Cardiorespiratory Therapist: Job Duties & Career Info

Find out what type of work a cardiorespiratory therapist performs. Learn about educational requirements as well as employment outlook and salary to make an informed career decision.

Career Definition

Cardiorespiratory therapists assess patients with breathing disorders, conduct diagnostic tests and supervise therapeutic treatments. They work with patients to improve lung function and train them in the use of oxygen, chest physiotherapy and aerosol inhalants. Cardiorespiratory therapists must be familiar with ventilators, life-support and other diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Most cardiorespiratory therapists are part of a hospital staff, some work for skilled nursing, rehabilitation and continued care facilities, and a growing segment are engaged in home health care.

How to Become a Cardiorespiratory Therapist

Education Requirements

Community colleges and health science institutes may award an associate's degree after 2-3 years of study, but a bachelor's or master's degree in cardiorespiratory care will offer a graduate a broader choice of possible jobs. Nearly all U.S. states require cardiorespiratory therapists to be licensed, and rely upon the tiered certification exams offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC),

Skills Required

It is good for cardiorespiratory therapists to have an interest in helping others, as well as considerable physical and emotional strength. Patience, persistence and the heart to work with people in distress would also be important.

Career and Economic Outlook

In 2012, the median annual salary for respiratory therapists, which includes cardiorespiratory therapists, was $55,870. The growth of respiratory therapist positions is predicted to be faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, due in part to growing middle-aged and elderly populations, who are the likeliest to need cardiorespiratory therapy.

Alternative Careers

Cardiovascular Technician

For those with an interest in assisting physicians with the diagnosis of heart disorders and disease, a career in cardiovascular technology may be a good choice. Cardiovascular technicians hook patients up to electrocardiogram machines that monitor and measure heart activity. They operate the equipment during testing, prepare printed documentation for physician review and assist doctors with other cardio procedures as necessary.

To qualify for employment, a certificate in cardiovascular technology is required and technicians with professional certification will have a big advantage when applying for jobs. As reported by the BLS in May of 2012, cardiovascular technicians and technologists earned a median wage of $52,070 per year. These diagnostic professionals should experience employment growth of 30% between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS.

Physical Therapist (PT) Assistant

Those desiring a career helping patients regain physical strength following injury or illness should consider becoming a physical therapist assistant. PT assistants execute the customized treatment regiment a physical therapist creates after patient evaluation. They show patients how to perform specific exercise movements, utilize equipment such as stationary bikes and treadmills, give massages or help with stretching.

Earning an associate degree in physical therapy is the path necessary to work in the profession. With the exception of Hawaii, all states require licensure by completing educational requirements and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam. Job opportunities in this field will be abundant, with employment growth of 41% projected by the BLS from 2012-2022. Physical therapist assistants received $52,160 in median income during 2012, as seen in BLS figures.

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