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Healthcare Respiratory Therapist
Salary Range Jobs Available
$53,300 - $93,200 10,400+

What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

If you have good interpersonal skills and you want to make an impact on someone’s life, consider a career as a respiratory therapist.

Respiratory therapists treat diseases of the lungs and airways. This includes chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, emphysema and sleep apnea but also includes emergency situations such as cardiac arrest. They work under the direction of a doctor.

They measure lung capacity and blood oxygen levels to set a baseline breathing ability and develop a treatment plan. Respiratory therapists perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs, administer aerosol medications that help patients breathe more easily and connect patients who can’t breathe on their own to a ventilator.

Work environments can include pulmonary rehabilitation clinics, diagnostic laboratories, nursing homes and hospitals, where they work with other healthcare professionals.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job is expected to grow 23% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Sound like a career you would like? Keep reading to learn how to become a respiratory therapist, what salary to expect, what training is involved and much more about this in-demand job. 

Respiratory therapist uses an inhaler to help a young girl experiencing breathing problems
Interpersonal skills are important for respiratory therapists, who often work with young children. (Credit: Teran Studios/Shutterstock)


  • Conduct breathing exams
  • Measure lung capacity
  • Draw blood samples and analyze blood oxygen levels to assess a patient's oxygenation and ventilation status
  • Consult with a doctor to diagnose breathing conditions
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Administer oxygen
  • Aid in life-sustaining interventions, such as operating ventilators and other respiratory support devices
  • Manage breathing equipment and teach patients how to use it
  • Conduct pulmonary rehabilitation

Becoming a Respiratory Therapist: FAQs

The bottom line:

This is a job ripe with opportunity. RTs are needed in many work settings, from hospital units for respiratory care, anesthesiology, neonatal intensive care or pulmonary medicine. Respiratory therapists are also needed in nursing care facilities and agencies that provide home health care. These types of facilities may be open 24 hours a day, which means your hours as a therapist may vary. This is typically a full-time job and one that requires you spend a lot of time on your feet.

If this sounds like an exciting career path, look below for more information about training opportunities in your desired area. Simply exploring training programs puts you one step closer to a new reality!

Respiratory therapist Kimby Powell with a ventilator

What's it like to be a respiratory therapist?

There are many reasons respiratory therapist Kimby Powell loves her job, but the biggest reason is that every day is an adventure — and a chance to help save lives. 

"I love being able to help them with their breathing issues and to know that I have made a difference in their lives," says Kimby.

The respiratory care services supervisor at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, relishes her supervisory role, but she never loses sight of the reason she got into this line of work — to help people with breathing issues.

Plus, that's the part that's the most rewarding. So if you want a job that will "challenge you, make you grow, push you to your limits, inspire you, humble you and have you walking away feeling great satisfaction," read this respiratory therapist's story.

Local Certifications and Requirements

You may need a state license or certificate before you can work in a specific career in your state. Different states may also have different education and experience requirements, fees and application forms. The good news - we make it super easy to find what you need to begin your new career. Just enter your zip code to get started.

Find Respiratory Therapist Training In Your Area

Salt Lake City

Respiratory Therapy, A.A.S.

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Montgomery General Hospital Respiratory Therapist Internship

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Daytona Beach

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The Associate in Science (A.S.) in Respiratory Care degree utilizes didactic, clinical and high-fidelity simulation opportunities to expose students...

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The respiratory care AS degree prepares you to treat patients who have difficulty breathing due to pulmonary or cardiac disease. Learn to work with...

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An individual who has earned the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is eligible to receive...
Fort Pierce

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Respiratory therapists are trained to care for patients with respiratory or other cardiopulmonary disorders. They care for premature infants, elderly...

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Lake Worth

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Respiratory Care is a health care specialty offering unique challenges in the areas of disease prevention, education, diagnosis, treatment, management...
Winter Haven

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The purpose of the Respiratory Care Program is to prepare outstanding entry-level respiratory therapists (RTs) to meet the dynamic healthcare needs of...

Respiratory Care, A.S.

The Respiratory Therapist is a critical member of the health care delivery system, providing basic and critical care to patients suffering from...

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Help your patients breathe easy with this limited-access, accredited degree that gives you the broad range of basic sciences to advanced courses in...

Respiratory Care, A.S.

The Respiratory Care, A.S. program supplies students with the foundation to be able to safely and competently perform patient care by applying...

Respiratory Care, A.A.S

The Respiratory Care program is a sequence of courses that prepares students for careers in the field of respiratory care. Learning opportunities...
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