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 $28.12 and a mean annual wage of $58,490 in May 2014 (www.bls.gov). Respiratory therapists in the top ten percent of income had hourly wages of $37.61 or more and annual wages of $78,230 or more. The bottom ten percent made $19.89 an hour a less or $41,380 a year or less. The median salary for respiratory therapists was $27.27 an hour or $56,730 a year.

Salary by Location

The BLS reported in May 2014 that California was the top-paying state for respiratory therapists with mean pay at $77,280 a year or $37.15 an hour. Other top states were Nevada ($71,870), New Jersey ($69,870), Massachusetts ($69,280) and Alaska ($68,970). States paying the least had mean earnings of $22,880 to $51,040 and included Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Kansas and West Virginia.

Salary by Industry

Outpatient care centers had the highest mean pay of $69,000 for these professionals in May 2014, reported the BLS. Other industries paying the most included employment services; residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities; home health care services, and local government. General medical and surgical hospitals had the highest employment level in May 2014, and the mean wage was $58,360 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 September 2015, PayScale.com reported that respiratory therapists with the RRT certification earned salaries ranging from $36,390 to $70,543. At the same time, those with the Certified Respiratory Therapy (CRT) credential were paid a median salary of $44,393.

Job Outlook

The BLS reported that jobs for respiratory therapists are expected to experience a 19% growth from 2012 to 2022, 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 2014 included medical, surgical and specialty hospitals; nursing care facilities; offices of physicians; and consumer goods rental. The states with the highest concentration of respiratory therapists at that time were Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Ohio.

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