Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.
Respiratory therapists held about 120,700 jobs in 2014. Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals.
Respiratory therapists typically need an associate's degree, but some have bachelor's degrees. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.
The median annual wage for respiratory therapists was $57,790 in May 2015.
Employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in the middle-aged and elderly population will lead to an increased incidence of respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. These respiratory disorders can permanently damage the lungs or restrict lung function.
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Learn more about respiratory therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.