Respiratory therapists are medical professionals who work with patients suffering from breathing problems. While some employers require only an associate degree for this position, aspiring respiratory therapists with a bachelor's degree may find better job prospects. As of 2010, all states other than Alaska required that respiratory therapists be licensed.
Average National Pay
As of 2012, respiratory therapists working in the United States earned an average of $57,200 a year, according to estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Half of respiratory therapists reported annual salaries ranging from $47,520 to $66,350. The highest-paid 10 percent of respiratory therapists made $75,430 or more per year, while the lowest paid 10 percent earned $40,980 or less.
Pay by Type of Facility
Most respiratory therapists are employed by general hospitals, where they earned an average of $56,760 per year as of 2012. However, some find employment in other types of medical facilities. Those employed by physician's offices averaged $57,830 per year. Respiratory therapists employed by specialty hospitals averaged $59,150 per year, and those working for nursing care facilities reported an average pay of $59,570 per year. Respiratory therapists working at outpatient centers reported one of the highest average salaries, at $67,720 per year, while those working for colleges and universities earned an even higher average salary of $68,120.
Pay by Location
Respiratory therapists working in the West and Northeast reported the highest average salaries in the country as of 2012. California was the highest-paying state, at $73,320 per year. Nevada ranked second at $69,540 per year, followed by Connecticut at $67,890, New Jersey at $67,670 and Alaska at $67,220. The two lowest-paying states for this occupation were Kentucky, where respiratory therapists averaged $45,460 per year; and Alabama, where they averaged $45,770 a year.
As with many professions in the fast growing field of health care, the job outlook for respiratory therapists is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for respiratory therapists will grow at a rate of 28 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding an estimated 31,200 jobs to the workforce. That compares to a projected growth rate of 14 percent across all occupations. Therapists who hold a professional certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care should have an edge when it comes to landing a job and advancing within the profession.