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4 Top Careers in Respiratory Therapy for 2018

Updated By Staff Writer on June 22, 2020

A degree in Respiratory Therapy can be your doorway to a rewarding career in healthcare. While “Respiratory Therapist” is a viable job title, there are other opportunities out there for the person with the right skillset. Here are four hypothetical stories of four respiratory therapy graduates and the surprising careers they chose.

Rural Healthcare and Home Care

Georgia grew up in Orofino, Idaho, a small town with lots of logging. She started thinking about rural medicine years ago when she read an article on treating chainsaw wounds in the town’s small hospital in the room that doubled as an ER. She married soon after high school and her husband made a good living as a logger, but the logging industry is slowing down. The family wants to stay in Orofino. She started researching careers in rural medicine and found good news. First, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, the number of respiratory therapists in the U.S. is expected to grow from 130,200 in 2016 to 160,600 by 2026, a growth of 23%, "much faster than average." Second, while respiratory therapists have traditionally worked in hospitals, the focus is shifting to include providing care in doctors' offices and nursing homes, as well as in-home care, to prevent hospital admissions or readmissions. This opens the field up to rural areas that don’t have a lot of hospitals and doctors. And Georgia doesn’t mind driving from place to place. It’s beautiful country. Third, she came across an article drawing on research from U.S. News & World Report that “ranks respiratory therapist #20 among the Best Healthcare Jobs and #32 among the Top 100 Jobs.” Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care Specialist, NPS Georgia’s classmate Jason, on the other hand, doesn’t like to travel. He got an insurance license a few years after high school and spent several years as a field agent, but doesn’t like spending so much time away from home. He became interested in respiratory therapy after his son developed asthma. Talking with his son’s therapist he learned that before 2015 ARDS in children was defined the same way as in adults, and treated in much the same way, but children’s bodies are different from adults’ bodies. They react in different ways to pharmacological treatments involving steroids, and surfactants can improve oxygenation, but may not change the final outcome, according to Dr. Alexandre Rotta. In 2015, a broader pediatric definition was developed. Jason wants to be part of an emerging field in neonatal/pediatric respiratory care.

Sleep Disorders Testing and Therapeutic Intervention Respiratory Care Specialist, SDS

Shawn wants to get an Associate’s degree as a registered respiratory therapist, RRT, then work while pursuing a Bachelor’s or Master’s. He can work as a generalist or specialize in home care and gain experience making sure patients’ homes or apartments are safe, their equipment properly installed, and they know on how to use it, including sleep apnea equipment, and mechanical ventilation. He’ll also track patients’ progress and troubleshoot equipment. As Shawn earns his higher degrees and gains experience, he’ll have the background to treat sleep apnea as a specialty (SDS).

Learn about 7 benefits of doing your respiragory therapy schooling online.

Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist, RPFT

And finally, Betty, who is interested in working as a registered pulmonary function technologist. She saw a short interview with Dr. Brian Carlin on AARC’s website, which got her to thinking about the diagnostic and preventive uses of respiratory therapy. Dr Carlin cited a study in the U.S. of respiratory therapy for people with mild COPD, who "did well or improved with pulmonary rehab." He also talked about doing echocardiograms for people entering pulmonary rehab clinics. "We need to be more vigilant in looking for cardiac disease in patients with COPD, particularly when they've entered a rehab program," Dr. Carlin said. At Independence University, we know that many of our students have stories similar to the four listed above. If you have big plans for a career in healthcare, request more information about our degree programs today.