The median respiratory therapist salary in the United States is reported to be about $60,000 per year or $29 per hour. The top 10th percentile in this profession earns about $70,000 or more per year which is about $33 or more per hour. The bottom 10th percentile of respiratory therapists earn about $51,000 or less per year or about $24 or less per hour. The middle 50% of the workforce earns between $55,000 and $65,000 per year or between $26 and $31 per hour.
The salary of a respiratory therapist will depend on factors such as where they work, geographical location of their workplace, type of establishment, experience and training.
Respiratory therapists (RT) are also given some benefits by their employers. The receive benefits such as social security, pension, 401K, bonuses, paid time off and health care benefits. When you add these benefits to their base salary, the total remuneration package could come to a median of about $85,000 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports respiratory therapist salaries based on industries. RTs working in nursing care facilities earned an average wage of about $57,500 per year. Those who find themselves employed in home care services earned about $56,000 per year on average. RTs working in hospitals earned about $54,000 on average each year. And those employed in physician’s offices earned about $52,500 per year.
Those working in Colleges, Universities and other educational institutions earned more. They earned on average $68,000 per year. Those in employment services sector also earned an average salary of about $64,500 per year.
Job description of a respiratory therapist
A respiratory therapist’s basic responsibility is to evaluate and plan treatment for people with breathing and other cardiopulmonary health conditions. They are generally responsible for respiratory care treatments and supervise respiratory therapy technicians.
They work with technicians to care for patients with breathing problems. Respiratory therapists often work under the supervision of a physician. Respiratory therapists and technicians often find themselves doing the same tasks in practice. They even have the same education requirement but the therapist generally have higher responsibilities than the technician.
They work with a physician to develop a treatment plan for individual patients. They often work on cases that require a more complex treatment and independent judgment such as caring for intensive-care patients.
RTs provide care for all kinds of patients, from newborn infants with under-developed lungs to elderly patients with lung diseases. They may treat such conditions as chronic asthma or emphysema. They may also provide emergency care for patients such as heart attack, drowning, stroke and shock victims.
RTs provide an evaluation of patients. To do this they rely on talking to patients and performing some physical exams. They are also trained to carry out tests for diagnosis. They perform various tests such as arterial blood analysis and sends the results to a physician for analysis and treatment planning.
They provide treatments to patients. They may use chest physiotherapy, oxygen and aerosol medications as treatment methods. The help patients who cannot breathe on their own use ventilators.
They monitor patients and maintain ventilation equipment making sure they operate correctly. They have to monitor a patient’s oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH levels and adjust settings on ventilators as prescribed by the physician. They go to the homes of those using ventilation equipment to inspect and make sure their equipment are working properly. They perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove excess mucus in their lungs.
There are many more responsibilities that a respiratory therapist takes. This might vary from employer to employer.
How to become a respiratory therapist
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Most people who become a respiratory therapist do so by acquiring an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from a community college, technical/vocational institutions and universities. There is also a bachelor’s degree program from some universities in respiratory therapy.
You can enroll into these programs straight from high school. When in high school, you should take classes in health, science and math subjects.
In respiratory therapist school, you will take courses in areas such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, physiology, physics, pharmacology, microbiology and mathematics. You will also take classes in equipment, CPR, patient diagnostic procedures and patient care. You will also gain clinical experience during your training which allows you to gain practical experience with real patients.
Respiratory therapists require licensure in all states except Alaska. Licensure requirements may vary from state to state. It is also a good idea to become a registered respiratory therapist. You can do this by becoming certified. Most employers prefer to hire RTs with certification or higher qualifications. You can often get certification if you graduate from an accredited program and pass the certification examination.
The exams are administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. They offer two levels of certification. These are the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
To get the CRT certification, you need to have an associate’s degree from an accredited program or have done the required coursework in a bachelor’s degree program and pass an examination.
To get the RRT certification, you first need to have a CRT certification and then pass an exam and meet other experience and education needs.
Verdict on Respiratory Therapist Salary
Respiratory therapists have a lot of responsibilities that we have not listed above. As such we would have expected a respiratory therapist salary to be a bit higher. But it is still one of the highest salaries in the medical therapist field.