5 Reasons to Become a Respiratory Therapist

If you are in the middle of choosing a career, then you must also be at the receiving end of sometimes-unsolicited advice from friends, family, and well-wishers. Their constant stream of advice may be making the already difficult decision-making process seem a thousand times harder.

Take solace in the fact that you are not alone! At this moment, hundreds and thousands of people are probably in the same quandary as you.

To help you and others who are having trouble deciding on a career, we offer one option to consider: respiratory therapy. Let’s look at the top five reasons why you should consider enrolling in a respiratory therapist school.

Reason to become a respiratory therapist #1

Less schooling required: As compared to most other healthcare careers, the training requirements for becoming a respiratory therapist (RT) are much less extensive. A two-year Associate in Respiratory Therapy degree from an accredited university, college, or technical-vocational school is the basic requirement to pursue a career in respiratory therapy.

Respiratory therapist programs usually include courses in life and health sciences such as microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology; topics that deal with respiratory care and management such as pulmonary anatomy and physiology, cardiopulmonary pharmacology, airway management, and ventilation theory; and clinical experience that includes supervised hands-on patient care.

All the U.S. states except Alaska require respiratory therapists to have either the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) license. For both these credentials, applicants must graduate from an accredited respiratory therapist program and meet other licensure requirements above and beyond the degree.

Reason to become a respiratory therapist #2

Excellent job outlook: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment of RTs is expected to grow at a faster-than-average pace for all occupations: 28 percent through 2020.* The growing numbers of elderly folk in the country who are more vulnerable to respiratory ailments, plus an increased awareness of and focus on disease prevention, has led to this growth in the demand for RT.

This means individuals employed as RTs should enjoy excellent employment prospects over the next decade.

Reason to become a respiratory therapist #3

Options for professional growth: Once you graduate from respiratory therapist school and get some experience under your belt in direct patient care, you may start thinking about taking the next step in your career path.

Advancement to roles like shift manager, department head, hospital administrator, educational program lead, etc. is possible with experience and additional training. If this is the direction you’d like to grow your career, pursuing an advanced respiratory therapy degree should be a part of your career development plan.

RTs can also explore the option of branching out into business roles with equipment manufacturers, or join the world of research and academics.

Reason to become a respiratory therapist #4

Average income: The Department of Labor reports that the median annual wages of respiratory therapists was $54,280 in May 2010, depending on geographic location, education, and experience.**

The income of a RT also varies with the type of healthcare facility they are employed in. For example, RTs employed with nursing care facilities earned an average annual wage of $57,450, while those working in offices of physicians earned an average of $52,500 per annum (depending on location, education, and experience). ***

Reason to become a respiratory therapist #5

Rewarding work: This may be the most important of all the reasons to consider a career as a RT. At the end of a hard working day, there is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing you have worked to heal your patients, and that’s what a career in respiratory therapy promises.

Through all the emergency cases of heart failures and severe asthmatic attacks; the drowning accidents; the heart-wrenching cries of premature infants; and the helplessness of patients on respiratory support equipment, the feeling you’re most likely to remember is the joy of seeing them breathe life once again.


* bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Respiratory-therapists.htm#tab-6

** bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Respiratory-therapists.htm#tab-5

*** Ibid.