What Can I Do With a Degree in Respiratory Therapy?

A graduate who holds a respiratory therapy degree can pursue employment that involves treating a range of people who have breathing problems and lung ailments. While several career options may be available to graduates of respiratory therapy programs, the predominant career in the field is respiratory therapist. This article explores respiratory therapy careers and job functions. Read on for more information. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Respiratory Therapy Career Overview

An associate's degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for a career in this field, though job applicants with bachelor's degrees might face better employment prospects. In either type of programs, students learn to evaluate patients' conditions, run diagnostic tests, facilitate physical examinations and administer treatments.

Every state with the exception of Alaska requires licensure for respiratory therapists. To obtain a license in this field, you'll typically need to complete an accredited program and pass an exam.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Work Environment Medical facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes; patients' homes
Key Skills Compassion and attention to detail, patience, interpersonal skills, math and science skills
Licensing/Certification Professional certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care can meet state licensure requirements; certification is also preferred by employers
Similar Occupations Occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiation therapists

Job Responsibilities

In a typical workday, a respiratory therapist might perform chest physiotherapy on a patient. This action serves to improve the patient's breathing by removing mucus from the lungs. The therapist addresses these and other conditions caused by diseases such as cystic fibrosis. These professionals also monitor patients' equipment. This includes ventilators, nebulizers, air ionizers and oxygen concentrators. Each piece of equipment requires specific technical knowledge.

He or she may also administer aerosol medications, consult with physicians, connect patients to ventilators or supervise respiratory technicians. Respiratory therapists who have a bachelor's degree and/or related experience can become supervisors, branch managers or teachers at respiratory therapy centers or university clinics.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that median annual earnings for respiratory therapists were $60,280, though the top 10% earned more than $83,520. The number of employment opportunities for respiratory therapists was expected to grow 23% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the national average of 7% for all occupations.

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