What Is the Employment Outlook for Respiratory Therapy Careers?

The employment outlook for the respiratory therapy field is fairly good, with employment growth that is better than the average for other occupations. Read on to learn more about the economic outlook and salary potential for respiratory therapists. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Options

The American Association for Respiratory Care, www.aarc.org, says that a respiratory therapist performs diverse job duties. Respiratory therapy can include diagnosing lung disorders and breathing problems, planning physical therapy regimens, using advanced equipment to analyze specimens, managing ventilators and working in emergency response situations.

These professionals with specialized education often hold certification as well, such as that offered by The National Board for Respiratory Care. Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, generally in respiratory care, pulmonary medicine or anesthesiology. According to the AARC, some may become shift managers or entrepreneurs, coupling their knowledge of respiratory therapy with a keen business sense. Others may become teachers, either in educational institutions or hospitals; they may also carry out research in the field.

Important Facts About Respiratory Therapists

Required Education Associate's degree
Key Skills Patience; attention to detail; empathy; solid science and math foundation; problem solving; social nuance
Work Environment Full-time, possibly working evenings, nights, or weekends
Similar Occupations Athletic trainers; exercise physiologists; occupational therapists; physical therapists; radiation therapists; registered nurses; speech-language pathologists

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, respiratory therapists are expected to have an employment growth of the 23% over the 2016-2026 decade. There were 130,200 professionals in this field in 2016, and this number is expected to increase by 30,500 by 2026. The BLS noted that most of these career opportunities are in hospitals, although some therapists work at specialty hospitals and nursing care facilities.

Concern about general health, increased access to health insurance and aging - as the number of middle-aged and elderly Americans grows larger - is a major reason for this employment growth. In addition, medications and treatments have become more advanced and improved, creating additional demand for these professionals.

Improve Your Prospects

The BLS notes that demand for respiratory therapists varies by location, so being willing to work in a rural area might help you find a job. In addition, you may pursue certification to stand out to employers. There are two certification options from The National Board for Respiratory Care, including the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentials. The requirements for each of these vary. For example, the CRT credential requires an approved associate's or bachelor's degree, as well as successful competition of the exam. The RRT credential requires an exam, as well as previous CRT certification, experience and education.

Salary Overview

In May 2018, the BLS reported that respiratory therapists earned a mean annual salary of $62,500. Most workers in this field made between $43,750 and $83,520. While general medical and surgical hospitals paid a mean wage of $62,570, specialty hospitals paid a wage of $64,380. These workers earned a mean salary of $62,590 at nursing care facilities and $61,050 at the offices of physicians. Outpatient care centers offered one of the highest potential mean earnings of $76,000.

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