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Oswego Career Ladders - Respiratory Therapist

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Respiratory Therapist

Industry: Healthcare
Area: Nursing and Direct Patient Care

Respiratory therapists help people who have difficulty breathing because of illness or injury including heart failure, chest trauma, asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), near drowning, excessive bleeding and shock.

Respiratory therapists treat patients by using ventilators, medical gas, humidity, aerosols, intermittent positive pressure breathing (IPPB), broncho-pulmonary drainage, and exercises and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Respiratory therapists must also be able to administer mechanical ventilation, airway management, pulmonary-function studies, blood-gas analysis, cardiopulmonary monitoring, exercise testing and physiological monitoring.

High school students interested in a career in respiratory care should take courses in health, biology, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Respiratory care involves basic mathematical problem solving and an understanding of chemical and physical properties. For example, respiratory care workers must be able to compute medication dosages and calculate gas concentrations.

Work Settings

The patients of respiratory therapists are found in newborn nurseries, surgical and medical units, emergency rooms, outpatient departments, intensive care units, extended care facilities, and homes. More than four out of five jobs are in hospital departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology, or pulmonary medicine. Respiratory therapy clinics, offices of physicians, nursing homes, sleep disorder units, and firms that supply respiratory equipment for home use account for most of the remaining jobs.


The minimal education requirement for entry into respiratory care is the associate degree. Students graduating from COARC approved entry-level programs qualify to sit for the entry level (technician) exam administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. Advanced practitioner programs can be either at the associate or baccalaureate degree level. Graduates of these programs qualify to sit for the advanced practitioner (therapist) exam, also administered by the NBRC. The baccalaureate degree programs are generally two-year upper division transfer programs.

Job Outlook

29% increase over the next 10 years; 230 new jobs per year in New York States.


$29,000 - $51,000(NYS Avg. $43,410)

Work Schedule

35-40 hour week; day, evening and night shifts

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