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Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory Therapists
Quick Facts : Respiratory Therapists*
2010 Median Pay$54,280
Entry Level EducationAssociate's degree
Work Experience in Related OccupationNone
Number of Jobs, 2012112,700
Job Outlook28% (Faster than average)
Employment Change31,200

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing; for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. Respiratory therapists also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

What Respiratory Therapists Do

  • Interview and examine patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders
  • Consult with physicians to develop patient treatment plans
  • Perform diagnostic tests such as measuring lung capacity
  • Monitor and record the progress of treatment
  • Supervise respiratory therapy technicians during tests and evaluate the findings of the tests

Work Environment

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Others may work in nursing care facilities or travel to patients' homes.
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Job Outlook

Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow by 28 percent from 2010 to 2020.
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The average salary of respiratory therapists was $54,280 in May 2010.
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Respiratory Therapists*
Average Annual Salary, May 2010

Respiratory Therapists


Healthcare Occupations


All Jobs in the U.S.

Respiratory Therapists*
Percent Change in Employment

Respiratory Therapists


Healthcare Occupations


All Jobs in the U.S.


Becoming a Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists need at least an associate's degree, but employers look favorably on applicants who have more education. Many colleges and universities, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces offer training. Most programs award an associate's or bachelor's degree.
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