Respiratory Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A respiratory technician's median annual wage is around $47,000, but is it worth the education and training? Get the truth about the job description, salary info and career prospects to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Respiratory Technician Career

Respiratory technicians, also called respiratory therapy technicians, assist respiratory therapists and physicians in providing respiratory care to patients with respiratory problems and breathing difficulties. Read more about the pros and cons of a career as a respiratory technician to decide if it's the right career for you.

Pros of a Respiratory Technician Career
Decent wage potential ($47,000 as of May 2014)*
Work available in various healthcare settings (hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient care centers, physicians' offices)*
Allows you to help others*
Advancement opportunities***

Cons of a Respiratory Technician Career
No employment growth (-2% decline expected between 2014 and 2024)*
May be required to work under stressful situations***
May be required to work evenings and weekends***
Certification may be required for employment**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Multiple online job postings (found April 2012),***Sloan Career Cornerstone

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Respiratory technicians are healthcare professionals who, under the supervision of respiratory therapists and physicians, diagnose and treat patients suffering from pulmonary and breathing difficulties. They often use high-tech life support equipment and techniques. They work with patients in surgical intensive care or emergency rooms, monitor patients during treatment, collect and analyze arterial blood gas samples, assess patients' response to treatments and document patients' treatments. Respiratory technicians and respiratory therapists often perform many of the same duties; however, respiratory therapists usually have more responsibilities than technicians. For instance, respiratory therapists might use independent judgment in initiating life support or other life-saving techniques. Whereas respiratory therapists consult with physicians about patient care, respiratory technicians may consult with the therapists.

Employment Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that respiratory therapists were expected to see a 2% decline in employment between 2014 and 2024, and technicians were expected to experience only a 15%-21% growth - faster than average for all occupations. According to the BLS, respiratory therapy technicians earned median annual wages of around $47,000 in 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

Workers in this profession are usually required to have on-the-job training as well as formal education. Prior to entering training programs that are offered at community colleges and technical schools, applicants may have to meet certain requirements. These requirements may include a high school diploma, first aid and CPR certification as well as a negative drug screen and criminal background check.

Education and Training

To become a respiratory technician, you need to earn an associate's degree and obtain a license. The associate's degree programs for respiratory technicians are typically the same as those required for entry-level respiratory therapists. Technicians, like therapists, are required to become licensed by the state. Respiratory therapy programs offer a blended curriculum of coursework, laboratory studies and clinical education. Students may also be required to complete additional studies, such as workshops. Course topics may include perinatal and pediatric care, mechanical ventilation theories, respiratory therapeutics, ACLS/polysomnography, pulmonary rehabilitation, respiratory skills, pulmonary function testing and electrocardiography.

What Employers Are Looking For

Job duties and requirements often vary by company and employer. Here is just a sampling of what some employers are looking for in respiratory technicians. These job postings were open as of April 2012:

  • A Wyoming medical equipment company is seeking a part-time respiratory technician (driver) to work mostly evenings and weekends. Candidate will deliver and set up our medical products, homecare products and oxygen equipment in private homes, nursing homes or assisted living centers. Applicants must have high school diplomas or GED certificates, commercial driver's licenses and at least six months similar experience or training.
  • A University Hospital in NJ is seeking an experienced respiratory technician to provide various types of respiratory care to both inpatients and outpatients. The minimum of an associate's degree in AMA respiratory therapy is required; however, a bachelor's degree is preferred. Candidate must also be licensed to practice respiratory care in this state and be either a Certified Respiratory Therapist or a Registered Respiratory Therapist with Basic Life Support certification.
  • A New England healthcare provider is seeking a motivated and energetic healthcare specialist interested in working in a drug-free workplace. Applicants must be RNs, LPNs, RRTs or CRTs with state licenses and knowledge of important respiratory therapy and homecare techniques. Experience in home healthcare is a plus. Job duties include setting up equipment in patients' homes and educating them on important healthcare issues.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

In addition to completing a formal training program, gaining work experience and obtaining a license, there are other things you can do to enhance your resume and help yourself get an edge in the field. Although not always a requirement, a number of employers prefer to hire those who are certified. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) offers the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential to eligible candidates who pass the certification examination. You may also pursue further certifications, such as the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. To be eligible for the RRT certification, you must meet education or work experience requirements.

Alternative Career Paths

Athletic Trainer

After reading about respiratory technicians, perhaps you've decided you'd still like to work in a helping profession, but in a more active environment. You might think about becoming an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers work with athletes to help prevent injuries. Additionally, they may help evaluate injuries as well as develop and implement rehabilitation programs for injured athletes. Trainers are typically supervised by licensed physicians. As well as working with athletes, trainers may have administrative duties, such as writing injury and treatment reports. The BLS reported that athletic trainers could expect employment growth to be much faster than the average at around 30% in the 2010-2020 decade. Additionally, athletic trainers had a reported median annual wage of around $42,000 as of May 2011.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Diagnostic medical sonography may be a good career choice if you want to work in the medical field but want a little more variety in your workday. Diagnostic medical sonographers take images of the human body using ultrasound waves. In addition to completing training, graduates usually obtain certification. Much of the variety of this career comes from the various specialized areas offered, such as abdominal sonography, obstetric and gynecologic sonography, breast sonography, neurosonography and musculoskeletal sonography. According to the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers are predicted to see a 44% increase in jobs from 2010-2020, and they averaged $66,000 annually as of May 2011, which is higher than that of respiratory technicians.

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The George Washington University

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Lincoln Tech

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Regent University

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