salary at $57,450. Respiratory therapists in home health care earn a median salary of $55,960, while those in hospitals earn $54,210. Respiratory therapists who work as consultants in doctor’s offices earn the lowest median salary of $52,500, but they also work fewer hours on average than those in hospitals and other clinical care facilities. Doctor’s offices also offer “normal” working hours during the week, while respiratory therapists in hospitals and other settings may be on call over weekends, holidays, and at night.
How Do I Become A Respiratory Therapist?
While a person can enter the profession with a two-year associate’s degree, most respiratory therapists have at least a four-year degree and some pursue a master’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Respiratory therapists study basic sciences such as biology and anatomy but also take classes designed specifically to teach respiratory therapy techniques, and most programs have a clinical component so that respiratory therapists can gain on-the-job experience working with equipment and patients.
Every state except Alaska requires respiratory therapists to be licensed. Respiratory therapists must pass an examination based on knowledge of techniques as well as theory, and must renew their licenses periodically. The National Board for Respiratory Care or the NBRC is the governing body nationally for respiratory therapy certification.
There are two levels of certification for respiratory therapists: Certified Respiratory Therapist or CRT and Registered Respiratory Therapist or RRT. A CRT must have at least an associate’s degree from an accredited school and must pass a test. An RRT must already have CRT certification and take a different test.
In order to become a successful respiratory therapist, you must be willing to work hard at certification and training and be flexible enough to take entry-level jobs that may involve shift work or other conditions. However, respiratory therapy can be a rewarding career if you enjoy helping others and working in a fast-paced and demanding environment.