Employment Prospects

According to the 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics there is faster-than-average employment growth projected for respiratory therapists. Job opportunities should be very good, especially for respiratory therapists with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants.

Employment change.

Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing demand will come from substantial growth in the middle-aged and elderly population—a development that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease. Growth in demand also will result from the expanding role of respiratory therapists in case management, disease prevention, emergency care, and the early detection of pulmonary disorders.

Older Americans suffer most from respiratory ailments and cardiopulmonary diseases such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease. As their numbers increase, the need for respiratory therapists is expected to increase as well. In addition, advances in inhalable medications and in the treatment of lung transplant patients, heart attack and accident victims, and premature infants (many of whom are dependent on a ventilator during part of their treatment) will increase the demand for the services of respiratory care practitioners.

Job prospects.

Job prospects will be best for therapists willing to travel to look for job opportunities. Some areas will be saturated with workers, while other areas (more often, rural areas) will be in need of respiratory therapists’ services. The vast majority of job openings will continue to be in hospitals. However, a growing number of openings are expected to be outside of hospitals, especially in home health care services, offices of physicians or other health practitioners, consumer-goods rental firms, or in the employment services industry as a temporary worker in various settings.

Related Occupations

Under the supervision of a physician, respiratory therapists administer respiratory care
and life support to patients with heart and lung difficulties. Other workers who care for, treat, or train people to improve their physical condition include registered nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiation therapists, and athletic trainers. Respiratory care practitioners work with advanced medical technology, as do other health care technicians including cardiovascular technologists and technicians, nuclear medicine technologists, radiologic technologists and technicians, and diagnostic medical sonographers.


According to the 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics median annual earnings of wage-and-salary respiratory therapists were $55,870 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,980, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,430.