Respiratory Therapist

Discover the 8 Things You Must Know About Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

Choosing a career path is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. If you’re here, that means you’ve at least narrowed the search down and are considering becoming a respiratory therapist. It’s not a bad choice considering all the basic elements are covered: a good salary, the opportunity to help people, advancement potential and the opportunity to work in fast-paced environment.

But what do you really know about becoming a respiratory therapist? We took a good look at the profession to come up with eight things you need to know before making the life-changing decision to become a respiratory therapist.

1. Find the Right Educational Program

While certification requirements may vary from state-to-state, you can pretty much count on the fact that you’ll need the CRT designation (Certified Respiratory Therapist). Training programs can last anywhere from two to four years, but you’ll want to make sure the course will prepare you to pass any state or federal licensing requirements. This will take a bit of legwork, but making sure the school you choose is accredited will ensure you are getting the best possible education for your money. Besides, respiratory therapy is not a career you want to embark on with anything less than absolute confidence in your abilities. The best way to do this is with either an Associate Degree (2 years) or a Bachelor’s Degree (4 years).

2. Know What a Respiratory Therapist Does

At it’s most basic level, a respiratory therapist is exactly what it sounds like; you’ll care for patients who have trouble breathing. This is often the result of a chronic respiratory disease such as asthma. However, respiratory therapists also provide emergency care when someone suffers a serious medical condition like a heart attack or stroke. To get a better idea of what a respiratory therapist does, contact your local hospital or clinic to set up an appointment with someone in the business¬† – not as a patient, of course, it’s more of a fact-finding mission.

3. Check Out Similar Occupations

Don’t simply let salary make your decision for you. take some time to look at similar occupations in the medical realm. Cross referencing employment outlooks, trends and salaries will help you make an informed decision and keep you on track toward a new career in the medical profession. Comparing your primary choice to other options will help you decide whether respiratory therapy is the right career choice.

4. Get a Feel for the Work Environment

Before deciding to enroll in an educational program, you’ll want to know about the work environment. A local hospital or clinic may let you shadow a respiratory therapist for an hour or two so you can see first-hand what happens on the average day. If rules in your state don’t allow for this, there are some things you need to know. For instance, be prepared to spend most of your shift on your feet. Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals and may be exposed to infectious diseases. You’ll also want to be prepared to work nights, weekends and long hours. If that sounds good to you, keep reading. There’s a lot to love about being a respiratory therapist in a hospital setting, particularly if you like non-stop action and working with people.

5. Research the Employment Outlook

Take a look at the employment outlook before you commit to any particular school. For perspective respiratory therapists, things are looking good. The occupation is expected to grow 28 percent through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much faster than average and is largely fueled by the high population of middle agers moving into their elderly years. There’s also an increase in respiratory disorders such as chronic bronchitis, pneumonia and emphysema. Those combined factors mean there’s a growing need for respiratory therapists in the United States.

6. Explore Your Potential Salary

Chances are if you are about to commit to a two or four year school, you want to get paid well after graduation. Looking into the potential salary should a crucial component of your decision-making process. Luckily, the salary potential looks as good as the employment outlook in this profession. The latest figures put the median salary at $54,280 and growing. That’s about $26.00 an hour, if you prefer to break it down like that. Those who worked in a nursing care facility saw a bump in their salary, earning about $57,000. The top ten percent of respiratory therapists pull in upwards of $73,000.

7. Assess Your Personal Qualities

Now that the typical research is covered, it’s important to take a little time for personal reflection. Do you possess the qualities needed to become a successful respiratory therapist? Perhaps the most important quality you can possess is compassion. You should be able to offer emotional support to patients going through a difficult time and undergoing treatments. Interpersonal skills will also serve you well: you’ll be working with patients, physicians, nurses and other professionals and good communication is key. Being detail oriented is another top-quality of good respiratory therapists. Respiratory therapists also have a keen eye for detail. This is crucial in ensuring patients are receiving proper treatments and medications. You’ll also be responsible to monitor and record all aspects of patient care.

8. Respect the Responsibility

As someone who could end up responding to medical emergencies, it’s important to recognize the responsibilities respiratory therapists must handle every day. In the hospital setting, you’ll work with patients facing deadly illness or medical emergencies. It is of upmost importance to perform duties professionally and effectively to do the best job possible.


Once you’ve weighed the previous factors, you’ll be ready to get started on the training needed to become a respiratory therapist. It’s a rewarding and fulfilling career for those willing to put the work in and earn certification. Advancing your career will improve the quality of your life as you work to make a difference in the lives of others. The profession is on the rise with plenty of opportunity for newcomers.

Check out the following video for more advice on becoming a respiratory therapist.

Further Reading:

7 Things All Respiratory Therapist Schools Must Have
The Real Facts: How to Become a Respiratory Therapist
Respiratory Therapist Salary – What Can You Earn
The Key to Finding Respiratory Jobs

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