A respiratory therapist works with patients who have breathing or other cardiopulmonary problems. The therapist will evaluate the patient and recommend treatment in consultation with the physician. Respiratory therapists assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care for patients, including the supervision of any technicians or nursing personnel involved in day to day treatment. They develop treatment plans for premature infants, for elderly patients with lung diseases, and for patients with heart-related illnesses that create breathing problems. They provide temporary relief for patients with asthma, COPD, emphysema or lung infections.
An associate's degree is required to become a respiratory therapist. Some hospitals and medical schools have training programs for this profession as well. All states except Alaska and Hawaii require licensure to practice respiratory therapy. Many employers insist on CPR certification as well.
There were nearly 125,000 respiratory therapists working in the U.S. in 2006, according to the Department of Labor. Nearly eighty percent of them were employed in hospitals, working in respiratory treatment centers or departments of pulmonary medicine or anesthesiology.
The growth rate for this profession is projected to be excellent, compared to the overall average growth rate for jobs. The federal projection for job growth in this professioin for the decade 2006 - 2016 is nineteen percent.
Lowest 10% $37,920
Median Salary $52,200
Highest 10% $69,800
Source: U.S. Department of Labor