How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

If you become a respiratory therapist, you will be working with patients who suffer from respiratory disorders. You will have to evaluate the ailments and provide treatment and patient care. In addition, you will be involved in conducting diagnostic tests and some physical examinations. Also, you will be working under the supervision of a physician.

Educational Requirements and Preparation

The minimum educational requirements for a respiratory therapist is an associate's degree. A bachelor's or master's degree may play a vital role in your advancement.

  • If you are still in high school, enroll in biology, physics, chemistry, math and health courses.
  • After earning your high school diploma, complete a training program in respiratory therapy. You can opt to do so in a hospital, college, technical school or military branch. An associate’s degree should be your end result.
  • Pass the exam offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to gain a license as a respiratory therapist.

You can continue your education and advance your career by the completion of advanced respiratory care programs offered by the NBRC.

Daily Activities

As a respiratory therapist, you will have several responsibilities:

  • Treat patients with various respiratory conditions and ranging from infants to the elderly.
  • Consult physicians and other staff members and develop plans for patient care.
  • Perform physical examinations and diagnostic tests, such as those for the measurement of lung capacity.
  • Use oxygen or oxygen mixtures to treat the patients.
  • Perform regular checkup of patients and clinical equipments.
  • Provide independent judgment and conduct complex therapies.
  • Manage the technicians involved in the respiratory therapy.

Career Advancement and Opportunities

With experience as a respiratory therapist, you can provide general care as well as treat critically sick patients. You can gain an advanced degree and become a supervisor. Working in a health care agency, you may become the branch manager if are prepared for this high-paying but stressful position. Another avenue you could pursue is teaching. provides specific and concrete information regarding job opportunities and aspects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008, the median annual salary of a respiratory therapist was $52,200.

Work Environment

As a respiratory therapist, you would be expected to work for about 35 to 40 hours a week. You may have to work in the evenings, at night and on the weekends, depending upon the facility and patient load. There is an unfortunate chance you may be exposed to infectious diseases; hence, you should always follow proper procedures to minimize these occupational risks.

Tips for Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

As a respiratory therapist, you need to:

  • Pay attention to detail, follow instructions correctly and work as part of a team.
  • Adhere to safety measures and precautions.
  • Be able to work under stress in case of an emergency.
  • Know how to work with gases that are stored under pressure.