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How Much Does a Respiratory Therapist Make

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

If you’re interested in a health care career, but don’t want to spend a lot of time in school, respiratory therapy may be a field to consider. As a respiratory therapist, you’ll provide both routine and emergency treatments to people who have breathing problems. You’ll also educate and counsel patients in how need to monitor their conditions or make lifestyle changes. This career can provide mothers with the opportunity to complete their training in just a few years, earn a good wage and schedule work hours around family needs.

Job Description

Respiratory therapists provide care for adults and children who are having issues with their breathing. They work closely with nurses and physicians to identify problems and administer tests and treatments.

As a respiratory therapist, your responsibilities may include these tasks:

  • Perform examinations
  • Conduct breathing tests
  • Administer breathing treatments
  • Connect patients to ventilators
  • Provide chest physiotherapy
  • Educate patients on self-care

Education Requirements

All states, except Alaska, require respiratory therapists to hold a professional license. At minimum, you’ll need to complete an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy, though you may find that job prospects improve if you hold a bachelor’s degree. You can enroll in these educational programs at technical schools, community colleges and four-year universities. When researching training options, ask the school if their program holds accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. According to the United States Department of Labor Statistics, some states only license graduates of accredited programs.

Another consideration is certification: The National Board for Respiratory Care offers professional certification to respiratory therapists. Holding certification may improve your chance of both finding a job and advancing in your career.

According to the BLS, the median average salary for a respiratory therapist was $58,670 as of May 2016. The bottom 10 percent of earners made less than $42,490, while the top 10 percent earned more than $81,550.

About the Industry

Most respiratory therapists, some 81 percent, work in hospitals, and5 percent are employed by nursing homes and 2 percent by doctor’s offices. If you become a respiratory therapist, you can expect to work full-time. You may also work evening, overnight and weekend shifts.

Years of Experience

According to a survey by, respiratory therapists can expect to see their wages increase as they get more experience in their field. The correlation between experience and earnings are as follows:

  • 0–5 years: $48,000 
  • 5–10 years: $53,000 
  • 10–20 years: $57,000 
  • 20 years or more: $62,000

Job Growth Trend

The BLS predicts that employment in this profession will increase by 26 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is significantly faster than expected in other professions. The aging population in the United States will contribute to the demand for health care workers, including respiratory therapists. Another factor affecting demand is a trend toward not hospitalizing patients when possible. As a result, the BLS notes that more employment opportunities may become available in medical offices and nursing facilities.