If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a respiratory therapist, you likely have many questions. The first may be, “What is a respiratory therapist and what do they do?” You might also be wondering, “How much does a respiratory therapist make?” Let’s answer these questions now.

What Is a Respiratory Therapist?

A respiratory therapist works with patients who have some type of breathing issue. This might involve providing therapy to people with asthma, for instance. Or it could involve working with people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The COVID-19 virus has also presented a number of symptoms in many patients affecting the lungs and breathing.

Respiratory therapists can work with patients of all ages. From newborn babies born with lungs that are not fully developed to older adults who’ve been diagnosed with lung disease, individuals in each stage of life can benefit from working with a respiratory therapist.

Professionals in this role can also work in a variety of settings. Hospital emergency rooms often rely on respiratory therapists to help patients who cannot breathe on their own. In this capacity, a therapist may set up equipment that breathes for the patient, ensuring that their lungs get the oxygen they need. Other respiratory therapists work in patients’ homes, providing home-based care and teaching family members how to use and maintain their required equipment.

Respiratory Therapist Job Duties

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a respiratory therapist?” the next one is often, “What does a respiratory therapist do?”

Upon first meeting with a patient, a respiratory therapist will often interview them to learn more about their medical history and current symptoms. The next step is typically to conduct an exam. This might be followed by diagnostic testing to either rule out or properly diagnose a specific breathing issue.

If the patient has a lung condition, the respiratory therapist can provide treatments designed to help them breathe with greater ease. If the patient has any equipment or medications as part of their treatment plan, the therapist teaches them how to use each properly.

Respiratory therapists also continue to monitor the patient’s progress, often working with other medical professionals along the way.

How Much Does a Respiratory Therapist Make?

Certainly, money isn’t everything. At the same time, knowing the salary of a job role that you’re interested in pursuing can help you keep your expectations in check. It also gives insight into how your monies would need to be budgeted to cover expenses, save for retirement, and to hit your other financial goals. So, how much does a respiratory therapist make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2021, the median pay for a respiratory therapist was $61,830 per year or $29.73 per hour. As the median, this means that one-half of respiratory therapists make more than this amount and the other half make less.

Keep in mind that answering the question of how much a respiratory therapist makes isn’t as simple as knowing these numbers. This is because salary potential can vary based on a variety of factors, some of which include your level of education, years of experience, and even where you work geographically.

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

The BLS indicates that you typically need at least an associate degree to work as a respiratory therapist. Although, some employers prefer that their therapists have a bachelor’s degree.

An associate degree program for a respiratory therapist generally includes courses that teach you more about human anatomy and physiology, respiratory diagnostic procedures and tests, and available treatments that have been designed to help patients breathe easier or better.

Respiratory Therapist Career Advancement

If you wish to advance your career as a respiratory therapist, you can pursue supervisory or management-level roles. A bachelor’s degree is often required for this type of higher position.

Saint Leo University offers an online respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree program. This 2-year degree program is designed for people who already have an associate degree in respiratory therapy. It adds to this knowledge by teaching students best practices, current innovations in the field, advanced respiratory therapy approaches, and more.

Students in Saint Leo’s respiratory therapist program also learn valuable leadership skills, teaching techniques, program administration strategies, and project management principles that can help enhance patient outcomes.

Ready to Advance Your Career as a Respiratory Therapist?

If you are interested in taking your career as a respiratory therapist to the next level but still have a few questions, call us at (855) 434-1517 to learn more. Our knowledgeable and professional staff is here to help in any way they can. Alternatively, if you’re ready to begin, you can also apply online and start the process today.