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Respiratory Therapist

Job Duties

Respiratory therapists practice under the supervision of physicians, caring for patients with cardiopulmonary problems. They evaluate and treat these patients and also supervise the work of respiratory therapy technicians. The nature of the work of respiratory therapists overlaps somewhat with the work of respiratory therapy technicians. However, respiratory therapists usually have a much higher level of responsibility. Respiratory therapists consult directly with physicians and other healthcare staff to create and improve the treatment plans of individual patients. They are responsible for administering complex therapy, such as treating patients in intensive care units who rely on life support systems.

Respiratory Care Therapy Assisting

Respiratory therapists interview patients, examine them physically, and order diagnostic tests. By comparing this information with that of the average for a person of the same height, weight, age, and gender, they can determine whether the patient has deficiencies in their respiratory system. Respiratory therapists treat patients with many different types of disorders, from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs, to elderly patients with diseased lungs. They also provide care to patients who have been traumatized by a heart attack, drowning, stroke, or shock. In hospitals, respiratory therapists are responsible for an even wider range of duties, including performing chest physiotherapy to clear the lungs of mucus and enable patients to breathe more easily.

Job Skills

Respiratory therapists need to be able to follow instructions accurately and pay close attention to detail. They must be good at working in teams. They should be sensitive to the emotional and physical needs of patients. Proficiency with computer systems is also very valuable.

Income

In 2002, respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $40,220. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $30,270, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $54,030.

Training and Education

An associate degree is the general requirement for entry-level respiratory therapist positions. Formal training is a definite requirement and is offered by colleges and universities, medical schools, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. While some provide an associate degree or certification that prepares graduates for entry-level jobs, most programs award either an associate or bachelor's degree and are designed to enable graduates to eventually secure advanced positions within the field. There are about 59 entry-level and 319 advanced programs in the United States. Programs include study in human anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and mathematics. Many also include courses in therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and medical recordkeeping.

Individuals wishing to become respiratory therapists should check on State licensure requirements because over 40 States require licenses. Respiratory therapists can voluntarily earn the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) or the Certified respiratory Therapist (CRT) designations from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) after graduating from an accredited program. Most entry-level positions require the CRT designation, and most supervisory positions require the RRT designation.

Employment

In 2002, respiratory therapists held about 112,000 jobs. More than 4 out of 5 worked in hospital departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology, or pulmonary medicine.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase faster than the average due to a rapidly aging population who are more at risk for cardiopulmonary diseases. Job opportunities will be best for those who have cardiopulmonary skills or experience working with premature infants.

For more information on becoming a respiratory therapist, please see our directory of Respiratory Therapy Schools.


Respiratory Therapist Training

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            Platt College , Online (campus option available)
            • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
            • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
            • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
            • 3 campuses in Southern California.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
            • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
            • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
            • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
            • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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            • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
            • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
            • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
            • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
            • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
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            • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
            • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
            • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
            • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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            • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
            • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
            • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
            • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
            • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
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            About Brightwood College

            Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

            About Education Corporation of America

            Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

            Start your career with training from Blake Austin College - Beauty Academy. We offer programs in cosmetology, massage therapy, and holistic health, plus a combination esthetics/massage program.
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
            • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
            • Online courses help make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 24 months and a master’s degree in 12-18 months.
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            Intercoast Colleges , Online (campus option available)

            • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
            • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.

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            • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
            • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Scholarship and financial aid opportunities are available for students who qualify.
            • Offers more than 70 majors and programs, as well as several off-campus internships.
            • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year qualified for financial aid.
            • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
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