Cardiopulmonary Therapist: Job Description & Career Requirements

Cardiopulmonary therapists work with the heart and lungs. Learn more as you read read the job definition, skills, education requirements and employment outlook to see if this career is one that you wish to pursue.

Career Definition for a Cardiopulmonary Therapist

A cardiopulmonary therapist helps patients regain function in their cardiac and respiratory systems following a debilitating injury or illness. Duties include developing treatment programs tailored specifically to a given patient, guiding patients through their treatment regimen, and applying heat, water or massage therapy. A typical work day can be physically demanding, since providing care requires therapists to stoop, kneel, lift or stand for long periods of time.

Education Doctoral degree in physical therapy
Job Skills Compassion, interpersonal and communication skills, desire to help people
Median Salary (2017) $86,850* (for physical therapists)
Job Growth (2016-2026) 28%* (for physical therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

As a starting point, cardiopulmonary therapists need a doctoral degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Useful undergraduate courses include anatomy, biology, chemistry, social science, mathematics, and physics. Residency and fellowship programs, which were once rare, are increasingly available to complete the transition into this discipline.

Required Skills

Cardiopulmonary therapists need compassion, a desire to help others and strong interpersonal communication skills to educate patients and patients' families about the course of treatment.

Career and Economic Outlook

As the U.S. population ages and develops more physical ailments, employment of physical therapists, which includes cardiopulmonary therapists, should grow much faster than average at a rate of 28%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Opportunities will be especially good in acute hospital, rehabilitation settings and nursing homes. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for physical therapists was $86,850 in 2017.

Alternate Career Options

If you don't want to go through medical school, check out these alternative careers:

Physical Therapist Aide

Aides with high school educations can usually learn their skills on the job. Supervised by physical therapists, they may not work directly in patient care and may instead set up and clean treatment areas, fulfill clerical duties or simply move the patients. As of May 2017, physical therapist aides earned an annual median wage of $25,730, the BLS reported. Between 2016 and 2016, job growth is predicted to increase much faster than average, at 29%, also according to the BLS.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Assistants, who are sometimes called PTAs, watch patients during therapy, assist physical therapists and patients during therapy, and communicate with family members about treatment plans; assistants sometimes supervise aides, as well. They are supervised by physical therapists. According to the BLS, in 2017, the median salary for a physical therapy assistant was $57,430, and the job growth for the decade 2016-2026 was predicted to be 31%, which is also much faster than average.

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