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Respiratory Therapists



Schools and Education

What's Needed:

  • Although the minimum academic requirement is an associate degree a bachelor's degree provides broader employment opportunities.
  • Programs are offered by colleges and universities at the associate bachelor's and post-graduate levels.
  • Respiratory therapists must complete a training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

What you study:

Study topics include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Biomedical technology
  • Respiratory assessment
  • Respiratory therapeutic techniques

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as a respiratory therapist student.

Principles of Respiratory TherapyTheory and history of respiratory care; organization of respiratory service teams; overview of techniques such as medical gas therapy (using nutrous oxide to widen blood vessels) humidity and aerosol therapy (delivering medicine or moisture in gas form) and oxygen therapy (administering concentrated oxygen); standards of safety and professional conduct in the respiratory care field.Give a general survey of a respiratory therapist's position and roles.
Cardiopulmonary Anatomy and PhysiologyStructure and function of the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) and the pulmonary system (blood circulation between the heart and lungs); the process of respiration (breathing); metabolism and transport of oxygen; exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide.Provide background knowledge on body systems related to respiration.
Respiratory Patient ManagementInvestigating and diagnosing patients' respiratory complaints; computerized medical record-keeping; collecting organizing and presenting case data in clinical settings; standards of respect and confidentiality in communication with patients.Prepare students to process respiratory patient cases.
Respiratory PathophysiologyManifestations and features of common types of cardiopulmonary diseases; etiology (origins) and pathophysiology (disordered physical processes) of each disease; preparing a treatment plan and prognosis (projection of the ailment's likely course) tailored to each patient's specific instance of a disease.Enable students to recognize and help treat diseases involving respiration.
Respiratory Care ProceduresPractical applications of respiratory treatment techniques surveyed in the introductory course including medical gas therapy humidity and aerosol therapy and oxygen therapy; airway management (keeping a patient's breathing passages open); performing clinical cardiopulmonary tests and interpreting the results.Get students ready to treat respiratory patients in a clinic.
Perinatal Care and Pediatric Respiratory CareRespiratory issues and pathophysiologies specific to infants and young children; fetal respiratory development; respiratory aspects of Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP); safety and sanitation concerns when dealing with very young respiratory patients.Familiarize students the special needs of young respiratory patients.
Critical Respiratory CareTechniques for respiratory interventions in hospital settings; assessing and managing respiratory patients in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU); decision-making during life-threatening respiratory emergencies; proper procedures for clinical Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).Ready students to perform respiratory interventions in life-or-death situations.

Video Overview

An introduction into the work of respiratory therapists. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

The respiratory therapy field is regulated at the state level and almost all states require licensure. To become licensed candidates must obtain a credential through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Graduates of an accredited training program can earn initial credentials by passing the NBRC's Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam.

Practitioners can earn a more advanced credential the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) which is often required for more senior positions. Additional credentials are available for a number of specializations such as critical care.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Most respiratory therapists work full time. As respiratory care is needed at all hours some practitioners work evening night or weekend shifts.

Work location:

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Others are employed in a variety of settings such as skilled nursing facilities rehabilitation centers patient transport and home care.

Recommended Websites

  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook ? The site gives a balanced overview of the respiratory therapy profession. The information helps you understand the basics of the highly specialized role that respiratory therapists play in patient care. As the field is diverse follow up with additional websites that discuss it in greater detail.
  • National Board for Respiratory Care The NBRC is the organization that provides credentialing for respiratory therapists. The site offers thorough information on the credentialing process including a downloadable candidate handbook and contact information for state licensure agencies.
  • American Association for Respiratory Care ? The AARC is a professional organization for respiratory care practitioners. The site includes a ?Be an RT" section that provides a good introduction to the profession from an insider point of view. It also has a career section with national job listings and job-hunting tips.
  • Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care ? The CoARC accredits respiratory therapy education programs at all academic levels. The site's section for students and the public includes a searchable list of accredited programs.
  • Explore Health Careers ? ExploreHealthCareers.org is an online healthcare initiative to provide students with detailed information about health careers. The site profiles respiratory therapists and explains how to prepare for the field.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$68420$55K – $77K1300.08%
ALAnniston – Oxford$44820$34K – $57K400.10%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$45820$36K – $59K7500.15%
ALDecatur$41300$33K – $47K400.08%
ALDothan$47280$33K – $74K1200.22%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$37810$31K – $49K700.13%
ALHuntsville$43950$36K – $54K2000.10%
ALMobile$45400$39K – $58K2500.15%
ALMontgomery$50700$37K – $60K1100.07%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$48490$35K – $61K1200.06%
ARFort Smith$46500$37K – $58K

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