Allied Health Professions/
Respiratory therapists apply scientific principles to prevent, identify and treat acute or chronic dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system. Their knowledge of the scientific principles underlying cardiopulmonary physiology and pathophysiology, as well as biomedical engineering and technology, enables them to effectively assess, educate and treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders.
Because chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading killer of adults, people with asthma, bronchitis and emphysema need respiratory therapy. In addition, people who have had heart attacks, suffered trauma, are born prematurely or have sleep disorders might also need respiratory therapy to help them breathe easier. People of every age, from premature infants to the elderly, need respiratory care.
Respiratory therapy is practiced under medical direction. Critical thinking, patient/environment assessment skills and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines enable respiratory therapists to develop and implement effective care plans, protocols and disease management programs.
In addition to entry level skills, advanced level therapists participate in clinical decision-making and patient education, the development and implementation of protocols and treatment plans, health promotion, disease prevention and disease management. Although they practice under the supervision of a physician, they are required to exercise considerable independent judgment in providing respiratory therapy to patients.
To learn more about this career, watch "Life and Breath," a video about what it is like to be a respiratory therapist, and read about becoming a respiratory therapist.
Respiratory therapy is provided in nearly all health care venues including, but not limited to:
Some respiratory therapists also work for medical device manufacturers.
Career opportunities will remain good in the foreseeable future, projected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022. This growth is largely due to the growing percentage of older people, who have higher incidences of respiratory conditions and illnesses like emphysema, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. These respiratory disorders can permanently damage the lungs or restrict lung function.
Save money and earn your bachelor's in health sciences or healthcare management more quickly with maximum credit transfer at Excelsior. Our low tuition makes it affordable for you to earn your degree from accredited college while you earn a living. Receive up to 32 credits for your health-related occupational license. Learn more about Excelsior College ...
Part 2: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Part 1: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Federal Versus Private Loans: Do Your Homework!
Criminal Background Check? But, I’m Not A Criminal!
Do’s and Don’ts When Applying to College (Part I)
Accreditation Matters (Part I)
Applying for Financial Aid (Part II)
Why Diversity Matters in the Health Professions
Start preparing for your health career in high school
Reconciliation Act of 2010 Includes Significant Student Aid Provisions
Healthcare Reform 101
A Step-by-Step Approach to Planning Your Health Career
Respiratory therapists need a minimum of an associate's degree although many students get a bachelor's degree and some go on to earn a graduate degree. Forty-nine states require licensing or legal credentialing.
In order to take the entry-level examination for certification, which is administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care, respiratory students must get at least an associate's degree and a certificate of completion from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.
Search for funding opportunities related to this career
Search for enrichment programs related to this career
Search for academic degree and certificate programs related to this career
Allied Health Professions
Last updated: August 22, 2014
©2012 American Dental Education Association