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Respiratory Care Therapy Schools and Programs

Employment of respiratory therapists and assistants is expected to rise this decade. Train for your career by pursuing an undergraduate degree at colleges and medical trade schools.

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory care therapists and respiratory care technicians are healthcare practitioners that treat patients with cardiopulmonary illnesses or breathing disorders. They follow procedures prescribed by physicians for assisting in the short- and long-term diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of patients using equipment designed especially for measuring and assisting breathing. Duties can vary by training, certification, and experience. Roles and job titles for a respiratory care practitioner include respiratory therapist, respiratory technician, respiratory aide, and respiratory technologist.

Respiratory Care Therapy Career Training, Degrees, and Certifications

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), respiratory care professionals hold a wide range of degrees and certifications, ranging from the minimum of an associate's degree to a bachelor's or master's degree. Each state has its own licensing regulations, but at least 48 states require respiratory therapists to hold certifications from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) as well as a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Students may take courses in:
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
Operation techniques for pulmonary equipment. Colleges, trade and vocational schools offer degree programs and training for respiratory care therapists and respiratory care technicians leading to degrees, diplomas, and career certificates. About 103,000 respiratory therapists held jobs in 2008, working in hospitals, clinics, private physicians' offices, long-term care facilities, and with government-run healthcare agencies.

Career Outlook and Salaries in Respiratory Care

The BLS projects a 21 percent increase in employment for respiratory therapists during the 2008-2018 decade. Earnings vary by location, experience, and training. In 2008, the median annual income for respiratory therapists was $52,200, while respiratory therapist technicians earned a median annual wage of $42,430.

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