Skip to main content
San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Is Respiratory Therapy a Good Career for You?

January 25, 2018

SJVC-Respiratory-Therapy-studentsAre you interested in training to work as a Respiratory Therapist? Then you’re in the right place – this post is all about a career in Respiratory Care.

Five things to consider when deciding to train as a respiratory therapist:

  • What respiratory therapists do on the job
  • Where respiratory therapists (RTs) work and how much they reportedly make
  • The skills and characteristics needed to be a successful RT
  • Respiratory therapy certifications and licenses (benefits and requirements)
  • How to become a respiratory therapist

Let’s get started!

What does a Respiratory Therapist do?

Respiratory therapists play an important role in the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), respiratory therapists take care of patients who have breathing problems, such as asthma or chronic respiratory disease. These patients can range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly with diseased lungs. Respiratory therapists also can provide emergency care to patients experiencing heart attacks, shock or drowning.

Respiratory therapist job responsibilities include (according to the BLS):

  • Using equipment, such as ventilators, to help patients breathe
  • Teaching patients how to take medications
  • Documenting and monitoring the progress of their patients
  • Using a variety of methods to treat their patients, which includes aerosol medications and chest physiotherapy
  • Measuring patients’ lung capacity by conducting diagnostic tests
  • Creating patient treatment plans by consulting with physicians
  • Interviewing and examining patients with breathing problems

As you keep reading, you will learn that respiratory therapy is a dynamic and fast-growing healthcare career.

Why should I become a Respiratory Therapist?

According to the U.S. News & World Report, respiratory therapy is ranked as the 21st best job in the United States, which is based on factors such as median salary, future job prospects and more. Respiratory therapy is also ranked as the 16th best healthcare job in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.

Respiratory therapists are in demand

Respiratory therapy is an in-demand career that’s expected to grow over the next decade. According to the BLS, “employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than average for all occupations. Growth in the middle-aged and older population will lead to an increased incidence of respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other disorders that can permanently damage the lungs or restrict lung function. The aging population will, in turn, lead to an increased demand for respiratory therapy services and treatments, mostly in hospitals.”

How much money can respiratory therapists make in California?

Respiratory Therapists earn a decent wage. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for respiratory therapists in the U.S. was $58,670 in May 2016. In addition, the BLS report for respiratory therapists in the state of California is promising. California has the highest employment level for respiratory therapists in the entire U.S., and the annual mean wage was $78,820 for California respiratory therapists in May 2016.

Where do Respiratory Therapists work?

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) lists the following common work environments for respiratory therapists :

  • Hospitals
  • Intensive care units
  • Emergency rooms
  • Pediatric units
  • Operating rooms
  • Patients’ homes
  • Sleep laboratories
  • Nursing facilities and pulmonary rehabilitation programs
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Asthma education programs
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Air transport and ambulance programs
  • Case management programs

Is a career in Respiratory Therapy right for me?

There are several important qualities that respiratory therapists must possess, says the BLS. These include:

Interpersonal skills: Respiratory therapists need to be able to follow instructions from a physician supervisor because they are constantly interacting with patients and working in a team environment.

Problem-solving skills: Respiratory therapists evaluate patients’ symptoms, consult with other healthcare professionals, and recommend and administer the appropriate treatments so they must have strong problem-solving skills.

Science and math skills: Respiratory therapists must be able to calculate the correct dosage of a patient’s medicine. In order to do so, they need to be able to understand physiology, anatomy and other sciences.

Patience: Respiratory Therapists often see patients who need special attention and care. To meet those needs, respiratory therapists might be working with a specific patient for long periods of time.

Compassion: Patients that are undergoing treatments may need emotional support, and respiratory therapists should be sympathetic to their needs.

Detail-oriented: Respiratory therapists monitor and record a variety of information related to a patient’s care. Being detail-oriented will ensure that patients are getting the correct treatments and their medications on time.

Do I need to be licensed and certified to work as a Respiratory Therapist in California?

The California Business and Professions Code states that “no person may practice respiratory care or represent himself or herself to be a respiratory care practitioner in this state, without a valid license.”

To become a respiratory therapist, you must obtain licensure from the Respiratory Care Board of California. Respiratory therapists must comply with the following requirements:

  • Complete a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), and be awarded a minimum of an associate’s degree from an institution or university accredited by a regional accreditation agency or association recognized by the United States Department of Education. Applicants who don’t completely meet the education requirements can apply to have them waived by the Board if they have the required professional experience and if they’re in good standing with the state in which they obtained licensure, as well as with the California state board.
  • Have current CRT and RRT certifications from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) and submit proof of this certification to the California State Board.
  • Successfully complete one state-approved course in the area of Law and Professional Ethics. This may be completed via a distance learning course but must be done before licensure.
  • Complete and submit an application for licensure with all of the supporting documentation, along with a check or money order to cover the application fee. A background check done by a background investigation firm or law enforcement agency is also required, along with transcripts from the institution where you obtained your degree.

To get the CRT and RRT certifications from the NBRC, candidates need to meet the following criteria:

  • Obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a program that is accredited by CoARC
  • Pass the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RTT) exams administered by the NBRC

How do I start my Respiratory Therapy training?

The first step is to enroll in a program accredited by CoARC. View a list of accredited programs here.

SJVC’s Respiratory Therapist program is CoARC-accredited and students can earn an Associate of Science degree in approximately 18 months.

Upon graduation from SJVC, students will have the following certificates: Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Neonatal Resuscitation Provider (NRP).

Graduates of the SJVC Respiratory Therapy program are eligible to apply to the National Board for Respiratory Care to sit for the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) exam. Once a minimum threshold is earned, the graduate is then eligible to sit for the Clinical Simulation (CS) exam. Upon successfully passing the CS exam the graduate earns the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Credential. The fees for the exam, background check and application are paid for by the College.

Graduates from SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy Associate’s degree program can then consider SJVC’s online Bachelor Degree completion program. It is designed for working Registered Respiratory Therapists who have graduated from a CoARC- or CAAHEP-accredited program and are looking for career advancement opportunities in leadership, education, research and critical care in the field of Respiratory Care.

Contact SJVC

Request more information to start your RT training, or call 866-544-7898 to learn more about SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy program.

Learn More About Respiratory Therapy

Our free guide offers an in-depth look into respiratory therapy as a career.

Request Information

Step 1 of 2

* Required Field