Respiratory Technician: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for respiratory technicians. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Respiratory Technician?

Respiratory technicians help patients who have breathing disorders by operating medical equipment and monitoring patients' reactions to treatment. Some of the equipment used in this profession include ventilators and various oxygen devices as well as those used in aerosol and breathing treatments. When working you'd be responsible for following and enforcing safety rules that apply to the use of this equipment. You'd also keep records of patients breathing therapy and fill out paperwork related to the treatment. See the table below for more information:

Degree RequiredAssociate's degree or certificate
Education Field of Study Respiratory therapy
Key Responsibilities Provide respiratory treatments to patients; monitor treatments and adjust equipment; update patient records
Job Growth (2018-2028) 21%* (respiratory therapists)
Median Annual Salary (2018)$51,380*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Respiratory Technician?

Under the supervision of a respiratory therapist or physician, you evaluate and provide personal care to patients undergoing treatment for breathing and cardiopulmonary disorders. These include asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and pneumonia.

Your duties include interpreting and implementing treatment protocols as ordered by your superiors; monitoring patients' reaction to treatment; adjusting treatment as warranted; adjusting and monitoring ventilators, aerosol generators and other breathing assist devices; collecting gas samples from blood; performing diagnostic tests; and maintaining patient treatment records. You might also help provide care during cardiopulmonary emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.

Where Could I Work?

While a small number of respiratory technicians work for specialty hospitals, physicians and other assorted practitioners, most work in general medical hospitals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Hospital settings in which you can expect to provide patient care include neonatal and pediatric care units, surgical intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Employment Statistics

Only about 9,000 people worked as respiratory technicians in 2018. As of May 2018, the mean annual salary of respiratory technicians was $51,210, per the BLS. Respiratory therapists, a similar occupation, can expect 21% job growth between 2018-2028.

What Education Will I Need?

A certificate in a relevant subject is typically sufficient for entry-level employment as a respiratory technician. However, figures from O*Net Online show that about 63% of technicians in the field have an associate's degree (www.onetonline.org). A 2-year associate's degree program covers technical information such as respiratory physiology and medical terminology, and teaches you fundamental patient care, therapeutic techniques for different categories of patients, and how to recognize respiratory diseases. Most programs include a practicum through which you interact with real patients in a clinical setting.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Since there are not very many of these jobs around, and the BLS predicts there will be far less in the future, you may want to consider other options. With a little more education a person interested in respiratory therapy can become a respiratory therapist. These therapist pretty much do everything the technician does, but is more responsible for maintaining patients' charts. If you are interested in working with medical equipment there are a number of other technician and technologist careers out there. Some of these include cardiovascular technicians who conduct test on patients' cardiovascular system, diagnostic medical sonographers who use medical imaging equipment to make diagnostic images, and nuclear medicine technologist who use radioactive drugs to detect malignant growths.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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