How To Become A Respiratory Therapist

We take breathing for granted, right? While some do, others struggle with it. A Respiratory Therapist is an essential healthcare worker tasked with administering treatments to those who have breathing issues.

Are you interested in entering the healthcare field and concentrating your efforts in the pulmonary field? If so, consider becoming a Respiratory Therapist… Take a look! 

Related Article: 40 Highest Paying Jobs With A Trade School Education

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What does a Respiratory Therapist do?

Respiratory Therapists perform a wide range of duties while treating patients with emphysema, COPD, cystic fibrosis, asthma, and many other types of conditions that cause difficulty in breathing. 

Also, they treat all ages of patients, from premature babies with underdeveloped lungs to elderly patients with chronic respiratory issues and everyone in between who may be battling pneumonia or COVID. Respiratory Therapists also treat emergency conditions.

Duties include:

  • Examines patients with breathing disorders,
  • Works closely with attending physicians or pulmonologists,
  • Inspects and cleans equipment,
  • Treats patients accordingly, through therapy or medications,
  • Keeps records of the patient’s progress or decline, recording oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, etc.,
  • Takes blood tests,
  • Intubates patients when necessary,
  • Performs a variety of tests, such as chest physiotherapy to remove mucus from lungs,
  • Instructs the patient about self-care, taking medications, using ventilators, or administering breathing treatments at home.

In addition, a Respiratory Therapist can help patients stop smoking and assist clients who have sleep apnea. 

How do I become a Respiratory Therapist?

Typically, Respiratory Therapists need, at the very minimum, an associate degree. Occasionally, employers will prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree. 

Community colleges and vocational schools often offer this type of degree program. To gain licensure, your school should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care

What will I learn in an Associate of Respiratory Therapy degree program?

You can expect the following coursework:

  • Microbiology
  • Therapeutic & Diagnostic Tests and Procedures
  • Pharmacology
  • Chemistry
  • Human Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Physics
  • Pharmacology
  • CPR
  • Patient Assessment
  • And, much more.

Do I need to be licensed to become a Respiratory Therapist?

Although requirements may vary, every state except Alaska requires their Respiratory Therapists to be properly licensed.

There are two levels of respiratory therapy certifications: 

  • Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) – entry-level
  • Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) – advanced-level

Both certifications can be obtained through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Are Respiratory Therapists doctors?

No, Respiratory Therapists are highly trained and certified to perform their duties; however, they are not considered doctors. But, you will work closely with attending physicians, surgeons, or pulmonologists. 

Is being a Respiratory Therapist a stressful job? states that the career of a Respiratory Therapist rates 20/100 on the stress scale. This is primarily because many who need a Respiratory Therapist are in dire straits when breathing is not easy for them. 

Also, they rate the work environment at 60/100, which is typical in a hospital or physician’s office atmosphere.

How much does a Respiratory Therapist get paid?

According to the BLS, as of May 2020, the average pay for a Respiratory Therapist was $62,810 annually, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $89,170 per year.

Is there a demand for Respiratory Therapists?

As the population continues to grow older, more and more people will need the services of a Respiratory Therapist. The BLS predicts a 23% positive job growth rate between 2020 and 2030, faster than average for all occupations. 

Where does a Respiratory Therapist work?

Often Respiratory Therapists work in hospitals, physician’s offices, or in long-term healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes. The highest-paying positions are found in the hospital setting. 

Work hours can vary, mainly if you work in a hospital where 24/7 care is required. You may be expected to work nights and/or weekends. 

What is a Pulmonologist?

A Pulmonologist treats patients who have respiratory problems. Suppose you wish to pursue further education to become a Pulmonologist. In that case, you will need a bachelor’s degree, medical school (lasting up to four years), followed by a residency and fellowship… quite a lengthy process.
The annual salary, according to, for a Pulmonologist is $331,676 per year on average.