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Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory Therapists


Schools and Education

Fast Facts*
Recommended Degree LevelAssociate
Salary, Typical$55,870
Salary Range$41K - $75K
Number of Jobs, 2012116,960
Annual Job Growth Rate4.1%
Job Openings per Year (est.)5,270

What's Needed:

  • Although the minimum academic requirement is an associate degree, a bachelor's degree provides broader employment opportunities.
  • Programs are offered by colleges and universities at the associate, bachelor's, and post-graduate levels.
  • Respiratory therapists must complete a training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

What you study:

Study topics include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Biomedical technology
  • Respiratory assessment
  • Respiratory therapeutic techniques

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as a respiratory therapist student.

Course Studies Purpose
Principles of Respiratory Therapy Theory and history of respiratory care; organization of respiratory service teams; overview of techniques such as medical gas therapy (using nutrous oxide to widen blood vessels), humidity and aerosol therapy (delivering medicine or moisture in gas form), and oxygen therapy (administering concentrated oxygen); standards of safety and professional conduct in the respiratory care field. Give a general survey of a respiratory therapist's position and roles.
Cardiopulmonary Anatomy and Physiology Structure and function of the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) and the pulmonary system (blood circulation between the heart and lungs); the process of respiration (breathing); metabolism and transport of oxygen; exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide. Provide background knowledge on body systems related to respiration.
Respiratory Patient Management Investigating and diagnosing patients' respiratory complaints; computerized medical record-keeping; collecting, organizing and presenting case data in clinical settings; standards of respect and confidentiality in communication with patients. Prepare students to process respiratory patient cases.
Respiratory Pathophysiology Manifestations and features of common types of cardiopulmonary diseases; etiology (origins) and pathophysiology (disordered physical processes) of each disease; preparing a treatment plan and prognosis (projection of the ailment's likely course) tailored to each patient's specific instance of a disease. Enable students to recognize and help treat diseases involving respiration.
Respiratory Care Procedures Practical applications of respiratory treatment techniques surveyed in the introductory course, including medical gas therapy, humidity and aerosol therapy, and oxygen therapy; airway management (keeping a patient's breathing passages open); performing clinical cardiopulmonary tests and interpreting the results. Get students ready to treat respiratory patients in a clinic.
Perinatal Care and Pediatric Respiratory Care Respiratory issues and pathophysiologies specific to infants and young children; fetal respiratory development; respiratory aspects of Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP); safety and sanitation concerns when dealing with very young respiratory patients. Familiarize students the special needs of young respiratory patients.
Critical Respiratory Care Techniques for respiratory interventions in hospital settings; assessing and managing respiratory patients in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU); decision-making during life-threatening respiratory emergencies; proper procedures for clinical Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Ready students to perform respiratory interventions in life-or-death situations.

Video Overview

An introduction into the work of respiratory therapists. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.


Certifications and Licensing

The respiratory therapy field is regulated at the state level, and almost all states require licensure. To become licensed, candidates must obtain a credential through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Graduates of an accredited training program can earn initial credentials by passing the NBRC's Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam.

Practitioners can earn a more advanced credential, the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), which is often required for more senior positions. Additional credentials are available for a number of specializations such as critical care.


Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Most respiratory therapists work full time. As respiratory care is needed at all hours, some practitioners work evening, night, or weekend shifts.

Work location:

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Others are employed in a variety of settings such as skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, patient transport, and home care.


Recommended Websites

  • U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook – The site gives a balanced overview of the respiratory therapy profession. The information helps you understand the basics of the highly specialized role that respiratory therapists play in patient care. As the field is diverse, follow up with additional websites that discuss it in greater detail.
  • National Board for Respiratory Care – The NBRC is the organization that provides credentialing for respiratory therapists. The site offers thorough information on the credentialing process including a downloadable candidate handbook and contact information for state licensure agencies.
  • American Association for Respiratory Care – The AARC is a professional organization for respiratory care practitioners. The site includes a “Be an RT" section that provides a good introduction to the profession from an insider point of view. It also has a career section with national job listings and job-hunting tips.
  • Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care – The CoARC accredits respiratory therapy education programs at all academic levels. The site's section for students and the public includes a searchable list of accredited programs.
  • Explore Health Careers – ExploreHealthCareers.org is an online healthcare initiative to provide students with detailed information about health careers. The site profiles respiratory therapists and explains how to prepare for the field.


Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column -- for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$68,420$55K - $77K1300.08%
ALAnniston - Oxford$44,820$34K - $57K400.10%
ALBirmingham - Hoover$45,820$36K - $59K7500.15%
ALDecatur$41,300$33K - $47K400.08%
ALDothan$47,280$33K - $74K1200.22%
ALFlorence - Muscle Shoals$37,810$31K - $49K700.13%
ALHuntsville$43,950$36K - $54K2000.10%
ALMobile$45,400$39K - $58K2500.15%
ALMontgomery$50,700$37K - $60K1100.07%
ARFayetteville - Springdale - Rogers$48,490$35K - $61K1200.06%
ARFort Smith$46,500$37K - $58K800.07%
ARHot Springs$50,550$40K - $62K600.16%
ARJonesboro$44,830$34K - $59K500.11%
ARLittle Rock - North Little Rock - Conway$50,750$40K - $66K3300.10%
AZLake Havasu City $ Kingman$53,500$42K - $64K1300.30%
AZPhoenix - Mesa - Glendale$52,450$41K - $67K1,6200.09%
AZPrescott$47,890$36K - $58K500.10%
AZTucson$51,150$40K - $64K4700.13%
CABakersfield - Delano$65,100$48K - $88K2700.10%
CAChico$69,040$53K - $88K1500.22%
CAFresno$79,090$51K - $111K3200.10%
CALos Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)$69,000$54K - $88K4,7800.12%
CAModesto$74,890$54K - $101K1900.13%
CANapa$81,090$58K - $101K500.08%
CAOakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)$85,620$60K - $111K9800.10%
CAOxnard - Thousand Oaks - Ventura$70,780$54K - $91K2300.08%
CARedding$68,950$49K - $83K800.14%
CARiverside - San Bernardino - Ontario$64,980$51K - $84K1,3000.11%
CASacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville$84,420$64K - $109K7400.09%
CASalinas$84,760$56K - $116K1000.07%
CASan Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos$67,060$51K - $90K8900.07%
CASan Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)$84,540$63K - $111K1,0600.11%
CASan Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara$88,770$75K - $110K5800.07%
CASanta Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)$73,250$56K - $94K1,5300.11%
CASanta Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta$74,580$56K - $92K1800.11%
CASanta Cruz - Watsonville$71,050$54K - $92K900.11%
CASanta Rosa - Petaluma$76,240$54K - $96K1200.07%
CAStockton$67,940$43K - $89K2900.15%
CAVallejo - Fairfield$85,830$60K - $112K1700.14%
CAVisalia - Porterville$69,440$51K - $91KN/AN/A
COBoulder$56,250$45K - $71K1100.07%
COColorado Springs$56,340$44K - $72K1700.07%
CODenver - Aurora - Broomfield$56,390$45K - $72K8300.07%
COFort Collins - Loveland$54,810$42K - $72K800.06%
COGreeley$55,670$45K - $70KN/AN/A
CTBridgeport - Stamford - Norwalk$69,740$53K - $91K2900.07%
CTDanbury$60,340$49K - $75K500.08%
CTHartford - West Hartford - East Hartford$65,200$50K - $76K4800.09%
CTNew Haven$69,540$53K - $91K3400.13%
CTNorwich - New London$74,440$55K - $90K700.05%
CTWaterbury$72,290$63K - $113K900.14%
DCWashington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)$62,750$45K - $76K9600.04%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$64,450$50K - $76K3100.10%
FLCrestview - Fort Walton Beach - Destin$46,980$36K - $59K500.07%
FLDeltona - Daytona Beach - Ormond Beach$46,680$39K - $59K1900.13%
FLFort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach - Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$54,470$42K - $71K7800.11%
FLGainesville$47,610$38K - $60K2100.17%
FLJacksonville$52,730$42K - $62K5800.10%
FLLakeland - Winter Haven$49,330$35K - $62K2100.11%
FLMiami - Miami Beach - Kendall (Metro Area)$53,350$40K - $74K1,1900.12%
FLNaples - Marco Island$55,410$42K - $71K1000.09%
FLNorth Port - Bradenton - Sarasota$55,270$46K - $68K2400.10%
FLOcala$52,330$40K - $61K1200.14%
FLOrlando - Kissimmee - Sanford$56,170$42K - $72K7600.08%
FLPalm Bay - Melbourne - Titusville$54,000$42K - $71K1700.09%
FLPensacola - Ferry Pass - Brent$49,110$40K - $60K2100.14%
FLPort St. Lucie$52,280$41K - $66K800.06%
FLPunta Gorda$53,320$43K - $60K600.15%
FLTallahassee$52,050$41K - $67K1100.07%
FLTampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater$52,200$42K - $63K1,0100.09%
FLWest Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$54,360$43K - $69K5600.11%
GAAthens - Clarke County$52,970$43K - $67K900.11%
GAAtlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta$52,930$41K - $69K1,9000.08%
GAAugusta - Richmond County$52,850$42K - $66K3400.17%
GAColumbus$53,190$39K - $60K1700.16%
GADalton$47,580$40K - $60K300.05%
GAMacon$48,050$38K - $60K1800.20%
GARome$53,880$42K - $73K700.20%
GASavannah$48,450$38K - $60K1800.12%
HIHonolulu$68,050$52K - $76K2300.05%
IACedar Rapids$46,990$39K - $64K1000.07%
IADavenport - Moline - Rock Island$48,970$32K - $60K1000.06%
IADes Moines - West Des Moines$48,550$38K - $60K2000.06%
IASioux City$47,310$39K - $64K500.07%
IAWaterloo - Cedar Falls$44,020$36K - $57K600.07%
IDBoise City - Nampa$53,920$41K - $71K2400.09%
ILBloomington - Normal$52,740$40K - $67K400.05%
ILChicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)$54,880$42K - $70K2,8400.08%
ILKankakee - Bradley$52,450$40K - $67K500.11%
ILLake County - Kenosha County (Metro Area)$54,220$41K - $71K2200.06%
ILPeoria$45,290$34K - $60K2400.13%
ILRockford$52,450$42K - $61K1200.08%
ILSpringfield$48,940$37K - $70K900.08%
INBloomington$52,680$40K - $68KN/AN/A
INEvansville$47,830$39K - $59K2100.12%
INFort Wayne$50,510$37K - $59K2000.10%
INGary (Metro Area)$55,210$41K - $70K4000.15%
INIndianapolis - Carmel$51,800$40K - $68K1,3600.15%
INLafayette$49,610$40K - $60K700.08%
INMuncieN/AN/A - N/A600.13%
INSouth Bend - Mishawaka$51,560$41K - $67K1500.12%
INTerre Haute$55,310$39K - $70K700.11%
KSTopeka$50,080$38K - $59KN/AN/A
KSWichita$53,990$42K - $67K2100.08%
KYBowling Green$45,990$36K - $59K1200.20%
KYElizabethtown$47,050$39K - $60K500.10%
KYLexington - Fayette$43,060$34K - $56K3500.14%
KYLouisville - Jefferson County$47,520$38K - $60K8200.14%
LAAlexandria$50,610$40K - $61K1300.21%
LABaton Rouge$52,100$40K - $67K2900.08%
LAHouma - Bayou Cane - Thibodaux$45,210$35K - $58K500.05%
LALafayette$52,830$39K - $68K800.06%
LAMonroe$58,380$47K - $73K700.10%
LANew Orleans - Metairie - Kenner$54,040$41K - $70K5500.11%
LAShreveport - Bossier City$48,060$35K - $64K2700.16%
MABarnstable Town$66,410$54K - $75K600.06%
MABoston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)$67,850$51K - $90K1,3100.08%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$68,160$56K - $76K600.04%
MAHaverhill - North Andover - Amesbury (Metro Area)$57,240$48K - $73K800.10%
MALawrence - Methuen - Salem (Metro Area)$59,960$51K - $75K700.11%
MALeominster - Fitchburg - Gardner$68,210$55K - $76K600.12%
MALowell - Billerica - Chelmsford (Metro Area)$63,520$50K - $75K400.03%
MAPeabody (Metro Area)$66,120$50K - $82K1000.10%
MASpringfield$62,270$50K - $76K1600.06%
MAWorcester$67,590$52K - $91K2200.09%
MDBaltimore - Towson$64,660$51K - $76K1,2000.10%
MDBethesda - Rockville - Frederick (Metro Area)$63,510$50K - $75K2700.05%
MDCumberland$50,520$37K - $61K700.19%
MDHagerstown - Martinsburg$52,710$40K - $69K700.07%
MEPortland - South Portland - Biddeford$53,820$43K - $67KN/AN/A
MIAnn Arbor$52,680$38K - $67KN/AN/A
MIBattle Creek$53,230$43K - $65K700.13%
MIDetroit - Livonia - Dearborn (Metro Area)$53,570$42K - $66K8300.12%
MIFlint$52,950$41K - $60K2300.18%
MIGrand Rapids - Wyoming$49,230$39K - $60K4300.11%
MIKalamazoo - Portage$54,450$48K - $61K800.07%
MIWarren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$54,510$44K - $65K7800.07%
MNDuluth$60,190$47K - $74K1500.12%
MNMinneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington$63,690$50K - $74K9600.05%
MOCape Girardeau - Jackson$49,450$39K - $62K1000.23%
MOColumbia$51,110$39K - $71K1500.17%
MOJoplin$49,800$37K - $63K1600.21%
MOKansas City$50,180$40K - $62K8900.09%
MOSpringfield$47,240$34K - $59K3000.16%
MOSt. Louis$51,690$40K - $66K1,3500.11%
MSGulfport - Biloxi$46,850$35K - $63K1400.14%
MSHattiesburg$44,900$39K - $57K900.16%
MSJackson$53,740$42K - $70K3800.15%
MTBillings$55,560$45K - $72K700.09%
MTMissoula$48,140$40K - $59K500.09%
NCAsheville$51,470$40K - $66K2000.12%
NCBurlington$49,280$42K - $58K400.07%
NCCharlotte - Gastonia - Rock Hill$51,680$41K - $62K7300.09%
NCFayetteville$49,610$41K - $69K1200.09%
NCGoldsboro$52,940$43K - $60KN/AN/A
NCGreensboro - High Point$53,950$42K - $71K3000.09%
NCHickory - Lenoir - Morganton$52,600$42K - $64K900.06%
NCRaleigh - Cary$55,520$49K - $67K2500.05%
NCRocky Mount$52,260$41K - $63K600.10%
NCWilmington$53,380$42K - $62K1300.09%
NCWinston - Salem$49,680$40K - $64K3600.18%
NDBismarck$45,070$40K - $55K600.09%
NDFargo$48,010$40K - $61K1400.11%
NELincoln$51,920$41K - $66K1400.09%
NEOmaha - Council Bluffs$48,960$40K - $65K5000.11%
NHManchester$63,010$44K - $75KN/AN/A
NHNashua (Metro Area)$63,050$51K - $75K400.03%
NJAtlantic City - Hammonton$74,280$63K - $91K1200.09%
NJCamden (Metro Area)$66,640$51K - $77K4500.09%
NJEdison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)$68,230$53K - $87K5600.06%
NJNewark - Union (Metro Area)$66,890$54K - $76K7100.07%
NJVineland - Millville - Bridgeton$67,830$57K - $76K400.08%
NMAlbuquerque$54,830$43K - $69K3200.09%
NMLas Cruces$43,040$34K - $57K1100.17%
NMSanta Fe$65,690$44K - $74KN/AN/A
NVCarson City$73,910$62K - $110KN/AN/A
NVLas Vegas - Paradise$70,930$53K - $92K6600.08%
NVReno - Sparks$64,670$42K - $85K1500.08%
NYAlbany - Schenectady - Troy$60,270$49K - $74K2900.07%
NYBinghamton$65,560$45K - $80K700.07%
NYBuffalo - Niagara Falls$56,350$40K - $72K4400.08%
NYIthaca$65,190$45K - $76KN/AN/A
NYKingston$70,130$55K - $84K500.08%
NYNassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)$69,550$49K - $89K1,0500.09%
NYNew York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)$69,370$58K - $85K3,3900.07%
NYPoughkeepsie - Newburgh - Middletown$66,110$27K - $79K1800.08%
NYRochester$53,960$43K - $67K3200.06%
NYSyracuse$55,850$41K - $73K2900.10%
NYUtica - Rome$52,950$38K - $73K1300.10%
OHAkron$50,950$41K - $60K3800.12%
OHCanton - Massillon$53,000$42K - $64K1800.11%
OHCincinnati - Middletown$53,560$40K - $71K9800.10%
OHCleveland - Elyria - Mentor$54,120$43K - $66K1,1400.12%
OHColumbus$51,670$41K - $64K7900.09%
OHDayton$53,210$42K - $64K4800.13%
OHLima$47,900$41K - $60K1200.25%
OHSpringfield$48,800$34K - $58K500.10%
OHSteubenville - Weirton$53,410$42K - $61K1300.30%
OHToledo$53,490$43K - $61K3600.12%
OHYoungstown - Warren - Boardman$52,420$41K - $64K2100.09%
OKLawton$49,890$39K - $60K400.10%
OKOklahoma City$47,870$38K - $64K5200.09%
OKTulsa$50,840$40K - $69K3700.09%
ORPortland - Vancouver - Hillsboro$65,320$52K - $75K4800.05%
PAAllentown - Bethlehem - Easton$59,940$46K - $76K2700.08%
PAAltoona$56,320$41K - $72K500.09%
PAErie$47,600$37K - $59K1100.08%
PAHarrisburg - Carlisle$62,710$46K - $74K2500.08%
PAJohnstown$51,520$39K - $62K1400.25%
PALancaster$56,220$44K - $71K1600.07%
PAPhiladelphia (Metro Area)$60,230$47K - $73K2,0000.11%
PAPittsburgh$51,240$40K - $66K1,2200.11%
PAScranton - Wilkes - Barre$53,320$40K - $71K1700.07%
PAYork - Hanover$58,320$43K - $73K1200.07%
PRMayaguez$17,570$16K - $19K800.26%
PRSan Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo$20,870$16K - $34K3700.05%
RIProvidence - Fall River - Warwick$61,550$43K - $75K4500.08%
SCAnderson$44,560$38K - $59K600.10%
SCCharleston - North Charleston - Summerville$60,140$45K - $75K5500.19%
SCColumbia$49,630$35K - $62K3500.10%
SCFlorence$46,000$34K - $71K400.05%
SCGreenville - Mauldin - Easley$49,010$39K - $60K2100.07%
SCMyrtle Beach - North Myrtle Beach - Conway$49,780$40K - $59K700.06%
SCSpartanburg$51,180$40K - $66K1100.09%
SDSioux Falls$46,470$34K - $59K1700.12%
TNChattanooga$51,950$40K - $61K3500.16%
TNClarksville$46,980$35K - $59K700.09%
TNCleveland$47,800$36K - $61K500.14%
TNJackson$39,180$32K - $56K1000.18%
TNJohnson City$42,890$33K - $58KN/AN/A
TNKingsport - Bristol - Bristol$44,090$34K - $58K2400.21%
TNKnoxville$45,330$37K - $58K4600.14%
TNMemphis$49,720$39K - $60K7300.12%
TNMorristown$39,170$32K - $48K500.11%
TNNashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin$49,770$35K - $67K5900.08%
TXAbilene$52,330$38K - $65KN/AN/A
TXAmarillo$53,810$41K - $69K700.07%
TXAustin - Round Rock - San Marcos$54,160$41K - $70K6100.08%
TXBeaumont - Port Arthur$53,930$43K - $68K1200.08%
TXBrownsville - Harlingen$54,670$42K - $72K2200.18%
TXCollege Station - Bryan$54,120$40K - $71K1100.11%
TXCorpus Christi$51,500$37K - $68K1900.11%
TXDallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)$55,830$44K - $71K1,9200.09%
TXEl Paso$52,770$40K - $77K2700.10%
TXFort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)$55,250$43K - $70K9000.10%
TXHouston - Sugar Land - Baytown$55,930$44K - $72K2,4200.09%
TXKilleen - Temple - Fort Hood$45,700$35K - $59K1800.14%
TXLongview$51,230$41K - $66K800.08%
TXLubbock$48,940$37K - $67K2300.18%
TXMcAllen - Edinburg - Mission$56,970$42K - $73K3000.13%
TXMidland$51,900$41K - $66K700.09%
TXOdessa$50,370$36K - $68K1000.14%
TXSan Antonio - New Braunfels$52,960$41K - $61K8700.10%
TXSherman - Denison$51,870$42K - $60K400.10%
TXTexarkana - Texarkana$45,430$32K - $71K700.13%
TXTyler$48,710$40K - $59K2400.26%
TXVictoria$52,110$41K - $67K900.18%
UTLogan$48,920$39K - $73K500.10%
UTOgden - Clearfield$55,790$43K - $71K1800.09%
UTProvo - Orem$55,700$42K - $75K1200.07%
VABlacksburg - Christiansburg - Radford$45,560$40K - $59K400.06%
VACharlottesville$56,030$42K - $73K1400.15%
VALynchburg$45,330$39K - $58K900.09%
VARichmond$56,590$44K - $72K3900.07%
VARoanoke$49,130$39K - $66K1800.12%
VAVirginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News$55,820$42K - $72K5200.07%
WABellingham$69,120$52K - $89KN/AN/A
WAKennewick - Pasco - Richland$58,220$49K - $72K400.05%
WASeattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)$67,780$51K - $87K6000.04%
WASpokaneN/AN/A - N/A2100.11%
WATacoma (Metro Area)$57,830$50K - $74K2200.09%
WIAppleton$53,260$42K - $68K500.04%
WIEau Claire$50,040$41K - $61K1200.15%
WIGreen Bay$53,910$42K - $72K900.06%
WIJanesville$51,820$42K - $70K400.07%
WILa Crosse$53,570$42K - $71K1200.16%
WIMadison$56,500$45K - $72K1500.04%
WIMilwaukee - Waukesha - West Allis$60,070$45K - $74K7000.09%
WIOshkosh - Neenah$52,470$42K - $72K500.06%
WIRacine$57,560$49K - $72K600.08%
WVCharleston$43,830$34K - $58K1900.13%
WVHuntington - Ashland$52,220$35K - $70K2000.18%
WVParkersburg - Marietta - Vienna$42,490$33K - $53K1400.20%
WVWheeling$48,070$35K - $63K900.14%
WYCasper$54,230$40K - $68K800.19%