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Respiratory Care Careers

What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

Respiratory therapists (also called respiratory care practitioners) provide hands-on care for patients with a wide range of medical conditions that affect the lungs. Whenever breathing is an issue, respiratory therapists are there.

RTs specialize in treating people with diseases such as asthma, emphysema, heart disease and more. They also provide care to patients in emergency situations where breathing is an issue, as with a heart attack or shock. They work in almost every area of health care with all ages, with patients ranging from premature infants to the elderly.

Job Opportunities

Respiratory care is one of the nation’s fastest-growing allied health professions, with job growth expected due to:

  • an aging population, with increased respiratory conditions
  • environmental issues
  • the increasing role of RTs in disease detection

Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for RTs with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants.

Where Do Respiratory Therapists Work?

More than 80 percent of respiratory therapists work in hospitals, but they may also work in:

  • doctors' offices
  • clinics
  • home health care
  • rental firms for medical products
  • nursing homes

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

CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, projects for Texas:

Job Title Median Hourly
Rate
Median Annual Salary Est. Growth Through 2024
Respiratory
therapist
$27.60$57,420+31%

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.