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Become A Respiratory Therapist

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Working As A Respiratory Therapist

  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Getting Information
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • $68,360

    Average Salary

What Does A Respiratory Therapist Do

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.


Respiratory therapists typically do the following:

  • Interview and examine patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders
  • Consult with physicians to develop patient treatment plans
  • Perform diagnostic tests, such as measuring lung capacity
  • Treat patients by using a variety of methods, including chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications
  • Monitor and record patients’ progress
  • Teach patients how to use treatments and equipment, such as ventilators

Respiratory therapists use various tests to evaluate patients. For example, therapists test lung capacity by having patients breathe into an instrument that measures the volume and flow of oxygen when they inhale and exhale. Respiratory therapists also may take blood samples and use a blood gas analyzer to test oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Respiratory therapists perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier for them to breathe. Removing mucus is necessary for patients suffering from lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, and involves the therapist vibrating the patient’s rib cage, often by tapping the patient’s chest and encouraging him or her to cough.

Respiratory therapists may connect patients who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators that deliver oxygen to the lungs. Therapists insert a tube in the patient’s windpipe (trachea) and connect the tube to ventilator equipment. They set up and monitor the equipment to ensure that the patient is receiving the correct amount of oxygen at the correct rate.

Respiratory therapists who work in home care teach patients and their families to use ventilators and other life-support systems in their homes. During these visits, they may inspect and clean equipment, check the home for environmental hazards, and ensure that patients know how to use their medications. Therapists also make emergency home visits when necessary.

In some hospitals, respiratory therapists are involved in related areas, such as diagnosing breathing problems for people with sleep apnea and counseling people on how to stop smoking.

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How To Become A Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists typically need an associate’s degree, but some have bachelor’s degrees. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.


Respiratory therapists need at least an associate’s degree, but employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. Educational programs are offered by colleges and universities, vocational–technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. Completion of a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care may be required for licensure.

Respiratory therapy programs typically include courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and math. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In addition to coursework, programs have clinical components that allow therapists to gain supervised, practical experience in treating patients.

High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs should take courses in health, biology, math, chemistry, and physics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska, although requirements vary by state. Licensure requirements in most states include passing a state or professional certification exam. For specific state requirements, contact the state’s health board.

The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body for respiratory therapists. The Board offers two levels of certification: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

CRT is the first-level certification. Applicants must have earned an associate’s degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program, or completed the equivalent coursework in a bachelor’s degree program, and pass an exam.

The second-level certification is RRT certification. Applicants must already have CRT certification, meet other education or experience requirements, and pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Respiratory therapists should be able to provide emotional support to patients undergoing treatment and be sympathetic to their needs.

Detail oriented. Respiratory therapists must be detail oriented to ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments and medications in a timely manner. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.

Interpersonal skills. Respiratory therapists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to follow instructions from a supervising physician.

Patience. Respiratory therapists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.

Problem-solving skills. Respiratory therapists need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms, consult with other healthcare professionals, and recommend and administer the appropriate treatments.

Science and math skills. Respiratory therapists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences and be able to calculate the right dose of a patient’s medicine.

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Respiratory Therapist jobs

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Respiratory Therapist Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Russian

  • Hindi

  • Vietnamese

  • German

  • Tagalog

  • Portuguese

  • Chinese

  • Arabic

  • Mandarin

  • Cantonese

  • Yoruba

  • Malayalam

  • Italian

  • Swedish

  • Gujarati

  • Bulgarian

  • Ukrainian

  • Dari

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Respiratory Therapist

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Respiratory Therapist Education

Respiratory Therapist

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Real Respiratory Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Respiratory Therapist Sutter Health East Bay Region Berkeley, CA Aug 12, 2011 $86,736
Respiratory Therapist New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Roosevelt, NY Jun 25, 2013 $69,338
Respiratory Therapist Emilia Assisted Living Home Inc. Alexandria, VA Mar 11, 2016 $68,120
Respiratory Therapist New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Roosevelt, NY Jun 25, 2010 $67,051
Respiratory Therapist Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Berkeley, CA Mar 15, 2016 $63,111
Respiratory Therapist Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center New York, NY Sep 30, 2012 $62,000
Respiratory Therapist II Rush University Medical Center Chicago, IL Nov 06, 2016 $60,944
Respiratory Therapist RCM Technologies, Inc. Rockville, MD Feb 15, 2008 $59,480
Respiratory Therapist Suburban Hospital Bethesda, MD Jan 20, 2009 $59,187
Respiratory Therapist Children's Specialized Hospital New Brunswick, NJ Jul 31, 2011 $58,519
Respiratory Therapist GVR Services Center Inc. Houston, TX Sep 18, 2015 $58,436
Respiratory Therapist New York Community Hospital New York, NY Sep 01, 2010 $57,179
Respiratory Therapist Rush University Medical Center Chicago, IL Jun 11, 2013 $56,451
Respiratory Therapist Clear Lake Rehabilitation Hospital LLC Webster, TX Oct 01, 2012 $50,610
Respiratory Therapist Community Hospitals & Wellness Centers Bryan, OH May 23, 2008 $46,331
Respiratory Therapist Providence Hospital Washington, DC Feb 27, 2009 $45,914
Respiratory Therapists Providence Hospital Washington, DC Jan 29, 2010 $45,914
Respiratory Therapist Providence Hospital Washington, DC Dec 17, 2009 $45,914
Respiratory Therapist II Rush University Medical Center Oak Park, IL Jun 17, 2016 $45,714
Respiratory Therapists Lubbock I Enterprises LLC/DBA Southern Specialty Lubbock, TX Jul 21, 2014 $45,219
Respiratory Therapist Lubbock I Enterprises, L.L.C. Lubbock, TX Mar 17, 2015 $43,764 -
Respiratory Therapist Miller County Hospital Colquitt, GA Feb 28, 2011 $43,680
Registered Respiratory Therapist Covenant Healthcare Saginaw, MI Jan 01, 2010 $43,331
Respiratory Therapist Terrick Properties, Inc. Lubbock, TX Sep 02, 2010 $43,077
Respiratory Therapist Surgery Specialty Hospital of America Pasadena, TX Jul 10, 2008 $41,500
Respiratory Therapist Terrick Properties, Inc. Lubbock, TX Oct 02, 2010 $38,880
Respiratory Therapist Terrick Properties, Inc. Lubbock, TX Sep 02, 2010 $38,880
Registered Respiratory Therapist Medical Center Hospital Odessa, TX Jul 02, 2013 $38,296

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Top Skills for A Respiratory Therapist


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Top Respiratory Therapist Skills

  1. Oxygen Therapy
  2. Respiratory Care
  3. Ventilator Management
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed all areas of Respiratory Care, including oxygen therapy and nebulizer therapy.
  • Delivered comprehensive respiratory care within clinic and in patient homes.
  • Introduced new weaning protocols for ventilator management that improved quality of services.
  • General hospital respiratory areas include the Emergency Room, Intensive Care Units, and floor coverage.
  • Assist in setup & monitoring ventilators, bipap/cpap.

Top Respiratory Therapist Employers

Respiratory Therapist Videos

Respiratory Therapist Salary | Respiratory Therapist Job Overview, Education Requirements

Respiratory Therapist (Educator), Career Video from drkit.org