Respiratory Therapist Salary

Specialists in the Human Resource field performed a wage survey in 2008. The results indicated that the median salary for a Respiratory Therapist is around $52,000 per year. More than half of the health professionals working as Respiratory Therapists earned between $44,000 and $62,000 annually. The lowest earning professionals in this field made around $37,000 per year, and this salary was paid to only 10% of the professionals in this field. Those that are considered the highest paid made in excess of $69,000 per year.*

*According to the BLS,

A Respiratory Therapist has opportunities to advance in the field. Advanced education, qualified experience, and certifications can all help a therapist climb the ladder of success quickly. Specialization seems to be the best way to earn top salaries in the field. Studies show that those who specialize advance in position and salary more quickly than those who stay in generalized areas of the field. In addition, those that are willing to supervise a staff of Respiratory Therapists stand a greater chance of earning six figure salaries every year.

Job Description and Outlook

The main purpose of a Respiratory Therapist is to treat patients that have cardiopulmonary and breathing trouble. The Respiratory Therapist works under the direction of the attending physician. The physician does give the therapist authority to exercise some judgment regarding treatment and diagnostic procedures. The therapist works with other health care personnel, and this professional must be able to work cooperatively in a team environment. The nature of the job can be stressful because the Respiratory Therapist may have to make difficult decisions. Some patients are on life support, and the therapist may have to terminate life support at the family’s request or physician’s orders.

Furthermore, the Respiratory Therapist works with people of all ages. The young and old can suffer from breathing difficulties. Therefore, this health care professional must respond to lung problems in young infants, and emphysema or asthma in older patients. Some cases are emergency in nature. For instance, a patient that has suffered from a heart attack, poisoning, stroke, or near drowning may have some breathing difficulties. Once the patient is in the therapist’s care, the Respiratory Therapist must work with a physician to determine the best course of action. There are several ways to determine the lung capacity in a patient. Blood tests and oxygen tests can give clues to what method might work best for a particular patient. In some patients, it is necessary to connect their lungs directly to a ventilator, and the therapist must closely measure the level of oxygen flow.

One such treatment is the inhalation method. The patient is given an oxygen mixture to inhale. Sometimes an oxygen mask is used to accomplish this. The Respiratory Therapy field is a critical area within medicine. The larger population of senior adults in the country will increase vacancies in this field. The U.S. Labor Department predicts strong job growth in the next decade. Professionals that are trained and certified should have good prospects in finding employment in this field.

Those that truly want to make a difference in the lives of people can do this in respiratory therapy. Breathing is one of the body functions that is essential to life. When a person experiences breathing difficulty, it is a dangerous situation. Skilled Respiratory Therapists save many lives each year. The career is lucrative both financially and emotionally. However, this professional must be able to stand up to the challenge of the position. Those with a love for medicine and a strong mind may enjoy this profession. Being detail-oriented is crucial in this field. Small mistakes could mean the difference between life and death.

Training and Education Requirements

A Respiratory Therapist must possess a minimum of an associate’s degree in the field. In addition, the graduate of an accredited respiratory therapy program must be licensed or certified. This is a requirement in every state with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. Individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree will have greater opportunities for advancement in this field. A large number of colleges, universities, vocation schools, junior colleges, and military programs offer training in respiratory therapy.


With the exception of Hawaii and Alaska, the Respiratory Therapist must be licensed to practice in the U.S. The vast majority of employers also require the professional to keep an up-to-date CPR license also. The title of Certified Respiratory Therapist is awarded to those who complete all education, experience, and testing requirements. Those that achieve higher levels of certification requirements can receive the credential of Registered Respiratory Therapist.

Professional Associations

Professionals in Respiratory Therapy can become a part of several professional associations. For example, the American Association for Respiratory Care is an organization that promotes the continued education of professionals in this field. The networking opportunities also provide valuable relationships for those in the field. Professionals that invest in joining professional associations are able to develop professional relationships that could be helpful in their career. Professionals can share information that can help them achieve more or better results in their field.

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