Career Detail


Respiratory Therapist
“Take a Deep Breath!”
Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians-also known as respiratory care practitioners-evaluate, treat, and care for patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders.
Average Pay: $52,200    Qualifications: bachelor's degree
The Job
Respiratory therapists also are more likely to provide complex therapy requiring considerable independent judgment, such as caring for patients on life support in intensive-care units of hospitals. In this Handbook statement, the term respiratory therapist includes both respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians.
Work Environment
Respiratory therapists generally work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Because hospitals operate around the clock, therapists may work evenings, nights, or weekends.
College Majors
bachelor's or master's degree
Minimum Qualifications
"An associate degree is the minimum educational requirement, but a bachelor degree in respiratory therapy or even a master's may be important for advancement." All States, except Alaska and Hawaii, require respiratory therapists to be licensed.
Personality traits helpful for this career
Therapists should be sensitive to a patient's physical and psychological needs. Respiratory care practitioners must pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and work as part of a team.
Quick Facts
  • Job opportunities should be very good.
  • An associate degree is the minimum educational requirement, but a bachelor's or master's degree may be important for advancement.
  • All States, except Alaska and Hawaii, require respiratory therapists to be licensed.
  • Hospitals will account for the vast majority of job openings, but a growing number of openings will arise in other settings.
Compensation and Outlook
Median annual wages of wage-and-salary respiratory therapists were $52,200 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $44,490 and $61,720. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,920 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,800.
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