PROS / Respiratory therapy offers a solid mid-range salary.
CONS / This health care job has one of the lowest job-growth percentages in our review.
VERDICT / Respiratory therapy is a well-balanced medical career offering a decent salary for a couple of years of schoolwork.
Respiratory therapists specialize in treating patients who have difficulty breathing. They work with patients of all ages and diagnoses, such as children with asthma and adults with emphysema. These therapists work alongside doctors to determine the best treatments for their patients' breathing problems. The majority of this medical career involves administering treatments and tests, monitoring symptoms and progress, and teaching their patients how to self-treat.
This health care job offers a mid-range pay compared alongside equivalent undergraduate medical jobs. The low-wage salary range is well above the average for all occupations nationwide, and the mid-range is in the middle of the highest paying medical careers. To begin working in this field, you need at least an associate degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program. However, some employers prefer hiring therapists with a bachelor's degree.
Respiratory therapists have one of the lower job growth percentages out of comparable medical careers. The number of estimated new jobs over the next few years is also on the lower end. All states, with the exception of Alaska, require respiratory therapists to become licensed in order to work. You also have the option to progress through two levels of advanced certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care. Licensure and the certifications require passing exams to show competency.
Many respiratory therapists work in hospitals full time. These facilities are generally 24/7, so your shifts may require you to work odd hours, such as at night or during weekends, to cater to patient needs. Other therapists may find work in nursing care facilities or as home health care. Because this career in medicine works closely with patients, knowing a secondary language can be beneficial. You also need to be able to lift 50 pounds or more in case you need to move patients.
Respiratory therapist is a great choice for a career in medicine if you are interested specifically in respiratory treatments. The salary range is well above the median for all occupations, and you generally need only an associate degree to begin working. However, the job availability isn't as high as other comparable undergraduate careers.