Respiratory therapists, also referred to as respiratory care practitioners, provide care, treatment, diagnosis, and rehabilitation for patients with breathing problems. Disorders such as asthma and emphysema, and emergency care for victims of stroke, heart failure, drowning, or shock are but a few of the types of problems seen by respiratory therapists.
Work Activities/Work Locations
Respiratory therapists may work in hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, or private companies. They work with patients of all ages – from premature infants to elderly patients. Respiratory therapists work under the supervision of a physician. Respiratory therapists are trained to evaluate a patient’s condition and recommend therapies for treatment. They operate breathing devices to test the function of the lungs and they are trained to monitor their patient’s responses to therapy by checking vital signs and performing blood tests. Respiratory therapists teach proper breathing exercises to aid in a patient’s recovery. They evaluate and maintain patient charts. Respiratory therapists typically work 35-40 hours a week, which may include evenings and weekends. Because of the nature of their work, respiratory therapists may experience emergency type situations, and often perform duties while standing.
Education: 2-4 years
Patient Interaction: High
Physical Activity: Low
Job Growth: Medium
High School Courses
High school students should study health, biology, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Accredited training programs for respiratory therapists may either be a 2-year program leading to an associate degree or a 4-year program leading to a bachelor’s degree. Course work focuses on mathematics, human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, and career specific classes. Upon completion of a 2-year or 4-year accredited program, graduates must receive a license as a respiratory care practitioner. They may take the exam to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT). Wisconsin mandates a license to practice, such as a CRT. If a CRT meets education and experience requirements, and passes a separate examination, they are eligible to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
Education and Training
Cardinal Stritch University
Chippewa Valley Technical College
Madison Area Technical College
Mid-State Technical College
Milwaukee Area Technical College
Moraine Park Technical College – Fond du Lac
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
Western Technical College
Hospitals with Associated Educational Programs
American Association for Respiratory Care
9425 N. MacArthur Blvd., Suite 100
Irving, TX, 75063-4706
Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care
1248 Harwood Rd.
Bedford, TX, 76021-4244
National Board For Respiratory Care, Inc.
18000 W. 105th St.
Olathe, KS, 66061-7543
888/341-4811 or 913/895-4900
Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing
1400 E. Washington Ave., Room 112
Madison, WI, 53703
608/266-2112 or 877/617-1565
Wisconsin Society for Respiratory Care
Number Employed in 2014 (Wisconsin): 1,990
Number Employed in 2014 (U.S.): 120,700
Expected Employment in 2024 (U.S.): 135,500
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 12%
Expected Annual Openings: 4,330
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $57,949
Salary information is located at Career One Stop
Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.