Respiratory Care as a Career

Do you have what it takes to be a respiratory therapist (RT)?

  • Do you want to help people in their time of need?
  • Do you like working with technology?  Are you good at math and science?
  • Would you prefer working in a profession where there’s a lot of variety in the job?
  • Do you want to be able to choose the type of place you work in and the type of patients you work with?
  • Are you looking for a career with multiple opportunities for advancement—not just one?

If this sounds like you, our profession could be a great fit.  Check out the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC) website. While you’re there, be sure to watch the video clip called “Life and Breath” to take a good look at RTs on the job.

Respiratory Therapy Employment and Financial Outlook

*based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022

Quick Facts:

  • 2024 Median Pay – $70,540 per year
  • $33.91 per hour on average
  • Typical Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
  • Work Experience in a Related Occupation – None
  • On-the-job Training – None
  • Number of Jobs in 2022 – 133,100
  • Job Outlook from 2022-2032 – 13% (Much faster than average)
  • Employment Change from 2022-2032 – 16,700
  • FAQ

    • What do RTs do?

      Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema.

    • What is the work environment like?

      Most respiratory therapists work full time. Because they may work in medical facilities, such as hospitals that are always open, some may work evening, night, or weekend hours.

    • How do I Become a Respiratory Therapist?

      Respiratory therapists typically need an associate’s degree, but some have bachelor’s degrees. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.

    • What is the pay?

      The median annual wage for respiratory therapists was $62,810 in May 2020.

    • What is the job outlook?

      Employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in the middle-aged and elderly population will lead to an increased incidence of respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. These respiratory disorders can permanently damage the lungs or restrict lung function.

    • What is the state and area data?

      Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for respiratory therapists.

    • What are some similar occupations?

      Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of respiratory therapists with similar occupations.

    • Where do RTs work?

      • In hospitals right at the bedside, along with doctors and nurses in the ICU, ED, OR, NICU, and PICU
      • Long-term care
      • Pediatrics
      • Home care
      • Sleep medicine
      • Nursing homes
      • Pulmonary rehabilitation
      • Doctors offices and clinics
      • Transport
      • Case management, smoking cessation, disaster management, asthma management, education and more…

    • How do RT's enter the field and earn a license to practice?

      • An associate’s degree from a community college
      • A bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university
      • A master’s degree from a post-graduate program

      The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) evaluates the competence of respiratory therapists.

    • What about CRT and RRT Exams?

      • After graduation RT students may take the Therapist Multiple Choice exam which, upon achieving the appropriate cut score, leads to the credential Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT).
      • Subsequently they may take the Clinical Simulation exam that lead to the advanced Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential.
      • Specialty exams may also be taken in PFTs, neo-peds and sleep medicine
  • Scholarship Opportunities

    • American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF)

      The American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF) offers several programs to students who are currently enrolled in accredited respiratory care programs. The Education Recognition Awards provides scholarships to second and fourth year students enrolled in respiratory care education programs. Scholarships include a cash award ($1,000-2,500), certificate of recognition, airfare, one night lodging and registration to the AARC International Respiratory Congress. Information is available on their web site

    • Lambda Beta Honor Society

      The Lambda Beta Honor Society is the national honor society for the profession of respiratory care. The purpose of this Society is to promote, recognize, and honor scholarship, scholarly achievement, service, and character of students, graduates, and faculty members of the respiratory care profession. The Society provides scholarships to any student enrolled in respiratory care education program. Scholarships include a cash award ($500-$2000) and certificate of recognition. Further information is available through the Lambda Beta national office P.O. Box 15945-292, Lenexa, KS 66285; (913) 541-9077;

    • South Dayton AMBUCs Scholarship

      AMBUCS is a national service organization composed of a diverse group of men and women dedicated to creating independence and opportunities for people with disabilities. Their mission is accomplished by performing community service, providing Am Trykes to children with disabilities, and providing scholarships for therapists. The South Dayton chapter of AMBUCs provides scholarships to students enrolled in Kettering College respiratory care program. Scholarships include a cash award ($1,000-2,500) and a certificate of recognition.

    • Ohio Society for Respiratory Care (OSRC) Student Scholarship

      The OSRC the state professional organization for respiratory care, awards up to three student scholarships, to students enrolled in an Ohio CoARC accredited Respiratory Care Program.  Students must be a resident of the state of Ohio and be a student member of the AARC.  The awards also include a certificate of recognition and free registration for the OSRC Annual Meeting held in Columbus, OH.  Up to three scholarships are available one $1,000 and two $500 scholarships.  Contact the Program Director for details.

    • Coalition for Baccalaureate and Graduate Respiratory Therapy Education (CoBGRTE)

      The Coalition for Baccalaureate and Graduate Respiratory Therapy Education (CoBGRTE) is organized to help students, faculty members, and the general public learn about baccalaureate and graduate respiratory therapy education in the United States.  The CoBGRTE offers two scholarships each year to students enrolled in CoARC accredited baccalaureate and graduate respiratory therapy programs. Contact Program Director for details.

Respiratory Care Links

Learn more about respiratory therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

Links for job opportunities and more information about the profession:


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