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Respiratory Therapy

Job Outlook & Salary


Faster-than-average employment growth is projected for respiratory therapists. Job opportunities should be very good, especially for respiratory therapists with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants. Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow greater than 19 percent from 2009 to 2016, faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing demand will come from substantial growth in the middle-aged and elderly population-a development that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease. Older Americans suffer most from respiratory ailments and cardiopulmonary diseases such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease. As their numbers increase, the need for respiratory therapists is expected to increase as well. In addition, advances in inhalable medications and in the treatment of lung transplant patients, heart attack and accident victims, and premature infants (many of whom are dependent on a ventilator during part of their treatment) will increase the demand for the services of respiratory care practitioners.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 19 percent increase in demand for respiratory therapists, also known as respiratory care practitioners (RCP) in the next 10 years. The scope of practice for the respiratory therapist has expanded largely due to advances in complex medical technology. New subspecialty areas in pulmonary and sleep diagnostics, neonatal/pediatric or adult intensive care, rehabilitation, and home care have emerged. Registered therapists may use their education and experience to enroll in physician assistant, anesthesia assistant, or perfusionist programs, and medical school. Along with working in hospital settings, respiratory therapists find careers in research clinical trials management, asthma education, private business, health administration, education or management.

Average Salary:

The mean U.S. annual wage for a respiratory therapist in May 2009 was $53,150, earning approximately $25.55 per hour. Regional wages vary with experience, degrees, and credentials, as well as shift differentials and incentives.