Career Path Series: Respiratory Therapy

Oxygen mask

With all the health care professions out there, how can you know which one is right for you? COVID-19 has certainly shined a bright light on the need for respiratory therapists. They are involved in treatment for patients with breathing difficulty from chronic diseases such as asthma and cystic fibrosis to acute COVID-related issues. You will find Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs) in hospitals, clinics, and homecare. If you like helping people, enjoy technology, are good in math and science, and looking for variety, Respiratory Therapy might be a great choice!  

According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, typical duties include:

  • Diagnosing lung and breathing disorders and recommending treatment methods.
  • Interviewing patients and doing chest physical exams to determine what kind of therapy is best for their condition.
  • Consulting with physicians to recommend a change in therapy, based on your evaluation of the patient.
  • Analyzing breath, tissue, and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases.
  • Managing ventilators and artificial airway devices for patients who can’t breathe normally on their own.
  • Responding to emergencies and urgent calls for care.
  • Educating patients and families about lung disease so they can maximize their quality of life.

Respiratory Therapy is a high-demand field with an above-average salary with an Associate’s degree and a state license (in all states except Alaska). The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates projected growth in the next decade of 19% (from 2019 study) but given the pandemic, it may be more than that. For an RRT with an Associate’s degree, the mean national salary average was $61,130 in May 2019. 

If you are already an RRT did you know you can advance your degree online? Boise State University (a participant in the EdAssist Solutions Education Network) offers an online bachelor’s degree for working Certified Respiratory Therapists or Registered Respiratory Therapists with an estimated total cost of the degree at only $9,800. 

This is the first in our career series, we plan to highlight 1-2 professions each month. If there is a job you would like to find more about drop us a line and we can add it to our spotlight list.  

References: 

  • American Association for Respiratory Care https://www.aarc.org/careers/how-to-become-an-rt/ 
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Respiratory Therapists,  at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm (visited March 09, 2021).

Written by: Melissa Kessler

March 29, 2021

About the Author

Melissa Kessler headshot

Melissa brings 25 years of experience in higher education to Bright Horizons, including 15 years as the Assistant Director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Rochester Institute of Technology and 7 years advising within a Nursing program. Melissa holds a Master’s in Career Development.