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Respiratory Care Careers

person in scrubs and stethoscope

Job Opportunities

Respiratory care is one of the nation’s fastest-growing allied health professions, with employment opportunities expected to grow faster than average due to:

  • our aging population, with an increased incidence of respiratory conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia
  • environmental problems
  • increasing incidences of cancer
  • the increasing role of respiratory therapists in the early detection of disease

Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for therapists with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants. More than 80 percent of respiratory care practitioners work in hospitals, but many also work in:

  • offices of doctors and other health care practitioners
  • clinics, both inpatient and outpatient
  • home health care
  • health maintenance organizations
  • rental firms for medical products
  • skilled nursing facilities

Credentialing and Licensing

The National Board for Respiratory Care offers certification and registration to graduates of programs accredited by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

Two credentials are awarded to respiratory therapists who satisfy the requirements: 

  • certified respiratory therapist
  • registered respiratory therapist

Graduates from accredited entry-level or advanced-level programs in respiratory therapy may take the CRT examination. CRTs who were graduated from advanced-level programs and who meet additional experience requirements can take two separate examinations leading to the award of the RRT credential.

All states except Alaska and Hawaii, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require respiratory therapists to obtain a license. Passing the CRT exam qualifies respiratory therapists for state licenses. Also, most employers require respiratory therapists to maintain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Supervisory positions and intensive-care specialties often require the RRT or at least RRT eligibility.

Respiratory Care at a Glance

Looking for a quick overview of the Respiratory Care Program? Take a look at Respiratory Care at a Glance for a short summary of what a respiratory practitioner does.

Average Salaries and Projected Job Growth

America’s Career Infonet gives detailed information about the skills, abilities, work activities and recommended education for:

Job Title Median Hourly Rate Median Annual Salary Est. Growth Through 2022
Respiratory therapy technician $24.75 $51,500 +28%
Respiratory therapist $26.35 $54,800 +29%

Statistics are included only as guidelines and will vary with fluctuations in the economy and job market. More specific local hiring and salary information can be obtained at college information sessions. Please note that additional education may be required.