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Respiratory Therapist - Training & Careers

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Respiratory-TherapistRespiratory therapists evaluate and treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders that affect their breathing. Working under the directions of a primary care physician, a respiratory therapist will measure a patient's breathing capacity and flow of oxygen. They may operate sophisticated instruments to provide temporary relief to people with asthma or emphysema as well as provide emergency care to victims of a stroke, heart attack, or drowning.

Most respiratory therapists work in public and private hospitals and in clinics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for respiratory therapists over the next decade will be especially strong. There are exceptionally good prospects for respiratory therapists with specializations with infant-care and cardiopulmonary-care skills. The BLS reports that respiratory therapists held approximately 112,000 jobs in 2002.

Training to Become a Respiratory Therapist

More than 40 states license respiratory therapists for work. The National Board for Respiratory Care provides testing and voluntary certification for Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) designations. An associate's degree is the recommended entry qualification for the profession.

Formal training for the career is traditionally taken as post-secondary work at medical schools, vocational-tech institutes, colleges, and universities. Schools also offer bachelor’s degree programs for persons who want to take advanced respiratory therapist positions in clinics and hospitals.

Since most work is done with complicated equipment and medical technology, students should expect coursework in diagnostic procedures and tests, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and rehabilitation. You may also be asked to study mathematics, human anatomy, physics, chemistry, pharmacology, and microbiology.

The BLS predicts strong job growth for respiratory therapists through 2012 as the American population ages and cardiopulmonary issues rise to the forefront of the medical profession. According to the BLS, respiratory therapists earned between $30,270 and more than $54,030 in 2002.

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