Respiratory Therapist Salary, Job Outlook & Education Options

Working as a respiratory therapist is an outstanding career choice. It’s ranked as one of the best jobs in healthcare, according to U.S. News & World Report, and salaries reflect the fact that there is currently a high demand for knowledgeable respiratory therapists.

As a respiratory therapist, you play a crucial role in assisting patients with respiratory infections and chronic lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and more. Additionally, you may provide emergency care to heart attack and stroke victims as well as patients who have been in accidents. Your impact spans across patients of all ages, from premature infants to the elderly.

This post will explore respiratory therapist salary data, job outlook, and how the University of Cincinnati helps experienced RRTs further their careers with both bachelor’s and master’s degree options.

How Much Does a Respiratory Therapist Make?

On average, respiratory therapists earn an annual median pay of $77,960, as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with a projected growth of 13% by 2032 — much faster than the average for all occupations. As of May 2023, the following industries had the highest concentration of employment in Respiratory Therapists:

Industry Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
Specialty Hospitals (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) 2.63% $78,840
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 1.72% $80,030
Offices of physicians 0.09% $77,580
Nursing care/skilled nursing facilities 0.34% $73,390
Employment Services 0.11% $102,540
Professional and Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers 0.31% $73,400

Respiratory Therapist Salaries & Employment By Location 

Every state requires respiratory therapists, but the demand varies across regions. The BLS can pinpoint the states and metropolitan areas that offer the highest salaries and employment rates in this field.

State Employment Annual mean wage
California 15,480 $103,060
New York 6,540 $98,770
Washington (State) 2,040 $93,820
Washington D.C. 360 $95,240
Alaska 130 $94,590
Metropolitan area Employment Annual mean wage
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 6,820 $101,860
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 5,280 $97,590
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 3,780 $82,720
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 3,180 $82,350
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 2,870 $81,260
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 2,600 $84,040
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 2,380 $74,740
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 2,370 $75,770
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 2,140 $92,140
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 1,950 $73,280

Job Outlook for Respiratory Therapists 

The demand for respiratory therapists is on the rise due to several critical factors:

  • The increasing number of middle-aged and older individuals is leading to higher rates of respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung disorders.
  • An estimated 12 million cases of undiagnosed COPD and 12 million diagnosed cases, as reported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, highlight the significant need for respiratory care.
  • There is a growing emphasis on reducing hospital readmissions, which creates a heightened demand for respiratory therapists in nursing homes and doctors’ offices.
  • The continuous advancements in disease prevention and detection, improved medications, and more sophisticated treatments will further drive the demand for respiratory therapists.
  • Respiratory issues caused by smoking and air pollution will continue to spur the need for qualified respiratory therapists.

Educational Options for Respiratory Therapists 

In today’s competitive healthcare environment, a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy has become the standard entry-level requirement. While an associate degree could previously offer a path into the field, a growing number of programs and employers now expect candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree.

The Commission on Accreditation of Respiratory Care has recently proposed a new standard, mandating that all respiratory therapy programs established on or after Jan. 1, 2018, must confer a bachelor’s degree or higher. This shift underscores the increasing demand for highly qualified professionals in the field and is one of the reseasons UC offers online bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Achieving the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) designation through the completion of the CRT exam is the essential first step in advancing your career in respiratory therapy. The Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential, offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care, sets the industry standard for excellence and is a testament to your dedication and expertise as a professional respiratory therapist.

The Online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy at UC

The Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy at UC provides certified respiratory therapists with advanced knowledge in leadership, management, education, and research. This degree will propel you toward your professional aspirations and equip you to excel as a highly skilled and knowledgeable respiratory therapist.

“The University of Cincinnati has an incredible BSRT program that helped me tremendously. Peer to peer interaction with people in my career field from all over the world opened my eyes to new perspectives. Instructors were always reachable. Lessons and courses were challenging but always relevant and rewarding and this degree directly helps me in my career field. The learning platforms are very user friendly, and the Success Coordinators are the best I have ever seen. I promise you will never find a more friendly, dedicated staff.”
– Matthew P.

Furthering Your Career With a Master’s in Respiratory Therapy

The University of Cincinnati’s online Master of Science in Respiratory Therapy is designed for respiratory therapists with a bachelor’s degree, aiming for roles in education or management. This fully online program is tailored for working adults, allowing them to advance their careers while maintaining employment and offers three concentrations: Health Informatics, Health Care Administration, and Education.

Take Your First Step

Passionate about a rewarding career in respiratory therapy? Discover our complete guide to becoming a respiratory therapist, packed with credentialing requirements and day-to-day insights. Or connect with a UC Online advisor for personalized one-on-one guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is becoming a respiratory therapist difficult?

Embarking on a career as a respiratory therapist demands dedication and commitment, yet it offers a more accessible entry point compared to many other healthcare professions. By pursuing an associate degree in respiratory therapy, you can attain certification and licensure, and further elevate your career prospects by obtaining a four-year degree.

What is the highest degree for a respiratory therapist?

The field of respiratory therapy requires a minimum of an associate degree, although higher degrees are highly valued. Pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree can open up greater job prospects and advancement opportunities as you progress in your career.

What is the difference between a radiology technician and a respiratory therapist?

While both may be referred to as RTs, there are significant differences between the two. Radiology technicians play a crucial role in capturing diagnostic images using state-of-the-art medical imaging equipment. Their responsibilities include precise patient positioning, expert equipment operation, and ensuring the highest-quality images. While respiratory therapists specialize in providing essential care to patients with breathing disorders.

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