Respiratory Therapist Review

Respiratory therapists work with patients of all ages to care for a number of breathing issues. Although it is a stable field with plenty of opportunities to specialize, a lot of education is necessary to get started.

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The Good

Work in all types of environments

Most respiratory therapists are employed by hospitals and nursing homes. However, there’s still a lot of diversity within these environments. In a nursing home, you primarily deal with conditions like pneumonia or chronic bronchitis. In a hospital, you could be working with trauma patients who are having a hard time breathing or with babies with underdeveloped lungs. Some respiratory therapists also travel to people’s homes to assist them with any medication or machines they need to use. All these different options give you the opportunity to focus on the area of medicine or the type of patient that interests you the most, and this could have a big impact on how enjoyable you find your job to be.

Specialize to improve job prospects

Once you’ve been trained as a certified or registered respiratory therapist, you have the option to pursue more advanced certification. This gives you the opportunity to specialize in an area that’s more in line with your career goals. For example, if you enjoy working with kids, consider a specialty in neonatal/pediatric care. On the other hand, if you prefer to deal with adults, there’s an Adult Critical Care certification. You can also specialize in sleep disorders. By getting certified in one or more of these areas, you’re not only learning valuable skills you can bring to your practice, but you’re also improving your chances of finding a good job in the field. The job market for respiratory therapists is becoming increasingly more competitive, so any advanced qualifications you have will give you a huge advantage.

Plenty of opportunities in rural areas

As the demand for respiratory therapists increases, more and more job opportunities will open up in areas where these services weren’t available before, particularly in rural locations. This is great news not only for the patients who require the services of a respiratory therapist, but also anyone employed in this field who’s interested in working in a rural or underserved area. Of course, there are going to be new jobs available in urban areas as well, but there may not be as many opportunities as you’d find in a rural town.

The Bad

May work at any time of the day or night

Work as a respiratory therapist requires you to be available at night, weekends, and even holidays. This is because someone has to be present around the clock to provide respiratory care in the event of an emergency. Depending on how many respiratory therapists are employed where you work, this might necessitate putting in some overtime hours as well. This is typical among medical professions, but if you’re looking for a vocational career that sticks to traditional business hours, this could be a deal breaker.

Many educational requirements

In order to work as a respiratory therapist, you need to have an associate’s degree in the field, and most states also require a license. And that’s just the bare minimum in terms of requirements. Some employers may prefer individuals with a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy, and multiple certifications are fast becoming the industry standard. For some people, this may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get started in this profession. However, all of this training ensures you’re able to provide a high standard of care for your patients, so it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.

Limited upward mobility

Though there are opportunities to specialize within this field, there isn’t a lot of potential to move on to a better position. Obtaining additional certifications could help with this problem but, overall, you’re pretty limited in terms of advancement. This may not be a concern for everyone. After all, respiratory therapists earn a decent salary, well above the national median income. However, if this lack of advancement potential is a problem for you, you might want to consider some other professions in the medical field.

The Details


  • Career Growth (2012-2022): 19%
  • Median Pay: $55,870
  • Number of Jobs: 119,300
  • Number of New Jobs (2012-2022): 22,700

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