Career as a Respiratory Therapist
By Diane Turner
Respiratory therapists are responsible for caring with those that have trouble breathing due to diseases like asthma or emphysema. Therespiratory therapist average salary will be based on the types of tasks the therapist is trained to take on. These may include interviewing and examining patients, consulting with the patient’s physician to determine a proper treatment plan, performing tests to determine the cause of a patient’s symptoms, prescribing medication, supervising or performing therapy sessions and recording the recovery or treatment process.
Much of the variation in the salary for a respiratory therapist will depend on the educational level the respiratory therapist has earned before entering the field. All respiratory therapists except those working in Alaska will be expected to earn a license by passing a professional exam. The contents of this exam and the specific educational requirements for this field will vary by state.
Most states require the respiratory therapist to earn an associate’s degree in a field that will cover the necessary skills to perform in this position. Those hoping to enter these programs are encouraged to complete their high school diploma with high marks in physics, mathematics, chemistry, health and biology. Other training programs are available through vocational schools and the Armed Forces, but you will need to check your state’s requirements to determine whether or not these programs are accredited in your area.
You can also earn a bachelor’s degree to work as a respiratory therapist. In general, the average salary of a respiratory therapistis higher for those that take the time to earn a more advanced degree. This additional training allows you to work in more specialized work environments such as specialized hospitals that offer a higher salary than general health facilities. Having a more advanced degree may also allow you to move into a supervisory position at a respiratory therapy institute more quickly than those with less formal training.
Respiratory Therapist Average Salary
The average respiratory therapist salaryis $56,260 but there are several factors that will influence the salary an individual will earn. The main factors that will influence the salary a respiratory therapist can earn is the specialization they choose to enter and the location where they are employed.
Respiratory Therapist Salary Factors and Influences
Areas that have a high concentration of people working as a respiratory therapist are less likely to offer competitive salaries. To help you get a feel for how this impacts the salary you can earn in this field, note the employers that have the highest concentration of respiratory therapists working in their facilities.
Specialty Hospitals Average Salary: $58,050
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals Average Salary: $55,880
Consumer Goods Rental Average Salary: $50,430
Offices of Other Health Practitioners Average Salary: $58,300
Nursing Care Facilities Average Salary: $59,820
These facilities tend to offer salaries that are lower than the national average because there are more people employed within the facility. When there is an excess of people with adequate training, hospitals and other care facilities can hire several therapists to perform the same amount of work, allowing them to spread out the duties and salary for a respiratory therapist that is awarded. Compare these statistics to those for the highest paying employers for respiratory therapists.
Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools Average Salary: $67,060
Local Government Average Salary: $63,340
Employment Services Average Salary: $63,000
Management of Companies and Enterprises Average Salary: $62,940
Commercial and Industrial Machinery and Equipment Rental and Leasing Average Salary: $61,720
As you can see, these facilities offer salaries that are more in line with the average salary for a respiratory therapist. These facilities tend to be larger, which gives them more room to hire a more advanced staff. They are also more likely to have a higher budget because these employers are often working with outside funds in addition to payments from patients. Because many of these industries are likely to hire a variety of health care professionals, they will not have the need for a staff or respiratory therapists, but can simply hire one talented individual to manage all the cases they have.
Because they will be relying on your expertise, these facilities are likely to hold out for employees that have more training. The salary of a respiratory therapistis often directly tied to the level of education the individual has earned before seeking employment. Those that have more experience in the field are also more likely to earn a competitive wage as they will be eligible to move into management positions within the organizations where they are employed.
Respiratory Therapist Salary Compared To Related Fields
Respiratory therapists earn a mean salary compared to similar fields in the medical profession.
Average Salary for a Respiratory Therapist:$56,260
Average Salary for a Registered Nurse: $64,690
Average Salary for a Physical Therapist: $76,310
Average Salary for an Occupational Therapist: $72,320
Average Salary for a Radiation Therapist: $74,980
As you can see, many fields in the medical profession earn a higher salary than those in respiratory therapy. However, respiratory therapists are not usually expected to remain on-call or work late hours the way a registered nurse might. You will also need less education to work as a respiratory therapist compared to other fields on the list, making it easier to move into the field and move up in the field of respiratory therapy very quickly.
Respiratory Therapist Salary by State
The area where a respiratory therapistworks can have a noticeable impact on the respiratory therapist average salary. Listed below are the highest paying states that regularly employ respiratory therapists.
Respiratory Therapist Salary in California: $69,930
Respiratory Therapist Salary in Nevada: $67,270
Respiratory Therapist Salary in Hawaii: $66,890
Respiratory Therapist Salary in New Jersey: $66,790
Respiratory Therapist Salary in Connecticut: $66,000
As you can see, each of these states offers a salary that is well above the national average, but the figures are fairly consistent across the board. A major contribution to the higher salaries in these areas is the wide variety of health facilities in these areas. With more competition, employers are more willing to pay a more competitive salary to get highly trained people to join their staff.
In order to illustrate this point further, note therespiratory therapist salary by state when comparing states with the highest employment levels for respiratory therapists.
Salary in California: $69,930
Salary in Texas: $53,230
Salary in Florida: $51,930
Salary in New York: $65,310
Salary in Ohio: $51,480
As you can see, most of these salaries are below the national average. When there is less competition or health facilities hire many people to fill their staff they will not necessarily have the budget to offer a higher salary. To further note how these statistics impact those looking for a job in this field, look at the statistics for the average salary for a respiratory therapist in states that have the highest concentrationof respiratory therapists in this area.
Salary in Kentucky: $44,790
Salary in Tennessee: $47,150
Salary in Mississippi: $47,390
Salary in Indiana: $51,450
Salary in West Virginia: $45,420
Once again, the salaries have taken a significant hit. In general, in areas where there are more respiratory therapists seeking employment, facilities can offer a lower wage without risk of losing out on valuable talent. Those that are looking to earn a competitive salary in this industry are encouraged to seek employment in a state with a more competitive market.
Respiratory Therapist Types of Salaries
Registered Respiratory Therapist: Average Salary: $59,416
Registered therapists will access the patient’s needs then help do diagnose the proper treatment for their symptoms. They will typically manage patients with pulmonary disorders by collecting breath, sputum and blood specimens to evaluate the levels of gasses like oxygen and carbon dioxide in the system. You may also need to check the patient’s lung capacity to determine if they are functioning properly.
Certified Respiratory Therapist: Average Salary: $50,934
Certified therapists have a very similar role to registered therapists. They will collect samples from the body to access lung function and then prescribe the most appropriate treatment to help manage these symptoms. In order to perform the necessary tasks associated with this job, the therapist may need to earn their CPR certification in addition to becoming a Certified Respiratory Therapist.
Home Care Respiratory Therapist: Average Salary: $47,192
These therapists will visit a patient’s home so they can work directly with these individuals to manage their pulmonary disorders and make a more accurate diagnosis of what may be causing their trouble. You will be expected to perform an examination to determine lung function and concerns that may be contributing to this impairment. Because you will be working without supervision you may be asked to get additional training in the field before taking on these responsibilities.
Respiratory Therapy Supervisor: Average Salary: $66,337
Supervisors in the respiratory therapy field will provide medications, therapeutic gases or oxygen as prescribed by a physician. They will also supervise the work and patient care that is administered by other respiratory therapists working at the hospital or care facility where they are employed. This will include ensuring that any therapeutic procedures implemented are in accordance with the bylaws of the hospital and checking to make sure the rest of the medical staff is aware of the procedures that have been applied to the patient’s treatment plan.
Respiratory Therapy Director: Average Salary: $93,596
The therapy director will develop and implement any necessary respiratory programs that are necessary and suitable for the procedures and policies implemented by the hospital. They will also direct and monitory the remainder of the staff as well as the results of the respiratory therapy on the patients in their care. Those that hope to move into a director’s position will need at least seven years of experience in the field and professional certification in respiratory therapy.
Respiratory Care Manager: Average Salary: $79,918
The respiratory manager will be responsible for overseeing all of the respiratory therapy procedures, services and policies implemented in a given hospital. They will direct all departmental operations and perform any necessary tasks that will help keep the treatment plans on track. In order to apply for this position, individuals will need a bachelor’s degree, certification as a registered respiratory therapist and at least five years of experience in the field, preferably with at least a bit of experience in a managing role.
History of Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory therapy has been an official form of therapy since the 1900s. In the early days, these professionals were referred to as oxygen technicians and would be responsible for administering oxygen to a patient through an oxygen tent or a nasal catheter. While most people received training in this profession before they began working in the field, official training programs did not appear until the 1940s and 50s.
Today, the training for respiratory therapists as well as the average respiratory therapist salary has increased significantly. Several new facilities such as long-care, diagnostics facilities, rehab centers or home units are available for those that need this type of care. Instead of simply following orders from a physician, respiratory therapists are now expected to apply coordinate respiratory care, direct the process and educate the patient on how to manage their condition more effectively. Along with the expansion of the role of the therapist, respiratory therapists are also expected to get a certified education rather than simply training on the job.
Respiratory TherapistSalary Outlook – Conclusion
The respiratory therapy field is expected to grow by 28 percent in the next ten years, which is approximately double the rate for the average career field. To put this in perspective, the average health treating and diagnosing career field is expected to grow by 26 percent in the same time period. The average salary of a respiratory therapist is expected to grow fairly consistently during this time period, keeping in tune with inflation and general salary growth.
Much of the reason why the respiratory therapy is expected to grow is because the elderly population in the country is steadily increasing. As people age they are at a higher risk for developing chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia which can permanently damage the lungs. Environmental pollution caused by smoking or air pollutants will also contribute to these growing concerns. Nursing homes, treatment centers and hospitals are expected to have the largest increase in hiring respiratory therapists. Given the more advanced nature of respiratory programs that are expected to become more common in the coming years, the salary for a respiratory therapist with a higher level of education will likely be higher than those with less advanced degrees.