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Human Services Pathway

Respiratory Care

What Respiratory Therapists Do

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing; for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, stroke, drowning or shock.

Work Environment

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Others may work in nursing care facilities or travel to patients’ homes.

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists need at least an associate degree, although both associate and bachelor’s degrees are common. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.


The median annual wage of respiratory therapists was $54,280 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment is expected to grow by 28 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in the middle-aged and elderly population will lead to greater demand for respiratory therapy services and treatments, mostly in hospitals and nursing homes.

Quick Facts: Respiratory Therapists
2010 Median Pay $54,280 per year
Entry-Level Education Associate degree
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2010 112,700
Job Outlook, 2010-20 28% growth rate

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