The average starting respiratory therapist salary for a newly graduated CRTT is $47K annually. RRT’s make more as a starting wage, $62K. The highest respiratory therapist salary that can reasonably be expected is $74K. The highest salary will go to a highly qualified therapist with 10-12 years of experience, and proficient in ABGS, intubation, ventilator management, therapist driven protocols, and sometimes specialized in a specific area. Department supervisors are usually RRTs who have obtained a master degree in business administration, and are not required to have a license since they do not practice any longer.
The starting qualifications for a Certified Respiratory Therapy Technician (CRTT) are pretty basic. A certificate of completion for a CRTT program is all you need to be able take the national exams. The AARC ( American Association for Respiratory Care) administers these exams across the nation, and they are required for licenses in most states. Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) obtain a degree in cardiopulmonary sciences, preferably a bachelor , and take a two part assessment given by the AARC. After successful completion of these requirements, a license can be obtained to practice. Many people will obtain the first credential, and then work for a while. After 2-3 years experience they decide to go back to school and finish their education. As you can see, it is not necessary to spend years in school and then discover that you do not like your job. It is a demanding job, mentally and physically, and it is not for everyone. So don’t let the salary of a respiratory therapist be the deciding factor on this career.
Demand for both CRTT and RRT is high, as for everyone in healthcare. If you decide that you do not like the particular requirement your job has, you can be cross trained in a related field very easily and change jobs within your hospital. Perhaps you love the job, but want to specialize in working with neonates. Further education, within your hospital or at a college, will allow you to pursue your dream. If the hospital needs are too stressful, a home care position may be just what you need. RT’s work in every department of the hospital, from ER , L&D , and ICU to the sleep lab and the EKG department. Some respiratory therapists work in long term care facilities, while others see patients in their home of SNF. There has been a lot of dialog going on about using RTs in Pulmonary physicians offices, but as far as I know this has not happened yet.
The specific qualifications you will need depends on your hospitals protocols and practice. Since you are working directly with patients , a pleasant manner and ability to persuade people is highly desirable. Communication with RNs and MDs needs to be succinct yet informative, because these people will make decisions based on your information. Some times the task at hand will be unpleasant, and you must be able to maintain control of your own biological responses. For example, ventilating a patient with an open chest means you must resist the strong urge to vomit, since that will be fatal to the patient.
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