What Is the Average Salary for Respiratory Therapists?

Respiratory therapists provide treatment to patients with cardiovascular or breathing disorders. Read on to learn about how much respiratory therapists make and what the job prospects are. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Individuals who have cardiopulmonary or breathing disorders receive treatment and care from respiratory therapists. As part of your duties, you'll work alongside a doctor to administer diagnostic procedures. Once a patient has been evaluated, you'll suggest, implement and modify the appropriate treatment and care. Treatment methods include aerosol medication, oxygen mixtures and chest physiotherapy.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Required Education Associate's degree; bachelor's degree preferred by employers
Licensure Required in all states except Alaska; must complete a certification exam
Key Skills Interpersonal, problem-solving, and science and math skills; patience, compassion, and attention to detail
Work Environment Most work in hospitals, though some work in nursing homes or travel to patients' homes
Similar Occupations Occupational therapist, physical therapist, registered nurse

Salary Overview

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that respiratory therapists had a mean hourly wage of $30.05 and a mean annual wage of $62,500 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Respiratory therapists in the top ten percent of income had hourly wages of $40.15 or more and annual wages of $83,520 or more. The bottom ten percent made $21.03 an hour a less or $43,750 a year or less. The median salary for respiratory therapists was $28.98 an hour or $60,280 a year.

Salary by Location

The BLS reported in May 2018 that California was the top-paying state for respiratory therapists with mean pay at $79,640 a year or $38.29 an hour. Other top states were the District of Columbia ($78,540), Alaska ($76,610), New York ($74,890), and Massachusetts ($73,660). States paying the least had mean earnings of $49,220 to $55,560 and included Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas and West Virginia.

Salary by Industry

Local government had the highest mean pay of $77,380 for these professionals in May 2018, reported the BLS. Other industries paying the most included employment services; colleges and universities, specialty hospitals, and outpatient care centers. General medical and surgical hospitals had the highest employment level in May 2018, and the mean wage was $62,570 for that industry.

Salary by Certification

Entry level practitioners can become a certified respiratory therapist by completing credentialing examinations offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (www.nbrc.org). If you want to advance in your position, you can become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), which requires advance training and further examinations. These are usually needed for supervisory positions.

In June 2019, PayScale.com reported that respiratory therapists with the RRT certification earned salaries ranging between $41,928-$72,159. At the same time, those with the Certified Respiratory Therapy (CRT) credential were paid an average salary range of $36,460-$64,414.

Job Outlook

The BLS reported that jobs for respiratory therapists are expected to experience a 23% growth from 2016 to 2026, growing faster than the average rate. Job opportunities are expected to be good due to an increase demand for care from the elderly and middle-aged populations.

According to the BLS, industries with the highest levels of employment for respiratory therapists in May 2018 included medical, surgical and specialty hospitals; nursing care facilities; offices of physicians; and rental and leasing services. The states with the highest concentration of respiratory therapists at that time were West Virginia, Mississippi, Indiana, Kentucky and Alabama.

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