What Do Respiratory Therapists Do?
Respiratory therapists assess, treat, and care for patients with breathing difficulties or other cardiopulmonary problems caused by asthma, smoking, pneumonia, heart failure, cystic fibrosis, chest injuries, and other disorders. They work with all types of patients, ranging from premature infants whose lungs are not fully developed to elderly people whose lungs are diseased. They provide temporary relief to patients with chronic asthma or emphysema and give emergency care to patients who are victims of a heart attack, stroke, drowning, or shock.
Respiratory therapists use various tests to evaluate patients. They measure a patient’s lung capacity with an instrument that checks the volume and flow of oxygen when inhaling and exhaling. They also use tests to measure blood pH and the concentration of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen in the blood. They provide treatment to patients, including connecting patients to ventilators, monitoring patients on ventilators, and aspirating patients who have a build-up of mucus in their lungs. Therapists perform regular assessments of patients and equipment. For example, if a patient appears to be having difficulty breathing or if the oxygen, carbon dioxide, or pH level of a patient’s blood is abnormal, therapists may adjust the ventilator setting according to the doctor’s orders or check the equipment for mechanical problems.
Practicing under the direction of a physician, respiratory therapists assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care, therapeutic treatments, and diagnostic procedures. They also supervise respiratory therapy technicians.
For more information about respiratory therapists, go to http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm and the American Association for Respiratory Care at: http://www.aarc.org.
Where Do Respiratory Therapists Work?
The vast majority of respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Others may work in nursing care facilities or even travel to patients’ homes. Most respiratory therapists work full time, and because they work in medical facilities, they may work evening, night, or weekend hours.
What Do Respiratory Therapists Earn?
According to the 2019 BLS, the average salary for full time respiratory therapists nationwide was $63,950, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that respiratory therapists in New York earned an average annual salary of $76,990, (entry level-$55,440, experienced- $99,670).
Supply and Demand
The BLS projects that between 2016 and 2026, the number of respiratory therapist jobs in New York is expected to increase by 26.8%, and nationwide by 23.4% during the same time period. With an increased need for respiratory care as a result of illnesses associated with aging, the demand for respiratory therapists is expected to be strong and job opportunities will remain good.
For more information on projections of respiratory therapists by New York labor regions, 2014-2024, click here.
Educational Program Requirements
For respiratory therapists, an associate degree is the minimum educational requirement, but a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be important for advancement.
Among the areas of study in respiratory therapy programs are human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and mathematics. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the application of clinical practice guidelines, patient care outside of hospitals, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, and respiratory health promotion and disease prevention.
For a list of accredited respiratory therapy programs in New York click here.
New York Licensure Requirements
To be licensed in New York, respiratory therapists must be graduates of an approved respiratory therapy program and pass the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) Certified Respiratory Therapist examination (CRT) and the Registry Examination (RRT) (written and simulation exams). For more information on New York state licensure requirements, go to: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/rt/. For more information on examination requirements, go to: http://www.nbrc.org/.
The American Respiratory Care Foundation offers scholarships to respiratory therapy students and provides links to other financial aid sites. For more information, go to: http://www.arcfoundation.org/awards/.
Educational Programs in New York
|Borough of Manhattan Community College
199 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
(212) 220-8335 or (212) 220-8336
|Erie Community College
6205 Main Street
Williamsville, NY 14221
|Genesee Community College
One College Road
Batavia, NY 14020
(585) 343-0055 ext.6860
|Hudson Valley Community College
80 Vandenburgh Avenue
Troy, NY 12180
|Long Island University
1 University Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201-8423
|Mohawk Valley Community College
1101 Sherman Dr.
Utica, NY 13501
1101 Floyd Ave
Rome, NY 13440
1000 Hempstead Avenue
Rockville Centre, NY 11571-5002
(516) 323-3387or (516) 323-3000 or (888) 4-MOLLOY
|Nassau Community College
One Education Drive
Garden City, NY 11530
|Stony Brook University
School of Health Technology and Management
101 Nicolls Rd
Stony Brook, NY 11794-8203
|SUNY Upstate Medical University
College of Health Professions
788 Irving Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13210
|Westchester Community College
75 Grasslands Road
Valhalla, NY 10595
|Sullivan County Community College
112 College Road
Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
The College of Allied Health
254 W 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
Additional Web Links
For more information about respiratory therapists, go to
The New York State Society for Respiratory Care Web site:http://www.nyssrc.org/