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What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

If you have good interpersonal skills and you want to make an impact on someone’s life, consider this job.

Working under the direction of a doctor, respiratory therapists treat diseases of the lungs and airways. This includes chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and emergency situations like a heart attack.

They measure lung capacity and blood oxygen levels to set a baseline breathing ability and develop a treatment plan. Treatments include performing chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs, administering aerosol medications or connecting a patient who can’t breathe on his own to a ventilator.

Work environments can range from hospitals to pulmonary rehabilitation clinics to diagnostic laboratories.

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Median Salary $
59,000
Jobs Available
2,600+
Respiratory therapist uses an inhaler to help a young girl experiencing breathing problems
Compassion is an important quality for respiratory therapists, who often work with young children. (Credit: Teran Studios/Shutterstock)
Duties + Responsibilities
  • Conduct breathing exams
  • Measure lung function
  • Draw blood 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
Education + Training

All respiratory therapists must earn an associate degree in an accredited program, but some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree. Programs include courses on human anatomy, chemistry, physics and pharmacology in addition to supervised clinical work with patients.

All states except Alaska require a license, but specific licensure rules vary by state. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body for respiratory therapists. Through NBRC, candidates can earn a Certified Respiratory Therapist credential or take additional exams to earn an advanced Registered Respiratory Therapist credential.

Some continuing education is required.

You May Be a Good Fit for This Position If You
  • Communicate and listen well
  • Are detail-oriented 
  • Enjoy helping people
  • Are able to handle stressful situations
  • Have the physical stamina to do some lifting and assisting in patient mobility

Respiratory Therapist training in your area

Coordinates

Respiratory Care Technology, A.A.S.

Community College of Philadelphia
Philadelphia (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Johnson County Community College
Overland Park (0.0 Miles)

Health Sciences Certificate - Respiratory Care Focus

Jackson College
Jackson (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Columbus State Community College
Columbus (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory therapist, A.A.S.

Tacoma Community College
Tacoma (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Therapy, A.A.S.

Moraine Valley Community College
Palos Hills (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Therapy, A.A.S.

Delaware County Community College
Media (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Kansas City Kansas Community College
Kansas City (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Jackson College
Jackson (0.0 Miles)
Cuyahoga Community College

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Cuyahoga Community College
Brunswick (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Alvin Community College
Alvin (0.0 Miles)

Respiratory Care, A.A.S.

Westchester Community College - SUNY
Valhalla (0.0 Miles)

Find Respiratory Therapist Jobs in Your Area

Coordinates

Respiratory Therapist

Centura Health
Durango ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Respiratory Therapist - Full Time ($5,000 Sign-On Bonus) - Jeff Hwy

Ochsner Health System
New Orleans ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 1 day ago

Respiratory Therapist (Per Diem)

Cape Cod Healthcare Inc.
Plymouth ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Respiratory Care Practitioner - Oconomowoc - Pool/As needed

ProHealth Care
Oconomowoc ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 1 day ago

Pediatric Respiratory Therapist (Casual)

Nemours Foundation
Pensacola ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Respiratory Therapist -RT Full-Time Days Houston Medical Center

Kindred Healthcare
Houston ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 1 day ago

Neonatal (NICU) Respiratory Therapist

The University of Kansas Hospital
Kansas City ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Registered Respiratory Therapist

Atlantic Health System
Newton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 6 days 10 hours ago