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Become a Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist works with individuals who have heart problems or difficulty breathing. They provide treatment and services that assist a patient in breathing, such as providing them with oxygen, connecting them to a ventilator, or giving them medicine that helps to open the air passages to allow more air to enter their lungs. In addition, they may work with patients individually to teach them how to recognize and treat breathing difficulty before it becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate action by a doctor or physician.

Education: Most respiratory therapists are required to have the minimum of an associate's degree although those wishing to advance faster may consider obtaining a bachelor's degree in this field.

Licensing requirements for respiratory therapists vary from state to state, as only 40 states actually require a license to provide services to patients.

Where They Work: Over 80% of respiratory therapists work in hospitals, although the number of job opportunities outside a hospital for this job group is growing. A big area of growth is in home health services, as more and more respiratory therapists are traveling to the homes of individuals with respiratory problems in order to perform services. A few positions can be found in physician offices and nursing care facilities.

Average Pay: The average earnings of a respiratory therapist is $40,000. However, the actual salary range is $30,000 to $60,000 depending upon years of experience, location, and training or education.

Job Outlook: The number of jobs for respiratory therapists is expected to grow in coming years due to an aging population that will require more services performed by respiratory therapists. Middle aged and elderly individuals are most apt to acquire diseases and illnesses that affect the respiratory system, such as emphysema, heart disease, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Work Environment: The average work week for a respiratory therapist is 35 to 40 hours, although these may not be during regular working hours. Hospitals provide services around the clock, and respiratory therapists are often needed during evenings, nights and weekends, thus some may work irregular shifts and hours.

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