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Who Are Respiratory Therapist~What Do They Do?

A respiratory therapist (RT) assists in the assessment, diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and rehabilitation of individuals with lung disease.  To perform diagnostic studies, they obtain blood gas samples, perform pulmonary functions and sleep studies.  With this information, RTs establish therapeutic goals patients that may include respiratory care treatments and managing life support.

Work Environment

Five out of every six respiratory therapists work in a hospital setting. However, you will also find respiratory therapists in  home care respiratory equipment suppliers and in medical clinics.

High School Preparation
High school students interested in a career in respiratory therapy should take courses in biology, health, mathematics, chemistry physics, English, computer skills, geometry, emergency medical technology and health occupations/ medical professions education.


The registered respiratory therapist generally graduates from a two-year  Associate Degree program. Upon graduation a student can apply for a temporary license to practice and has six months to take their national examinations to become either certified or registered. The Associate degree program of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy prepares students to take both the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam and the Registry Respiratory Therapist (RRT) exam.  The exams are designed to objectively measure essential knowledge, skills, and abilities required of respiratory therapists.

Career Outlook
Job opportunities for respiratory therapists are expected to grow between 21 - 35% over the next 10 years. They will experience job growth faster than the average for all occupations in the United States. This job growth is due in part to the aging of the baby boomer generation, which has increased the number of individuals in the middle age to elderly portion of the population. This age group is more likely to suffer illnesses that affect heart and lung functions.

For more information on Career Outlook