What to Know About Being a Respiratory Therapy Assistant

Interested in a healthcare career with competitive pay? In two years, students can gain the skills they need to become respiratory therapy assistants.
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James Mielke writes education and career-focused guides for BestColleges. Beyond higher education topics, his writing has been featured in Golfweek and Eaten Magazine. James has a history degree from Belmont University and is an unapologetic Grateful...
Updated on May 13, 2022
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Before the COVID-19 pandemic overtook the healthcare system, respiratory therapy assistants usually treated patients managing asthma or dealing with chronic issues like COPD and emphysema. But since early 2020, these medical professionals have utilized their training to work on the front lines treating patients dealing with respiratory problems stemming from COVID-19.

For individuals interested in entering the healthcare field, considering a career as a respiratory therapy assistant is a practical choice. This field only requires professionals to possess a two-year associate degree. And graduates enter a rapidly growing field that offers competitive wages.

We will take a general look at respiratory therapy assistant careers, while considering the job market and salary potential for these medical professionals.

What Does a Respiratory Therapy Assistant Do?

After completing their requisite academic and licensure requirements, students can enter a growing field and work in a hospital setting. Throughout their education, respiratory therapy assistant students gain practical knowledge and clinical experience that can prepare them to assess and address various respiratory disorders and diseases.

In addition to working in hospitals, these professionals also work in long-term care facilities, elder care institutions, and home care settings. Respiratory therapy assistants encounter patients with common health issues, including asthma, COPD, and other chronic respiratory problems.

Respiratory therapy assistant job responsibilities include:

  • Interviewing patients and test them for breathing disorders
  • Testing tissue specimens
  • Consulting with patients and physicians to determine the best patient treatment plan
  • Performing diagnostic testing on patients to determine lung capacity
  • Monitoring ventilators and other artificial airway devices during patient use
  • Helping patients with lung disorders recover and learn how to treat themselves from home
  • Recording patient progress

What Is a Respiratory Therapy Assistant's Career Outlook?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that respiratory therapist jobs will grow 23% between 2020 and 2030. This projected growth rate translates to over 30,000 new respiratory therapist jobs. In comparison, the BLS projects jobs for healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners will grow just 12% over the next decade.

Students studying to gain the skills and certifications necessary for their respiratory therapy career can also anticipate 10,000 new job openings each year between 2020 and 2030. This rapid job growth makes pursuing a career as a respiratory therapy assistant an especially practical option for students.

What Is a Respiratory Therapy Assistant's Salary Potential?

In addition to working in a rapidly growing field, respiratory therapists also earn competitive salaries. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $62,810 in May 2020. The lowest 10% of earners made less than $45,940 annually, and the highest 10% of earners made more than $89,170 per year during the same period.

According to Payscale, respiratory therapy assistants made an average annual salary of $60,150 in February 2022.

When considering earning potential, various elements shape how much a respiratory therapist can earn. The vast majority of these professionals work in local, private, and state hospitals. They tend to make slightly more than those working in nursing care facilities and physicians' offices. Additionally, workers with more experience, higher levels of education, and additional professional training earn higher wages.

Frequently Asked Questions About Respiratory Therapy Assistant

Is being a respiratory therapy assistant a good career?

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For students interested in tackling a hands-on clinical career in a healthcare setting, pursuing a degree in respiratory therapy is an excellent option. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals will grow considerably over the next decade. Respiratory therapy assistants also earn higher than average wages. While this profession does require professional licensure and specialized training, earning an associate degree is the key to entry for respiratory therapy careers.

The BLS projects roles for respiratory therapists to grow 23% between 2020 and 2030. The median salary for these professionals exceeded $62,000 per year in May 2020. Experienced professionals and students with more training and education can increase their earning potential.

What skills are needed to become a respiratory therapy assistant?

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As with most helping professions and healthcare careers, students dedicated to providing compassionate and competent care tend to excel. Top-performing respiratory therapy assistants benefit from strong critical thinking skills and a deep familiarity with the nuances of clinical care. Respiratory therapy assistants should possess strong attention to detail, organization, and endurance to power through long shifts.

Students comfortable with science, math, and other STEM classes tend to excel when completing academic requirements. Additionally, working in a clinical healthcare setting is collaborative in nature, so individuals who enjoy working in groups tend to thrive. Strong communication skills are also essential to success.

How long does it take to become a respiratory therapy assistant?

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Those interested in beginning a career as a respiratory therapy assistant must complete a two-year associate degree program. After successfully completing academic requirements, students usually have the knowledge and clinical competencies to pass the credentialing examination administered by National Board for Respiratory Care.

While an associate degree offers access to entry-level positions in respiratory therapy, students can also decide to pursue a bachelor's degree in the field. Completing a four-year degree can expand career options and earning potential. A bachelor's degree also opens up the possibility to earn a master's degree or various graduate-level certificates.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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