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Respiratory Therapy Programs by State

Respiratory Therapy Programs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) related deaths among men have decreased during the decade 1999 – 2010. The same data, however, does not have good news for women. The mortality rate in women during the same period has not seen any significant change. There may be a couple of factors for this disparity, however the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified six main pollutants that are the reason behind air pollution in the United States. These include:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • – Fumes from cars, stoves, fireplaces
  • Lead
  • – Emissions from ore and metal processing, waste incinerators, lead acid battery manufacturers

  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • – Combustion related emissions, biological decay processes, and fuel burning appliances
  • Ozone
  • – Unhealthy levels of ozone can cause breathing problems in adults and particularly children
  • Particulate Matter
  • – Airborne particles of harmful chemicals and substances e.g. Asbestos
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • – Emissions from coal, oil and gas.
    Considering the pollutants in the air and inadequate precaution and prevention, around twenty five thousand people die in California, alone, each year from breathing problems. To treat breathing disorders such as COPD, respiratory therapist technicians play an important role within the healthcare industry in the US.

Responsibilities of a Respiratory Therapist Technician

Respiratory therapist technicians are professionals who work under the guidance and supervision of doctors and licensed respiratory therapists. These professionals are sometimes referred to as Respiratory Care Assistants or Respiratory Therapist Assistants. Their main responsibility is to assist patients suffering from respiratory diseases such as emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, etc.
Here is an overview of the tasks performed by these professionals:

  • Maintain Records
  • – All records of treatment and therapy are maintained by these professionals
  • Preliminary Investigation
  • – Interview and gather information from the patient
  • Operate Equipment
  • – Use ventilators and various oxygen devices for therapy
  • Collect Samples
  • – Collect arterial blood gas samples for diagnosis
  • Monitor Progress
  • – Review patient’s response to treatment
  • Prep Test Equipment
  • - Make sure all test equipment is in accordance with health and safety SOPs
    In addition, respiratory therapist technicians also explain treatments to patients and clean and sterilize equipment. The tasks assigned to these professionals may vary with the employer.

How do you become a Respiratory Therapist Technician?

According to the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC), an associate degree is required for respiratory therapist technicians. NBRC works towards credentialing respiratory practitioners. O*NET OnLine states that 63% of the professionals working as respiratory therapist technicians have an associate degree. While 29% have a Bachelor’s degree and the rest have a post baccalaureate certification. 
To become a respiratory therapist technician, students not only need to have the appropriate educational qualifications, they also need to have licensure to practice and the right skills to be successful.

  • Education
  • – Associate degree in respiratory therapy or respiratory care is needed from an accredited institute. It takes typically 2 years to complete an associate degree in respiratory care. Bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy usually takes 4 years to complete. This includes in depth instruction in health sciences and clinical training.
  • Accreditation
  • – Both the school and the program needs to be accredited. Some of the organizations that accredit schools and programs are NBRC and Commission on Accreditation of Respiratory Care (COARC).
  • Licensure or Certification
  • - It is only after getting licensed that students can work as registered respiratory therapist technicians. NBRC provides both licensure and certifications for students interested in this field.
    It is important to note that license to practice as a respiratory therapist technician needs renewal every few years. This involves participating in continuing educational courses.

Career Outlook

Once the student has satisfied all the educational and licensure requirements, they can apply for positions in hospitals, clinics and nursing care facilities.
According to O*NET OnLine and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for these professionals is expected to increase by 15% to 21% over the next few years. 
The national salary average for this profession is $47,040, which comes to $22.61/hour, according to O*NET OnLine. The following table provides youa with the state-wise salary comparison of respiratory therapy technicians:  


Ave Hourly Wage

Ave Salary per year

New York

The above mentioned information has been taken from O*NET OnLine. Florida being one of the few states where the health care industry has taken off over the past few years, the hourly wage and annual salary figure show the effects of saturation within the job market. This is the reason why average hourly and yearly numbers for Florida are less than the national average.

Respiratory Therapists Career Outlooks

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Job Requirements – Key Skills

In addition to education, licensure and certification, students need to have the right skills to be successful in this field. As respiratory therapist technicians are required to deal with patients on a daily basis, the following skills are necessary to be successful.

  • Effective Listening
  • – As technicians are required to interact with patients when taking down preliminary information, effective listening is therefore necessary.
  • Critical Thinking
  • – The ability to understand and come up with the best possible solution to the problem is the key to be effective and efficient.
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • – Sensitive to others reactions by being understanding and cooperative is necessary in this job.
  • Effective Communication
  • – Clear and coherent communication is absolutely necessary when giving out instructions on how to follow the therapy program.
  • Safety and Security
  • – Should be well versed in the knowledge of equipment and must know all the Standard Operating Procedures when dealing with materials of a sensitive nature. 
    Respiratory technicians must be able to use the computer. They also should have hands on knowledge of the most commonly used medical records software. Computer literacy is essential, as part of the day will be spent entering and updating patient records. In addition to the above mentioned skills, respiratory therapy technicians must be compassionate and patient.

States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 1660 0.11 1.26 18.13 37720
Florida 1130 0.14 1.68 17.97 37370
Illinois 960 0.16 1.92 17.9 37240
Texas 760 0.07 0.78 16.62 34570
New York 650 0.07 0.85 20.12 41840


How Long Does It Take to Complete a Respiratory Therapy Program?

Many schools in the United States, such as the Long Island University, the Florida State College at Jacksonville, the Oregon Institute of Technology, the Pima Community College, the  Grossmont College and the Mandl College, are offering a respiratory therapy program. Students can enroll in a 2-year long Associate in Applied Science (AAS) program in respiratory therapy or a 4-year long Bachelor of Science (BS) in respiratory care. These programs train students to become Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT).

What Are the Requirements to Complete a Respiratory Therapy Program?

In order to obtain an Associate in Applied Science (AAS), students are required to complete 76 credits and in order to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Respiratory Care, students have to complete around 187 credits. They have to study modules like Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, Respiratory Physiology Pharmacology for Respiratory Care, Cardiopulmonary Diseases, Disaster Preparedness and Case Management.

How Much Can I Make after Completing a Respiratory Therapy Program?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay of Respiratory Therapists was $60,280 in 2018. There were 134,000 jobs available in this field in 2018. Also, it is projected that the employment in this field will grow by 21% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all other professions. Thus, this line of work offers bright career prospects.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Can you tell me what is covered in respiratory therapy programs?

A:A respiratory therapy program is geared towards preparing students for careers in this field. The program will teach students how to diagnose, manage, and treat patients suffering from respiratory problems. The coursework will include theory-based subjects and practical subjects. Some of the important topics covered in the program include: respiratory physiology, microbiology, respiratory care theory, pharmacology, cardiopulmonary science, and more.

Q:How much does a respiratory therapist make?

A:Respiratory Therapists made a median annual income of $56,290 in 2013. The exact salary level will be influenced by factors such as location, experience, specialization, and certification. These professionals are typically employed in healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Respiratory therapists are trained to care for patients who suffer from respiratory diseases and illnesses. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:What does a respiratory therapist do?

A:Respiratory therapists are trained professionals who help patients suffering from respiratory illnesses and conditions. The duties of a respiratory therapist include: examining patients and performing diagnostic procedures, developing treatment plans for patients, using different techniques and medications for treating patients, and monitoring progress. These professionals also provide emergency care to patients who have suffered a heart attack or drowning.

Q:Can you tell me about registered respiratory therapist?

A:A registered respiratory therapist is a professional certification offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. NBRC was established to formalize training and registration of therapist working in this field. Respiratory therapist can qualify for this certification by passing the NBRC-WRE and NBRC-CSE examinations conducted by the board. Acquiring professional certifications can help improve career prospects. (Source: The National Board for Respiratory Care)

Q:How long does it take to become a respiratory therapist?

A:Most states require respiratory therapist to have at least a bachelor degree. This program typically takes four years to complete. Apart from education, a respiratory therapist must seek training and a professional license. Certification is not mandatory, but can help improve career prospects. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NRBC) is the leading certifying board for this occupation. The exact duration will vary and depend upon the academic path pursued. It can range anywhere from 3-5 years. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:What is the respiratory therapist job outlook?

A:In 2013, there were approximately 118,640 employed respiratory therapists in the nation. The growth rate for this occupation remains steady and is expected to grow in the coming few years. US News has ranked this occupation among the 100 best healthcare jobs. These professionals are employed in a variety of healthcare settings ranging from physicians' offices to public hospitals. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics and US News & World Report)

Q:Will a respiratory therapy degree include practical training?

A:Yes, a respiratory therapy degree will emphasize practical training. The program will be divided into theoretical learning and lab-training. The key purpose of lab-training is to provide students with hands on experience. Students will learn how to effectively apply respiratory techniques, diagnose respiratory diseases, and more. Some schools may offer clinical practice in their curriculum.

Q:What is respiratory therapy?

A:Respiratory therapy can be defined as the treatment of chronic and acute respiratory diseases and disorders. The practice of respiratory specialty has grown in recent years, reflecting the emergence of new treatments and medicines for respiratory illnesses. The National Board for Respiratory Care is a leading organization that certifies professionals in this field, and works towards the betterment of the occupation.

Q:What is the minimum level of respiratory therapist education needed?

A:To become a respiratory therapist, one must have at least an associate-level degree in the field. This program can be completed in two years and is offered by a number of accredited schools. The program will help students acquire theoretical knowledge about the field, and also develop necessary skills needed for the career.

Q:Can you tell about the skill and education respiratory therapist requirements?

A:If you plan to become a respiratory therapist, you must have at least an associate or bachelor degree in the field. A respiratory degree will equip you with in-depth knowledge and skills. You will study important subjects such as microbiology, cardiac physiology, respiratory therapeutics, airway management, and respiratory life support. To become a respiratory therapist, you must also develop strong communication skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, patience, science and math skills. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:Can you give me a figure for the average salary for respiratory therapist?

A:In 2012, respiratory therapists made a median annual income of $55,870 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,980. It is important to remember that the exact income level of these professionals depends on various factors such as location, employer, skill, specialization, and qualification.

Q:What are the main courses covered in respiratory therapy degrees?

A:The courses which are typically covered in these degrees include microbiology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology. Certain practical courses must also be taken and these include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), therapeutic and diagnostic tests and procedures, patient assessment, and an introduction to all the various equipment a respiratory therapist needs to be able to use.

Q:What are some of the important courses that make up respiratory therapy education programs?

A:A respiratory therapist deals with patients who experience trouble breathing. As such, a degree program in respiratory therapy will feature courses in biology, healthcare, and patient care techniques. Some examples of courses that are usually offered in this degree include Cardiac Anatomy and Physiology, Critical Care Techniques, Cardiopulmonary Diseases, Emergency Care, Pulmonary Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Respiratory Therapeutics, Pulmonary Rehabilitation & Wellness. You will also take courses in patient assessment and care.

Q:What are the respiratory therapy education requirements for successfully completing a degree?

A:In order to successfully complete a degree program in respiratory therapy, students must enroll in a program accredited by The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). It is important that the program be accredited or else you won't be able to sit for your licensing exam. There are a number of courses which must be successfully passed, including both entry level college courses such as math and English as well as specialized courses for respiratory therapy. You must complete all assignments and exams successfully. Furthermore, students must complete clinical rotations and perform hands-on work in order to solidify their training.

Q:Is a respiratory therapy license absolutely required in order to practice?

A:Yes, having a license is absolutely essential in order to practice as a respiratory therapist in all states except Alaska. Licensing ensures that a certain standard is maintained throughout the profession and that all prospective respiratory therapists' adhere to, and meet those standards. Requirements may vary by state but all candidates must successfully pass a certification exam. Once you have acquired a license, you will be able to work as a registered respiratory therapist. For respiratory therapists, the main certifying body is The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Q:What are some of the skills that are developed in a respiratory therapy major?

A:A respiratory therapist is a professional who specializes in treating patients with respiratory, or breathing, problems. A respiratory therapy major teaches students a number of skills, including theoretical knowledge about respiratory illnesses, as well as a broad skill set to deal with patients suffering from these sorts of afflictions. These include patience, inter-personal skills, compassion, and problem solving skills.

Q:What are the respiratory therapy prerequisites in order to be able to practice as a respiratory therapist?

A:In order to be able to practice as a respiratory therapist, candidates must satisfy a number of requirements. Firstly, you must successfully complete your education. This can be in the form of either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree. In addition to your education requirements, you must complete a period of training in order to demonstrate that you are proficient in the skills required of a respiratory therapist. You may then sit for the licensing exam which is administered by The National Board for Respiratory Care. The computer-based CRT (Certified Respiratory Therapist) exam is essential in order to practice in all states except Alaska.

Q:What are respiratory therapy requirements when it comes to skills?

A:A respiratory therapist is a healthcare professional who treats patients with various breathing difficulties. As such, the basic skills which are required of a respiratory therapist are that of a healthcare provider: patience, good interpersonal skills, and communication skills, problem solving abilities, compassion, and resourcefulness. In addition, these professionals must be able to think quickly on their feet, administer emergency patient care, and help ease the nerves of people suffering from afflictions which can be quite frightening.

Q:What are the minimum requirements for schooling for respiratory therapist?

A:The minimum educational or schooling requirements for respiratory therapists need is at least an associate's degree, however many employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree. There are a number of accredited universities and institutions, including vocational–technical institutes and the Armed Forces, which offer education and training programs for respiratory therapy. Any program you take will have a theoretical component as well as clinical components which allow you to gain practical experience in treating patients.

Q:What can I expect to learn at schools for respiratory therapist?

A:When you enroll in a respiratory therapy program, you can expect to learn a variety of courses related to healthcare and biology. First, students are required to learn the basic anatomy and physiology of the human body and then they are taught about respiratory problems and how to treat them. In order to further your understanding, you will also be required to do a lot of hands-on work and clinical's as part of your training as a respiratory therapist.

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