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Career Profile: Respiratory Therapists

Assess, treat, and care for patients with breathing disorders. Assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care modalities, including the supervision of respiratory therapy technicians. Initiate and conduct therapeutic procedures; maintain patient records; and select, assemble, check, and operate equipment.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 135,100 people employed as respiratory therapists in the United States. The median annual salary is $62,800. Entry level employees earn approximately $45,940 per year and senior employees earn approximately $89,170 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Perform bronchopulmonary drainage and assist or instruct patients in performance of breathing exercises.
  • Conduct tests, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), stress testing, or lung capacity tests, to evaluate patients' cardiopulmonary functions.
  • Perform pulmonary function and adjust equipment to obtain optimum results in therapy.
  • Demonstrate respiratory care procedures to trainees or other healthcare personnel.
  • Use a variety of testing techniques to assist doctors in cardiac or pulmonary research or to diagnose disorders.
  • Transport patients to the hospital or within the hospital.
  • Teach, train, supervise, or use the assistance of students, respiratory therapy technicians, or assistants.
  • Perform endotracheal intubation to maintain open airways for patients who are unable to breathe on their own.
  • Monitor cardiac patients, using electrocardiography devices, such as a holter monitor.
  • Enforce safety rules and ensure careful adherence to physicians' orders.
  • Educate patients and their families about their conditions and teach appropriate disease management techniques, such as breathing exercises or the use of medications or respiratory equipment.
  • Provide emergency care, such as artificial respiration, external cardiac massage, or assistance with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • Monitor patient's physiological responses to therapy, such as vital signs, arterial blood gases, or blood chemistry changes, and consult with physician if adverse reactions occur.
  • Set up and operate devices, such as mechanical ventilators, therapeutic gas administration apparatus, environmental control systems, or aerosol generators, following specified parameters of treatment.
  • Work as part of a team of physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals to manage patient care by assisting with medical procedures or related duties.
  • Maintain charts that contain patients' pertinent identification and therapy information.
  • Read prescription, measure arterial blood gases, and review patient information to assess patient condition.
  • Relay blood analysis results to a physician.
  • Inspect, clean, test, and maintain respiratory therapy equipment to ensure equipment is functioning safely and efficiently, ordering repairs when necessary.
  • Explain treatment procedures to patients to gain cooperation and allay fears.
  • Make emergency visits to resolve equipment problems.
  • Determine requirements for treatment, such as type, method and duration of therapy, precautions to be taken, or medication and dosages, compatible with physicians' orders.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
135,100
Annual Openings:
10,100
Increase in Openings by 2030:
23%
Annual Salary Range:
$45,940 - $89,170
Education Requirements:
Associate's degree